Rabbi David Saperstein

Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy

For 40 years, Rabbi Saperstein served as Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing the Reform Jewish Movement, the largest segment of American Jewry, to Congress and the Administration. Designated by Newsweek Magazine as the most influential rabbi in America and by the Washington Post as the "quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill," 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, second only to AIPAC." 

The first rabbi in American history to have been designated a U.S. Ambassador, during the second term of the Obama administration, Rabbi Saperstein served as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, carrying out his responsibilities as the country's chief diplomat on religious freedom issues. In this capacity, he served as a principal advisor to Secretary Kerry and President Obama on issues of international religious freedom) and travelled widely as America's advocate for religious freedom and for the security of religious minorities across the globe. From 2019-20, Rabbi Saperstein served as the President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the international arm of the Reform Jewish Movement. He remains today the senior advisor to the Union for Reform Judaism. 

Also an attorney, he taught seminars on church-state law and on comparative Jewish and American law for 35 years at Georgetown University Law Center and after government service continued his academic work as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Foreign Service School and Center for Jewish Civilization and as a Distinguished Fellow at the PM Glynn Institute at Australian Catholic University. 

During his career, Rabbi Saperstein has served as the chair or co-chair of several national interreligious coalitions including the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty. He has served on several governmental foreign policy taskforces including as the first chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and currently as the chair of a federal advisory committee on human trafficking. He 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 Faith Development Dialogue. 

His work has been recognized over the years from many sources, receiving numerous national organizational awards (including the inaugural recipient of the Embassy of the Netherlands' "Anne Frank Award") and honorary doctorates from several universities (most recently from Yale University in 2016 and the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2023)). 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 for our Times. 

Rabbi Saperstein is married to Ellen Weiss, an award-winning journalist and has two sons, 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."

Latest by Rabbi David Saperstein

Al Vorspan, z”l: A Jewish Social Justice Titan

Rabbi David Saperstein

Rabbi David Saperstein, director emeritus of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, delivered this eulogy at Al Vorspan's funeral on Wednesday, February 20, 2019.