Meet Rabbi Jon Sommer
Over 25 years of deeply caring and compassionate grief and pastoral counseling
Providing support and counseling to those in grief has been Rabbi Jon Sommer’s passion and professional life commitment for nearly 30 years. He went into grief counseling because he saw how our society treats those in mourning and how it has lost touch with what it means to grieve. He was appalled that companies and organizations would grant their employees only three days for grief leave, and then somehow expect those in mourning to be “okay” when they return to work, while at the same time other fields attempt to pathologize a very natural response to death. As a human, this felt unconscionable. As a rabbi, this violated fundamental tenets about decency and how a mourner should be treated. Rabbi Sommer, therefore, began his training and graduate education in 1993 and has worked as a rabbi and grief counselor since ordination from HUC-JIR in 1998. He provided non-profit grief support through the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center for 17 years, from 2005 to 2022, serving the broad diversity of our community, and earning post-graduate Clinical Pastoral Education through UCSF-Mt. Zion and other hospitals. The ethic which infuses Rabbi Sommer’s work and devotion to the well being of others was inspired and instilled in him both by his father, and his uncle Henrik Blum, who taught in the field of Public Health.
In addition to receiving the Air Force Achievement Medal at the U.S. Air Force Academy after being recruited during graduate school, he also served in Washington D.C. and at Air Force Space Command. In addition to pursuing his doctoral studies in Medieval Jewish philosophy, he holds an MA from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California. During his free time Rabbi Sommer enjoys his continued studies in Medieval Jewish Philosophy, social justice projects around inclusivity, being with family, dressage, fencing (foil), acting in theater and film, CrossFit, and yoga.
Selected Writings and Publications
- Cambridge Journals: Maimonides and His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker.
- University of Pennsylvania Press: Book Reviews.
- Scholar Works at Michigan University: Pandemic Response in the USA: Health
- The CARE Writing Prize/ Doug Adams Gallery at the Badè Museum: Stewardship
and the Prophetic Voice of the Artist.
- Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture: A Rationalist Approach to Suffering.
- The San Francisco Jewish Bulletin: “Rabbi Boteach Showed no Sensitivity to
- The San Francisco Jewish Bulletin: “Aaron Swartz’s ‘crime’ was in keeping with
- Family Caregiver Alliance: Grief and Loss
- Buber, Berlin and Pesakh: Ethics in an Age of Pandemic.
- JFCS Best Practices Sampler
- What Do I Say To A Mourner at High Holiday Services?: The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California