Jill Jacobs (born 1975) is the Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, formerly Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. She is a Conservative rabbi and the author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community and There Shall be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition. This book includes chapters on tzedakah, poverty, health care, housing, labor, criminal justice, and environmental justice in America, seen through a Jewish viewpoint. She has served as the Rabbi in Residence of Jewish Funds for Justice and as the Director of Outreach and Education for Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.
She is also the author of a teshuvah (legal position), passed by the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards that says that Jews should pay their workers a living wage, create dignified workplaces, and hire union workers when possible. She was named to Newsweek’s list of the fifty most influential rabbis in 2009 and 2010, to The Forward newspaper’s list of fifty influential American Jews in 2006, 2008, and 2011 and to The Jewish Week’s list of “thirty-six under thirty-six” in 2008. She has also been named to Newsweek’s list of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America every year since 2009 (2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012).
She has written many articles on issues relating to Judaism and social justice. She has covered topics including Jewish social justice, education, and tzedakah. Since March 2010, she has been a columnist for The Forward.
Jacobs was born in Boston and grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts where she attended Framingham public schools. She was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2003 and also earned an MA in Talmud at the same time. She earned an MS in Urban Affairs from Hunter College, CUNY, in 2003, and a BA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 1997. She is married to Rabbi Guy Austrian and has two daughters,. She spent the 2009–2010 academic year as a Jerusalem Fellow at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Mandel Institute.
In 2003, Jacobs—then a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary—got into a public debate with Rabbi Daniel Gordis. Jacobs wrote an article for the JTS student bulletin in which she critiqued Israel’s policies toward Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The JTS administration censored the article and David Freidenreich, the student editor of the bulletin, quit in protest. Jacobs and Freidenreich distributed around the school a copy of the censored article along with Freidenreich’s letter of resignation. Gordis heard about the article and sent an e-mail excoriating Jacobs to his list of several thousand correspondents. Jacobs responded with a public plea for civil dialogue. Gordis sent a follow-up e-mail apologizing for any personal embarrassment he caused, without retracting any of his earlier comments.