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Saperstein delivers 2005 Baccalaureate sermon

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., gave the Baccalaureate sermon at Elon University on Friday, May 20. Details...

Saperstein spoke to a crowd of graduating seniors, their families and members of the Elon community in Alumni Gymnasium. He said science and technology have changed our capabilities but also raised the stakes in a world fractured by political and religious differences.

"We've always had religious fanatics and ideologues, but not with the capability to plunge the world into nuclear holocaust," Saperstein said. "Technology has changed the nature of human politics."

He encouraged this year's graduates to play an active role in their communities and stand up for the things they believe in.

"When it comes to (today's) moral debate, the religious community plays a special role in that," Saperstein said. "The sole question is will you be the audience watching those decisions being made, or will you be the authors?"

The Holocaust showed the damage that can be done when good people sit idly while others are persecuted, Saperstein said. "It is your role as you go forward to grasp your part in doing God's will. When you lean down to feed a hungry child, your hands are the hands of God."

As a religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill, Saperstein represents the Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the White House. He co-chairs the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, comprised of more than 50 national religious denominations and educational organizations. He serves on the boards of numerous national organizations, including the NAACP and People For the American Way. In 1999, Saperstein was elected as the first chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, created by a unanimous vote of Congress.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism advocates on a broad range of social justice issues and provides legislative and program materials for synagogues, federations and Jewish community relations councils across the nation.

Elon's 115th Commencement exercises are scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Saturday, May 21 Under the Oaks in front of West Residence Hall on the Elon campus.

David Hibbard,
5/20/2005 4:53 PM