Rabbi Yona Reiss
Beth Din of America, New York, NY
(New York, NY) Apr 1, 2014
Rabbi Jonathan (Yona) Reiss graduated from Yeshiva University in 1987 with a BA in philosophy. He received Yoreh Yoreh semicha in 1991 and Yadin Yadin semicha in 2002. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1992, and served as senior editor of the Yale Law Journal.
From 1992 through 1998, Rabbi Reiss worked as an associate at the international law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York City. He continued to perform work as a part-time associate for the firm until 1999.
Rabbi Reiss served as the Director of the Beth Din of America from 1998 to 2008. The Beth Din, which is affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America, is the largest rabbinical court in this country, handling over 500 cases a year in the areas of Jewish Divorce (Gittin), commercial arbitrations (Dinei Torah), mediation, and resolution of personal status issues.
Rabbi Reiss also served for five years as the Max and Marion Grill Dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), and as Dean of Undergraduate Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. Since 2013, Rabbi Reiss has been serving as the Av Beth Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
Rabbi Reiss is also on the editorial board of Tradition. In addition to being a member of the American Bar Association, he is a certified mediator for the City of New York court system.
As a frequent writer on a variety of topics relating to both Jewish law and secular law, Rabbi Reiss has published articles in Techumin, Journal of Halakha and Contemporary Society, Sha’arei Tzedek Journal, the Temple Environmental Law and Technology Journal, and New York Law Journal. He has delivered over one hundred lectures, including several lectures at the Halikhot Am Yisrael annual international conference of dayanim in Jerusalem.
In addition to serving as the Av Beth Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, Rabbi Reiss continues to serve as a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS, and as a Chaver Beth Din at the Beth Din of America.
When asked what accomplishments he values most, Rabbi Reiss cites his role in training a new generation of Rabbis to lead the Jewish community, and his role in helping to resolve Agunah cases, including a number of Agunah cases in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. His experience in helping to resolve the 9-11 Agunah cases is documented in a chapter that he contributed to the book "Contending with Catastrophe" which was also featured in Ami Magazine.
Rabbi Reiss likes to say that “the difference between something and nothing is everything.” While Chazal teach us that the work is not for us to complete by ourselves, Rabbi Reiss notes that we are duty bound according to our Sages to contribute our modest abilities to make the world a better place (Avot 2:21). The rewards for making that effort, observes Rabbi Reiss, are immeasurable.
Rabbi Reiss lives in Chicago, with his wife Mindy and their six children.