Barack Obama's campaign announced that Rabbi David Saperstein will deliver the invocation before Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Here's how The Forward's Nathan Guttman puts it:
Presidential historians and convention observers believe this year’s Democratic convention will be the first time that a rabbi gives an invocation before the presidential nominee’s acceptance speech since the advent of modern American political conventions nearly a century ago.
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will be making history August 28 as he opens the Democratic convention’s last day, in front of an expected crowd of 70,000 in the audience and millions more watching from afar.
Rabbi Saperstein has been a powerful voice, speaking loudly over the years for strong separation of church and state, and against fundamentalist and evangelical Christian-inspired pushes to have more extremely conservative judges appointed to our courts.
Like my friend Howie Klein, for whom I write at Down With Tyranny, Rabbi Saperstein has won a major award from People for the American Way, where the rabbi now serves on the board. For 30 years, he has been the Director and Counsel for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Rabbi Saperstein is an incredible coalition builder. This was a great move on Obama's part.
On a more local note, I was at the opening of the Alaska Republican Convention last winter. The opening invocation was given by Anchorage Rabbi, Yosef Greenberg, from the Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska. There were at least 350 people in the ballroom at the Captain Cook. Most were finishing off their breakfasts at the 8:00 a.m. time.
When Rabbi Greenberg's invocation was announced, and he was introduced, about 12 or so people stood up, bowed their heads. I stood up, folded my hands and tried to look down. But the rest kept on slopping down their ham & eggs, pancakes, or whatever, as Rabbi Greenberg invoked God's blessing.
I was pretty shocked.
A little later, Rev. Jerry Prevo, from the Anchorage Baptist Temple, gave another invocation. Everyone in the room stood quickly, earnestly bowing their heads, many expressing an "Amen!" at his conclusion.
Rabbi Greenberg and I know each other. He had noticed me standing for his invocation from across the room. He came back and we talked at length. It was our first conversation in almost four years. He thanked me for standing. I thanked him for the dialogue we had engaged in together back in 2004, and all I had learned from it.