First Jew to represent US for international religious freedom

Rabbi David Saperstein appointed as US ambassador for international religious freedom.

December 15, 2014 17:43
1 minute read.
Rabbi David Saperstein.

Rabbi David Saperstein.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON -- The Senate has approved Rabbi David Saperstein to represent the United States as ambassador at large for international religious freedom, the first non-Christian to hold the post.

Saperstein, a leader in the American Reform movement, will begin work at the State Department after earning 61 Senate votes in his favor on Friday.

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The ambassador travels the world making the case for minorities facing persecution or discrimination. In recent years, ambassadors have taken up the causes of Muslims in Burma and Christians in China and Sudan, among other cases. Saperstein, a veteran civil rights activist, had served as director and counsel of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism since 1974.

American Jewish organizations widely praised the nomination, including the National Jewish Democratic Council, Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Rabbinical Assembly.

"I can think of no one more qualified," said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. "The Jewish community is better for Rabbi Saperstein’s dedication and leadership, and we are proud to see him in his new position with the State Department.”

Saperstein, the fourth person to hold the ambassador post, was a member of US President Barack Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2010 to 2011. He also was a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2001.

JTA contributed to this report.

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