Rabbi Joshua Lesser leads Congregation Bet Haverim as a place dedicated to celebrating all aspects of Jewish life and creating an accessible and engaging spiritual home. Together he and the members of CBH have fostered a warm environment balancing the needs of a diverse community. Rabbi Josh is dedicated to contributing to the Jewish community and the city of Atlanta in positive ways.
With an eye for innovation and encouraging new leaders, Rabbi Josh has been instrumental in illuminating the skills and talents of the CBH community. As a catalyst, he supports the creativity, ingenuity and enterprising spirit of members as they engage in synagogue life.
His collaborative leadership has helped cultivate CBH’s flourishing music program, the CBH Community School, the Eli/Rose Adult Program Fund, a teen book group and the b’nai mitzvah process, along with numerous creative rituals and services.
He breathes new life into Jewish tradition. His adventurous spirit has propelled him to found new programs like the Rainbow Center, a Jewish communal response to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Recently he has been helping the Jewish community in New Orleans (where he once spent time as a Teach For America corps member) to develop Ayla, a Jewish LGBT nonprofit.
He is the rabbinic editor of Torah Queeries, A Weekly Torah Commentary, a groundbreaking contribution to the field of Torah study, chosen by NYU Press as a staff pick.
He was one of the founders of the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta and the first rabbi to serve as its president. Taking the lead in interfaith work, he also was the only rabbi on Atlanta’s first World Pilgrims pilgrimage to Turkey, a project designed to enhance understanding between Christians, Jews and Muslims. He later led an interfaith pilgrimage to Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
Cultivating a spiritual approach to Judaism, Rabbi Josh is training to become a spiritual director with the Lev Shomea program and has participated in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality's rabbinic training program. He leads meditation and chanting services and offers individual spiritual direction.
An activist from an early age, he served as the co-chair of Georgians Against Discrimination fighting against Georgia’s marriage amendment. Taking positions on the board of Georgia Equality, the Reconstructionist movement's Tikkun Olam Committee and the board of the Anti-Defamation League, he is solidly dedicated to human rights for all. As a supporter of people with disabilities, he has worked as a special educator at J.W. Johnson Elementary School in New Orleans, served on the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation's Kol Echad Inclusion Task Force and co-founded Camp Big Heart, a camp for children and adults with special needs.
Raised in Atlanta, Rabbi Lesser lives in the Inman Park neighborhood. You can often find him at the gym, running in the Old Fourth Ward or watching the graffiti artists outside his window.
December 3rd, 2019 | Season 1 | 48 mins 3 secs
In our third episode of Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations, we speak with Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta. A noted civil rights activist and leader, Lesser shares the evolution of his thinking on race and how fighting injustice has always been a core component of his rabbinate. He breaks down the Jewish conversation on race into an internal and external conversation. The internal focuses on efforts to fully embrace and celebrate Jews of color as a central part of North American Jewry. The external focuses on how Jewish communities interact with communities of color and confront structural racism. Lesser discusses steps his congregation has taken.