Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Forward 50 2014

David Saperstein

If partisan politics doesn’t interfere, Rabbi David Saperstein will be confirmed soon as the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom.

A lawyer and rabbi, Saperstein, 67, will be the first non-Christian to hold this position, which was created in 1998 and is entrusted with combating religious persecution and discrimination across the world. It will be Saperstein’s first departure from full-time Jewish communal activism after more than 30 years of heading the Reform movement’s lobbying arm in Washington.

A renowned civil rights leader who has made the Religious Action Center a leading force among coalitions fighting for immigration reform, voter rights and gender equality, Saperstein comes well equipped for his new position. He was the first chair of the U.S. Commission on International Human Rights and headed the coalition to protect religious liberty.

He also brings close Oval Office ties. Saperstein, a strong Obama supporter, delivered the invocation on the final day of the 2008 Democratic convention that nominated Obama and was later named by the president as a member of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Council.

Moving to the State Department could present Saperstein with challenges he has not encountered in decades of public advocacy. Religious freedom, while treasured by the administration, is also subject to political considerations, and Saperstein could find himself at odds with politicians seeking to avoid confrontation with allies such as Egypt and Turkey.

As for the Reform movement, it is now struggling to find a Saperstein-shaped leader to head its advocacy branch.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.