August 2, 2023 - On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced the appointment of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Emeritus of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) and Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy for the RAC and Union for Reform Judaism, as the chairperson of the Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking (ACHT). The ACHT is responsible for developing a triennial report regarding human trafficking violations involving commercial motor vehicles, which will include recommendations for combatting human trafficking and an assessment of best practices by transportation stakeholders.
"I am honored to have been appointed to serve as chair of this important committee," said Rabbi Saperstein. "The scourge of human trafficking violates the inherent dignity of every human being touched by it and necessitates a whole-of-government response. Transportation, both domestic and international, and human trafficking are inextricably linked, with victims who are being trafficked fleeing traffickers and conditions of coerced labor and interacting with diverse systems of transportation. The Department of Transportation has long been focused on combatting human trafficking of all kinds and helping those in transportation recognize and take actions to assist those individuals who are so victimized. I look forward to working with my distinguished colleagues over the coming years in identifying ways to end this brutal practice in conjunction with transportation stakeholders."
"For decades, Rabbi Saperstein has been an internationally recognized champion of social justice and a fierce advocate for ending human trafficking in the United States and abroad," said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism. "He played a role in shaping and passing the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act legislation, and this new responsibility will help strengthen such efforts. Judaism implores us to 'redeem the captive' - the spirit of which has long infused his efforts in this vital work. As we work to end human trafficking and bring about a world where none know the experience of captivity, I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has been selected to chair this committee, whose urgent work will surely benefit from his leadership and expertise."
The ACHT was initially established as mandated by the 2018 Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act and was re-charted in July 2022 as a requirement of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The ACHT is comprised of 15 members representing the transportation sector, labor, trafficking advocacy organizations, law enforcement, and those with lived experience in human trafficking. Members are appointed by the Secretary of Transportation to serve for the life of the committee.
For 40 years, Rabbi Saperstein served as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing the Reform Jewish Movement (the largest and most diverse Jewish denomination in North America) to Congress and the White House. During the second term of the Obama administration, Rabbi Saperstein served as 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 ambassadorship position and the first rabbi in American history to hold the title of ambassador.
Rabbi Saperstein also served on several federal advisory boards during his career and as the first Chair of the congressionally mandated 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.
Read more about Rabbi David Saperstein and the Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.8 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit RAC.org for more.
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) represents a vibrant network of nearly 850 Reform synagogues across North America, which foster serious Jewish learning, sacred community, and prophetic justice. As the central address for this congregational network, the URJ speaks on behalf of the entire Reform Movement on a wide range of topics ranging from Jewish observance and ritual, community relations, social justice, and much more. Visit URJ.org for more.