Jonathan Gerard, DMin

Jonathan Gerard View Specialties


There is one dominant memory of childhood that informs my subsequent career. I am outside in
our Long Island backyard banging on the kitchen door calling to my mother to
let me back in the house. My mother, who raised four boys (none of whom were
easy), used to make us play outside while she cleaned house in those days
during the early 1950s when mothers were mostly consigned to such drudgery. But
at the time I had no sympathy for her tasks. I just wanted to come inside. I
resented being locked out. My mother just needed space to do her chores. But
from my perspective I was, frustratingly, on the wrong side of the door. And so
in all my adult life I have tried never to lock anyone out—but rather always to
be available to whoever calls upon me for help. Yet my career path was not a
straight one.

My beloved grandfather was a dentist and he had often urged me to follow in his career
path. But I thought such a career would be boring (he laughed!) and instead
headed to the University of Massachusetts intending to end up a veterinarian. I
wanted to learn everything, so I balanced a pre-med curriculum with the
humanities and majored in anthropology. When I won a National Science
Foundation grant I fell in love with research and decided that medicine was the
career for me. But then a chance encounter my senior year changed the course of
my life forever. Recruited into an educational reform program for freshmen, I
stayed on and earned a masters degree in education and, following in the
footsteps of my father, became a teacher.

At first I taught English to inner city children in Springfield, Massachusetts. But
another unexpected encounter—this time in Seattle a year later—convinced me
that it was Hebrew literature, and the spiritual values it promoted, that I
wanted to teach. And so, after five years of college, I enrolled in rabbinical
school for another five years of study—first in Jerusalem and then in New York
City.

Since my ordination in 1976 I have served liberal congregations in Texas, New York, New
Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. In each place I connected the local synagogue to
the larger community and left an impact—innovating such programs as a community
wide annual Martin Luther King celebration, an annual festival of choirs to
honor Thanksgiving Day, and joint study and cultural programs with local
churches and mosques. An AME Methodist Church in Easton PA elected me “citizen
of the year” for my work in the larger community. I was a founding member of
Easton’s Human Rights Commission and served on the board of ProJeCt, Inc.—a
social service agency in Easton that administered food, housing, and jobs
programs and ran educational enrichment programs after school and during the
summer. I taught ESL to adults there. In my final year in Easton I was honored
by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania legislature for my contributions to the
community.

During this time I also devoted energy putting pen to paper (or, rather, finger to keys) and
wrote op-ed pieces for the Allentown “Morning Call”—looking at social issues
(education, taxes, etc.) through a religious lens. This led to the Editorial
Page Editor to invite me to become an editorial writer as well.

But during all this time, it was something entirely different that grabbed my
attention—marriage and family therapy. I had read a book called “The Family
Crucible” while serving my first congregation in Texas and it opened up for me
the whole world of family systems theory. Where could I pursue this? Well I
found a single course at a college an hour’s drive up the Rio Grande Valley and
took it. After that it was time to move. So I uprooted my family and headed back “home”
to the northeast, in search of a congregation near to a graduate program in
clinical psychology. No luck in Troy NY—outside of several wonderful
conferences I attended along the eastern seaboard. But five years later, now in
New Hampshire, I found just what I was looking for—in Boston and then at UNH in
a different Durham. And I earned my doctorate, writing a dissertation on
differentiation of self from one’s family of origin—transforming the 10th
grade Confirmation ceremony into a ritual of family process where teenagers get
the car keys but in exchange for affirming an adult level of responsibility for
their behavior.

But it is marriages that I mostly turned my attention to. I am drawn especially to
brief, solution-focused therapy for two reasons. Firstly, it challenges me to
help people with their present problems, helping them get to where they want to
be, rather than concentrating on the past as with the endless months and years
of traditional therapy that only leads to questionable results. And secondly, I
love it because most people have neither the time nor the money to devote alone
to self-discovery—especially when who we are is so fundamentally discerned in

our relationships with others.  
 Over the years I have created a model for helping couples that works, very often, very
quickly. The average round of therapy for my clients is 3-6 sessions, at most.
These successes are among the most gratifying of my career.

But my most gratifying accomplishment is the legacy of my three children. My oldest
son, like me, is an iconoclast. My middle daughter is a social worker—helping
young children in dysfunctional families. And my youngest daughter is a reader,
writer, and editor. They all carry a piece of me and of their mother within
them and I am most proud of that.


Dr. Jonathan Gerard Reaches

Durham NC