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Saperstein Joins Faith Leaders in World AIDS Day Service to Call for Action

Saperstein: “It is up to each of us now to reflect the holiness of our faiths by calling for a world where every life is treated as holy; it is up to each of us to reach out and let our hands be God’s hands in the sacred work of healing in our world.”

Contact: Kate Bigam or Micaela Hellman-Tincher
202.387.2800 |

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 1, 2008 - On December 1, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, joined other faith leaders to observe World AIDS Day in an interfaith service and vigil at Foundry United Methodist Church. Rabbi Saperstein commemorated those whose lives have been lost to the disease, honored those who have fought and continue to fight against the spread of AIDS, and called for further action by members of the faith community and lawmakers. The full text of the statement follows:

We gather to mark the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. We commemorate 20 years of using our God-given scientific wisdom and our moral determination to preserve those of God’s children who face the enormous challenges of HIV/AIDS infection.  They are mothers, fathers, and children; they are relatives, friends, and co-workers; they are living in our homes and living thousands of miles away in countries we may never visit.  They are all God’s children.

How far we have come in two decades. We have gained knowledge about HIV prevention and transmission. We have developed medicines that are indispensable to the well-being of patients. And we have raised an army of activists, manifested by those of us here today and in rallies around the globe.

And still, how far we have to go. We search for a vaccine. We dream of a cure. We pray – and we act -- for an end to this modern-day plague.

As communities of faith, we raise our voices in those prayers. Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’is – the words of our prayers are different but the pleas are the same. We seek healing for the ill; wisdom for the researchers and doctors; strength for the caregivers; and moral courage for our lawmakers.

But prayer is not enough, not when 25 million people have been lost already and 33 million more infected. How many more must we lose before the battle is won? Today we raise a prophetic voice to say, “No more.”

No more restrictions on sexuality education that leave participants unable to fully protect themselves. We stand here to fight the ignorance that has left 45% of women ages 15-42 unable to identify a condom as a means of preventing HIV.

No more policies rooted in ideology rather than in science. We stand here to fight the reporting requirements that have left aid groups unsure if they can promote the most effective prevention methods without the threat of losing U.S. funding.

No more generations lost when the funding and medicines to keep parents alive are just an ocean away. We stand here to fight for the futures of 11 million AIDS orphans living in sub-Saharan Africa and to ensure there be none to follow.

In 1985, in one of the first and most eloquent sermons on the AIDS crisis, my colleague Rabbi Robert Kirschner observed, “God has no other hands than ours. If the sick are to be healed, it is our hands that will heal them.” What will be the legacy of the faith community when history judges us? Let us act to ensure that our legacy be the fulfillment of God’s most precious commandment: to preserve life. For each of the Abrahamic faiths teaches in its sacred texts that to save even one life, it is to save the whole world. It is up to each of us now to reflect the holiness of our faiths by calling for a world where every life is treated as holy; it is up to each of us to reach out and let our hands be God’s hands in the sacred work of healing in our world.

Rabbi David Saperstein speaks at an interfaith World AIDS Day service.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.

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