Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black was born in London 1958. He grew up in a committed Progressive Jewish family and always wanted to be a rabbi. He attended a large orthodox Jewish day school, JFS, because there was then no Progressive Jewish day school, and it had excellent engineering facilities! There he experienced orthodox Judaism, which reinforced for him the values of his own Progressive tradition.
His parents encouraged him to be an engineer, and he spent two years at Brunel University studying Production Technology before working as a stores and systems manager and buyer, first in plastics, then furniture. He was accepted for rabbinic training into a five-year course at the Leo Baeck College in London, including nine months in Jerusalem and six months in Sydney, Australia. Apart from Israel, one of his most significant influences was the annual Jewish Christian Muslim conference held in Germany.
On being ordained in 1988, Jonathan took up a position at the Hertsmere Progressive Synagogue, in Elstree near London, where he remained for 15 years. He was involved in establishing a unique pluralist Jewish primary school which opened in 1995, the Clore Shalom School. His attention then turned to assist with a secondary school, JCoSS, along the same unique lines, which finally opened in 2009 and has been a huge success, which is changing the face of Jewish schooling in the UK. Its first head has now been appointed to lead Bialik College in Melbourne, so its effect has reached our shores.
Rabbi Jonathan married Sue in 1980, and they have two children, Naomi and Adam. He and his family moved to Australia in 2003 where he took up his current position at the Leo Baeck Centre.
Jonathan has been very involved in environmental work, constructing an underground home in London and running a car on compressed natural gas, charged up every night from the mains. Here in Australia he built a ‘Seven Star Energy-and Water-Efficient show home’ and established JECO, the Jewish Ecological Coalition. In 2010, he was instrumental in establishing GreenFaith Australia, bringing environmental and interfaith interests together.
Jonathan was also instrumental in establishing the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia, a thriving organisation which runs residential conferences, schools programs and other events. In June 2007, Jonathan spoke at an interfaith seminar in Canberra with the Dalai Lama on ‘Paths to Peace’, and in August 2007 gave a keynote lecture for the Common Dreams conference in Sydney. In November 2007, Jonathan received the “Premier’s Award for Community Harmony’ on behalf of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia from Victorian Premier John Brumby.
In 2011 Jonathan was involved in the establishment of J-CAM – Jewish Community Arts and Media Australia, and in 2012 assisted in the setting up of J-AIR, Jewish Internet Radio.
Jonathan was the team leader on the Mishkan T’filah World Union Edition Prayer book launched in 2010 and used through the Progressive communities of Australasia and South Africa, and has subsequently worked on the Netzer Siddur and the Weekday Evening Prayer books.
In his rare leisure time, Jonathan enjoys reading and musical theatre.