Ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein was designated by Newsweek Magazine as the most influential rabbi in America and by the Washington Post as the “quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill.” For 40 years, as Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), Rabbi Saperstein represented the Reform Jewish Movement, the largest segment of American Jewry, to Congress and the Administration. He continues as the Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy for the RAC and the Union for Reform Judaism. Under Rabbi Saperstein, writes J.J. Goldberg in his book Jewish Power, the Religious Action Center “has become one of the most powerful Jewish bodies in Washington….”
The first rabbi in American history to have served as a U.S. ambassador, during the second term of the Obama administration, Rabbi Saperstein served as the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, carrying out his responsibilities as the country’s chief diplomat on religious freedom issues – the first non-Christian to hold that position. Rabbi Saperstein has also served on two federal advisory boards and as the first Chair of the congressionally-created U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In 2019-20, he served as the President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the international arm of Reform Judaism. Also an attorney, Rabbi Saperstein taught seminars on Church–State law and on comparative Jewish and American Law for 35 years at Georgetown University Law Center and for several years at GU’s School of Foreign Service and Center for Jewish Civilization. He continues his academic work as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and as a Distinguished Fellow at the PM Glynn Institute at Australian Catholic University.
During his career, Rabbi Saperstein has served on the boards or executive committees of numerous national organizations including the NAACP, People for The American Way, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Religious Partnership on the Environment, and the World Faiths Development Dialogue.
His work has been recognized from many sources, receiving numerous national organizational awards (including as the inaugural recipient of the Embassy of the Netherlands’ “Anne Frank Award”) and honorary doctorates from several universities (most recently from Yale University). His articles have been published in publications ranging from The New York Times and The Washington Post to the Harvard Law Review. He has appeared on most major television news and talk shows, including Oprah, Meet the Press, ABC’s Sunday Morning, The Rachel Maddow Show, Nightline, PBS News Hour, Crossfire, Hardball, and The O’Reilly Factor. His latest book is Jewish Dimensions of Social Justice: Tough Moral Choices of Our Time.
Rabbi Saperstein is married to Ellen Weiss, an award-winning journalist and has two children, Danny (a musician) and Ari (a journalist).
In his book Thunder in America, network news correspondent Bob Faw wrote of Rabbi Saperstein: “Saperstein learned from political masters… [His] energy is almost legendary – no one around him worked longer hours, no one darted in and out of more meetings… Once he’d taken on an assignment, he’d always guide it safely home to completion.”
© Parliament of the World’s Religions
® Parliament of the World's Religions name and logo are trademarks of the Parliament of the World's Religions.