NAACP names Reform movement’s Religious Action Center head to its board


(JTA) — The NAACP named the director of the Reform movement’s Religion Action Center, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, to its board.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced on Tuesday that it was appointing Pesner, who has led the RAC since 2015 and served as senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism since 2011, along with the appointments of five other new board members, including three Christian pastors.

“Eliminating racism and expanding civil rights are intrinsic Jewish values,” Pesner said in a statement. “I could not be more proud to join the board of the NAACP to help advance those goals.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, Pesner’s predecessor at the RAC — the Reform movement’s legislative advocacy arm — also served on the NAACP board.

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks praised the new appointments.

“These new board members bring an amazing wealth of achievement, accomplishment and influence on issues from civil rights to religion to community-building and leadership,” he said Tuesday in a statement. “We are honored by their presence and welcome them into the inner family of the nation’s oldest, largest and boldest civil rights organization.”

The Religion Action Center and the Reform movement have a history of working with the NAACP and other civil rights groups. From 1966 to 1975, Kivie Kaplan, a vice chairman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations — which later became the Union for Reform Judaism — served as the national president of the NAACP. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both landmark civil rights legislations, were drafted in the RAC building.

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