Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Forward 50 2011

Rick Jacobs

Image by Ben Fink Shapiro

At 6 feet, 4 inches tall, Rabbi Rick Jacobs cuts an imposing figure, moving with the grace of the dancer he once was. The new president-elect of the Union of Reform Judaism was also a choreographer, and that, too, is evident in his steady rise to one of the most important posts in American Jewish life. He’s both deliberate and creative, with an intuitive grasp of how to bring together an ensemble and inspire its individuals to perform their best work.

His selection in March was a wise and bold choice. Wise, because he seems to exude that rare combination of intellectual smarts, rabbinic charisma and social empathy necessary for Reform leadership. And bold because, as the spiritual head of Westchester Reform Temple for 20 years, he also was aware of the failings of the URJ, and became a critic of the very organization he now leads.

Jacobs, 55, promises to bring “transformational change” to the Reform movement, which faces an uncertain future despite being the largest denomination in America. One of his first moves was to bring into the URJ’s senior staff Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the younger, innovative founding director of a national social justice program for the Reform movement, and the other finalist for the URJ presidency.

Jacobs follows the estimable Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who will have been president for 16 years when he officially retires in 2012. Historically, leaders of the Reform movement have been guiding lights for liberal American Judaism, and Jacobs appears ready to lead his troupe in a new, dynamic direction.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.