David Saperstein

Obama Nominates Rabbi David Saperstein for Religious Freedom Ambassador

Rabbi David Saperstein becomes the first non-Christian and Jewish American to be the U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom.

The position for the U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom has been filled by Rabbi David Saperstein. President Obama announced the appointment on July 28th, ending the nine month vacancy of the position that has caused controversy as conditions for some religious groups continue to deteriorate around the world. This move has been met with joy by most that see the appointment of the first non-Christian in the history of the position as a great step forward for America’s ability to reach out to multiple religions.

The Ambassador for Religious Freedom

The position was first created in 1998 as a direct result of the International Religious Freedom Act, which attached the position to the State Department. The goals outlined for the ambassador-at-large involve attending functions in other nations and meeting with foreign officials in order to hear about progress or unfair treatment of a specific religious group. This information is then relayed through the State Department where a recommendation for action or condemnation of international incidents is made.

Experience Not A Problem For Saperstein

Rabbi David Saperstein is not a new face to the world of religious politics, having spent almost 40 years in Washington D.C. advocating for laws concerning social justice and issues of religious freedom. John Kerry, the current Secretary of State, has given David Saperstein a warm welcome, saying that he expects him to live up to the high standards that he has set for himself in his previous years of public service. Although he is still waiting for approval, it is widely believed that he will assume the new duties in the fall.

A Difficult Path

With the growing conflicts between Israel and Hamas, it would seem that David Saperstein has a long and difficult path set out before him. Even as an ambassador on a fact-finding journey, there is a great deal of highly volatile religious components in this conflict, and some fear that Saperstein’s outspoken voice in favor of Israel may affect his view of the fighting.

However this is not the only major issue that faces the new ambassador, as the ISIS in Iraq have renewed threats against Christians in the region. The militant group has told Christians that they must convert, pay a special tax, or be executed. While it seems that a sit down with this group is not feasible, it shows that there are many challenges ahead for the new ambassador.


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