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, which included nine months studying in Jerusalem and six months working at North Shore Temple Emanuel 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, and 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, Mia and Ad. He and his family moved to Australia in 2003 where he took up his current position at the Leo Baeck Centre.
Jonathan was 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 also Jonathan received the “Premier’s Award for Community Harmony’ on behalf of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia from then Victorian Premier John Brumby. In August 2007 and again in 2019 Jonathan gave a keynote lecture for the Common Dreams conference on Progressive Religions in Sydney.
Jonathan has been very involved in environmental work, and built an underground home in London and trialled a car running 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, now a part of the ARRCC, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, bringing his environmental and interfaith passions together, and remains active in the attempts to stop coal mining. In 2020 he suggested the ‘Adani – Stop Coal, Start Solar’ campaign to encourage Adani to bring their extensive solar manufacturing and operating experience to Australia.
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 has been a key player in the production of all our current liturgy. He 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 subsequently worked on the Netzer Siddur and the Weekday Evening Prayer book versions. He then led the development of the Mishkan T’shuvah High Holy Day Machzor Prayer Books introduced across our region in 2019.
Jonathan has made and edited films for many years, and after ordination, he was the part-time Media Consultant for the Centre for Jewish education in London. With the advent of the Coronavirus, he has updated his media skills and has been producing services and other materials to help support and educate not only the LBC but the wider community.
If he ever has any leisure time, Jonathan enjoys reading and musical theatre.