Aug. 16 -- Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will deliver the invocation at the Democratic National Convention Thursday, August 28, at Denver's INVESCO Field, the night that Sen. Barack Obama is scheduled to accept the Democratic nomination.
"I am deeply honored to have been invited to offer a religious voice at this celebration of American democracy; the opportunity to do so at an evening of such historic significance to our nation is especially meaningful," Saperstein said.
During the Democratic and Republican conventions, as at so many other public events, the invocation serves as an opportunity for religious leaders to raise up in a non-partisan manner the moral challenges facing the country and to pray that the country's leaders have the wisdom and courage to resolve them.
At the next week's Democratic Convention, in addition to invocations and benedictions at each session, the convention program will include a first-ever "Interfaith Gathering" as well as "Faith Caucus" meetings throughout the week. Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, will deliver one of the Keynote Addresses at the Sunday gathering, and two leading Reform rabbis -- Rabbi Steve Foster of Temple Emanuel in Denver and Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom of Falls Church, Virginia -- will play major roles at that event. Other rabbis participating in the convention program include: Orthodox Rabbi Marc Schneier (of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding), Conservative Rabbi Jack Moline (of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, VA) and Reconstructist Rabbi Steve Gutow (of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs).
"We are proud that Rabbis Foster, Schwartzman, and Saperstein are being recognized for their outstanding leadership. We in the Reform Movement have often had the opportunity to learn from these rabbis, and we are confident that the nation as a whole will benefit from their insights," said Peter Weidhorn, chairman of the Union for Reform Judaism. "In particular," Weidhorn noted, "we are honored that a representative of the Reform Movement was selected to give the invocation the night the first African-American accepts the nomination to the highest office in our land. We hope that leaders of our Movement, the largest segment of American Jewry, will likewise be among those religious voices invited to be heard at the Republican Convention," he concluded.
Saperstein, who is a leader in a number of interfaith and public interest coalitions, has worked with a broad array of leaders from both parties in forging coalitions to address pressing issues such as poverty, health care, hunger, the environment, Middle East Peace and Israel's security. He has led the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for 34 years, providing a voice for Reform Judaism in Washington. He currently co-chairs the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, comprised of over 40 national religious denominations, educational and religious freedom organizations, and serves on the boards of numerous national organizations including the NAACP and People For the American Way. In 1999, Rabbi Saperstein was elected as the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom created by a unanimous vote of Congress. An attorney, Rabbi Saperstein teaches seminars in both First Amendment Church-State Law and in Jewish Law at Georgetown University Law School.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism not only advocates on a broad range of social justice issues but provides extensive legislative and programmatic materials used by synagogues, federations and Jewish community relations councils nationwide, and coordinates social action education programs that train nearly 3,000 Jewish adults, youth, rabbinic and lay leaders each year.