Globe Briefs December 18

Globe Briefs December 18

Rabbi Saperstein wins Senate nod for religious freedom post

The U.S. Senate confirmed Rabbi David Saperstein, a Reform movement leader, for a State Department post.

Last Friday, Saperstein, in a 61-35 vote, won confirmation as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. He will be the fourth person and the first non-Christian to serve in the post.

The ambassador travels the world making the case for minorities facing persecution or discrimination. In recent years, ambassadors have taken up the causes of Muslims in Burma and Christians in China and Sudan, among other cases.

Saperstein, a veteran civil rights activist, had served as director and counsel of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism since 1974.

“David’s clear and powerful voice has been the voice of our movement for 40 years,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said. “More than that, it has been the voice of the all-too-many among us who are often voiceless.”

National communal umbrellas, including the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, welcomed Saperstein’s confirmation. They were joined by the Interfaith Alliance, a religious freedom lobbying group that has 75 affiliates including all four major Jewish streams, and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.

Saperstein was a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2010 to 2011. He also was a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2001.

Also last Friday, the Senate confirmed two new members to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body that supervises U.S. government underwritten media, including the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. They are Leon Aron, a Russian affairs scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Michael Kempner, a New Jersey-based public relations executive and philanthropist.

Chanukah-decorated Florida home vandalized with swastika

In an apparent anti-Semitic incident, a Jewish man found a swastika drawn on his Florida property.

David Cohen of North Fort Myers, Fla., told police that he found the swastika drawn onto his gate on Dec. 8, according to, a local news site.

Cohen, 72, had put up handmade Chanukah decorations outside his home the day before and believes it was targeted as a result.

“I can’t even say how mad it makes me feel,” Cohen told “If it was a kid, I’d say they were very stupid. If it was an adult, they are very ignorant.”

Cohen reported the incident to the sheriff’s office and painted over the symbol.

Orthodox groups file with Supreme Court in support of Muslim headscarves

Seven national Orthodox Jewish groups filed a Supreme Court brief in favor of a Muslim woman’s right to wear a headscarf at work.

The brief was filed last week by Washington attorney Nathan Lewin in a case that is expected to be heard in February or March. It deals with whether an applicant’s failure to provide explicit notice that she is a practicing Muslim who wears a headscarf at work allowed the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch to reject her application, saying it was in violation of the company dress code.

In the brief, Lewin recounted that all his applications to New York City law firms were turned down because the firms did not want to be inconvenienced by making accommodations for his religious observance.

The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, Agudas Harabbanim, Agudath Israel of America, National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America joined the friend-of-the-court brief.