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President Obama Appoints Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J. and Dr. John Ruskay to USCIRF

May 13, 2016


WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama on May 12, 2016 announced his intent to reappoint Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J. and appoint Dr. John Ruskay to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  

USCIRF is very pleased with the reappointment of Father Reese and the appointment of Dr. Ruskay,” said USCIRF Chairman Dr. Robert P. George. “The Commission has benefited from Father Reese’s insight and knowledge during his first term and will continue to benefit from his wisdom and experience during his second term on the Commission.  We also warmly welcome Dr. Ruskay to the Commission. His knowledge, experience, and commitment also will be a great asset to our Commission and its mandate, helping us advance the cherished right of freedom of religion or belief around the world.”   

Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J. is a Senior Analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, where he has worked since 2013.  Father Reese was Editor-in-Chief of America magazine from 1998 to 2005 and an associate editor from 1978 to 1985.  Additionally, Father Reese was a Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center from 2006 to 2013 and from 1985 to 1998.  Father Reese entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained in 1974.  He was first appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2014.  Father Reese received a B.A. and M.A. from St. Louis University, an M.Div. from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. John Ruskay is a partner at JRB Consulting Services, a position he has held since 2014.  Dr. Ruskay is currently the Executive Vice President-Emeritus of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, where he previously served as Executive Vice President & CEO from 1999 to 2014.  He began his tenure at the UJA Federation working in a variety of roles in 1993 including Chief Operating Officer, Group Vice President for Program Services, and Executive Director for Education and Community Services.  From 1985 to 1993, Dr. Ruskay served as the Vice Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.  From 1980 to 1985, he was the Education Director of the 92nd Street Y.  Dr. Ruskay received a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Composed of nine commissioners, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal body that is principally responsible for reviewing the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and making policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. The President and leadership of both political parties in the Senate and House of Representatives appoint USCIRF Commissioners. 

To interview a USCIRF Commissioners, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0615.