Saperstein leaves them wanting more


You’ve got three minutes, and now it’s two: what do you cut?

Here are some of Rabbi David Saperstein’s choices: a nod to Martin Luther King, a prayer for the war dead, and a couple of God references.

Saperstein, the director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, was asked to deliver the invocation Thursday night, when Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) accepts the party’s presidential nomination. (The rabbi is a favorite of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who is chairing the Denver convention.)

Saperstein and other speakers were asked to cut content because time had to made to accommodate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who had been bumped from a slot Wednesday night when proceedings went overtime.

We got Saperstein’s prepared comments, and were able to see what he cut: a prayer for wounded and dead veterans; a reference to the 45th anniversary Thursday of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and appeals to the “God of our memories and hopes, God of this urgent moment.”

Here are the comments as delivered (incidentally, the RAC sent out the abridged version after delivery – but left out Saperstein’s pleasing Hebrew flourish):

As we bow our heads in reflection: Eternal God, you ennoble our lives by empowering us to do your work here on earth in creating a world of justice and peace for all. We pray for America, that it may ever be Ohr leGoyim. a light unto the nations, a beacon of freedom, human rights and economic opportunity. The protector of this precious earth, which you have entrusted to our care, may your name be invoked only to inspire and unify our nation but never to divide it.

We ask your blessing on all the leaders of our nation, that they may lead wisely and with civility and work together for the common good, and we ask especially that you be with that mighty guardian of the contemporary American conscience, Edward Kennedy. We ask that you send your blessing on Joseph Biden and now, on this historic day, upon Barack Obama, as candidate for the highest political office in our nation. Guide him that he may ever be a champion for justice.

These things we ask of you, Eternal God, in the sunshine of renewed dreams, committed that the torch of hope shall pass from hand to hand, from heart to heart, until the radiance of peace and righteousness for all God’s children shines to the ends of the earth. Amen.

There were two other Jewish speakers: U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of Obama’s earliest backers; and Susie Turnbull, the Democratic National Committee vice-chairwoman, one of several party officials who moved a resolution thanking host state Colorado.

Turnbull gave a shout out to her birth state, Ohio, her home state, Maryland, as well as to Colorado, which left us wondering: Did the Richardson speech keep her from delivering a little naches to mishpokha?

UPDATE: Here is the text of a speech delivered earlier in the convention by the Orthodox Union’s Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.

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