The Rashi School Recognizes Prominent Jewish Community Leaders with Inaugural Tzedek (Justice) Award, Honors Alumnus with Tikkun Alum Award
The following press release was sent after the Rashi School's 2020 Annual Dinner.
DEDHAM, MASS., December 16, 2020—The Rashi School honored community leaders and alumni parents Dana Gershon and Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Bethesda, MD, formerly of Newton, MA for their leadership and dedication to justice with the inaugural Tzedek (Justice) award at the Rashi Annual Dinner “Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue!” on December 6. Rashi alumnus Gavin Alexander ’99 of Jamaica Plain, MA received the 2020 Tikkun Alum Award in recognition of his commitment to equity and inclusion, including in the LGBTQ+ community. The inaugural Tzedek (Justice) award was created to recognize extraordinary service exemplified by our community members in the area of social justice. The Tikkun Alum Award to celebrate Rashi alumni who demonstrate a strong commitment to social justice and tikkun olam (repairing the world) in their lives beyond Rashi. Through personal and professional efforts, Tikkun Alums embody the values of social justice that were instilled in them as Rashi students. The Annual Dinner is our largest community and fundraising event of the year where we celebrate Rashi's student-centered academic program that challenges and supports every child and develops the next generation of Jewish leaders. This year we focused on the last 25 years of social justice instruction and action and looked ahead to the next 25 years of social justice at Rashi, inspired by a foundational philanthropic commitment. The event was held online with people joining from across the country including current families, alumni, clergy, community leaders, faculty, staff, and friends of the school. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick who answered questions from Rashi students.
Dana Gershon has been a social justice activist and leader in the Jewish community since high school, when she served as Social Action Vice-President of CRaFTY, then the NFTY region for New York City. A graduate of Combined Jewish Philanthropy’s (CJP) Acharai program, Dana held a number of leadership positions during the nearly twenty years that she and her family lived in Boston: she served as President of Rashi’s Board of Trustees from 2010-2012, and was Co-Chair of CJP’s Boston-Haifa Connection. Dana was instrumental in the founding of Parents at the Center in Haifa, Israel, an early intervention for underserved children at risk and their families. As of July 2020, she will become President of the Board of the National Council of Jewish Women. Outside of the Jewish community, Dana is on the Board of Advisors of the New England Center for Children in Southborough, MA, and Co-President of Sidwell Friends School Rowing in Washington, DC. Professionally, Dana is an attorney with a private practice that specializes in employment law. She represents clients both independently and through an affiliation with Ankner & Levy, PC. Prior to starting her own practice, Dana worked at Rosenman & Colin, LLP, in New York City, as well as at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C. and Goodwin Proctor, LLP in Boston, MA. She has also taught legal research and writing at Boston University School of Law, and Judaism and Justice in the Genesis Program at Brandeis University. Dana received her J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. She received her B.A., magna cum laude, from Cornell University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Rabbi Jonah Pesner serves as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and as Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader and tireless advocate for social justice. In 2006, he founded Just Congregations (now incorporated into the Religious Action Center), which engaged clergy, professional, and volunteer leaders in interfaith efforts in pursuit of social justice. Over the course of his career, he has also led and supported campaigns for racial justice, economic opportunity, immigration reform, LGBTQ equality, human rights, and a variety of other causes.
During his tenure as a congregational rabbi at Temple Israel of Boston, Rabbi Pesner was a key leader of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization whose successful health care campaign led to access for hundreds of thousands of people and became a national model. Rabbi Pesner has trained and mentored students on all four campuses of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Pesner serves as a board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, JOIN for Justice, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and the New England Center for Children. He has served as a scholar for the Wexner Foundation, American Jewish World Service, the Nexus USA Summit, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1997. Rabbi Pesner was a congregational rabbi at Temple Israel in Westport, CT and is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Bronx High School. Dana and Rabbi Pesner currently reside in Bethesda, MD and have four daughters who are Alumni of The Rashi School, Juliet ’12, Noa ’16, Bobbie ’19, and Cate ’19.
Gavin Alexander (formerly Alexander Fishman) ’99 was recently appointed as the first-ever full time Fellow of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being, where his work involves implementing and guiding the work of the Committee as it seeks to enhance the well-being and retention in the profession of lawyers, judges and law students, particularly those from underrepresented populations. Ever since his first day of law school, he has passionately worked to improve the lives of LGBTQ individuals in Massachusetts and around the country, and to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession. Gavin studied Theater and Mathematics at Wesleyan University, and he graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude in 2012. As a law student, Gavin worked with Massachusetts Transgender Legal Advocates providing pro bono civil legal services to low-income transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, and after law school, Gavin spent a year as a law clerk for former Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Gavin then worked at the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston from 2013-2020, where his work focused on complex corporate transactions. More recently, Gavin has served as a Co-Chair of the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association and as a member of the Board of Directors of the National LGBT Bar Association, and he presently serves on the Boston Bar Association’s Diversity & Inclusion Section Steering Committee and on the Board of Directors of The Leadership Brainery, a non-profit organized to help first-generation and diverse college student leaders prepare for and gain access to top graduate & professional schools.
Gavin was named one of the Best LGBT Attorneys Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association in 2017, selected as one of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s 25 “Up & Coming Lawyers” for 2019, and featured on the Massachusetts Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list for 2018-2020. He was also recently named a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation for his outstanding dedication and leadership both in the legal profession and in service to society.
About The Rashi School The Rashi School is a Reform Jewish K-8 Independent School located in the Greater Boston area. Rashi is a leading school that lives by the principles on which it was founded: excellent academics that integrate secular and Jewish studies, differentiated instruction, a warm, welcoming community that represents the variety of the greater Boston Jewish community, and social justice as part of daily life.