Elissa D. Barrett is the Executive Director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, a California-based social justice organization that educates, advocates and organizes Jews to pursue justice and equality in the cities in which they live through broad-based interfaith and secular coalitions. At PJA, we believe that “to kvetch is human, to act divine,” and that the material well-being of our neighbors is our spiritual concern. Ms. Barrett’s has appeared in and written for the Los Angeles Times, The Jewish Journal, The Forward, J-Weekly, Zeek and CNN. She serves on the Leadership Council of the National Jewish Social Justice Roundtable and has led panels at the American Bar Association Equal Justice Conference, the Pro Bono Institute and SmartGrowth America.
Before PJA, Ms. Barrett worked for Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles, a non-profit agency dedicate to serving the county’s most vulnerable populations. At Bet Tzedek, Ms. Barrett first served as Director of the Housing Conditions Project, litigating against slumlords and advocating for local and statewide affordable housing policy. Thereafter, she served as Bet Tzedek’s founding Director of Pro Bono Programs. As Pro Bono Director, Elissa designed and launched the Bet Tzedek Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, winner of the American Bar Association’s 2009 Pro Bono Publico Award and provider of more than 35,000 free legal service hours to Holocaust survivors applying for reparations from Germany.
Ms. Barrett is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and Tufts University. Ms. Barrett has worked internationally with the South African Human Rights Commission and with the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in East Jerusalem, and domestically with the law firms of Loeb & Loeb LLP and Stroock LLP. Currently, she lives in North Hollywood with her wife, playwright and author Zsa Zsa Gershick, is a proud aunt, and attends Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim.