In November, shortly after the presidential election, our columnist Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer predicted that “in one of his first acts as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama will reverse” the 43rd president’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Obama did just that on Monday, and Jewish groups have, virtually unanimously, commended his decision. There may be some divergence, but it has not come our way.

The National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement that “Obama has put science over politics by removing the Bush administration’s ban on this promising medical research.”

“Embryonic stem cell research,” the statement continued, “has the potential to help find new treatments, or even cures, for those individuals suffering from degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Alzheimer’s.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted in a statement that his movement “has for many years been an outspoken advocate for stem cell research, working with leaders across the political spectrum.”

He noted that “[o]ur tradition requires that we pursue advances in science and medicine that have the potential to save and enhance lives, and that ‘when one delays in doing so, it is as if he has shed blood’ (Shulchan Aruch, Yorei De’ah 336:1).”

B’nai B’rith International said in a statement that “[t]he potential for major medical breakthroughs is enormous, as embryonic stem cells can develop into any kind of cell or tissue.”

And the American Jewish Congress noted “the near unanimity amongst rabbis of all denominations of Judaism that Jewish law would accept stem cell research as wholly moral.”

A heartening message was conveyed by the very fact of Obama’s announcement: We’ve finally entered the 21st century – a little later than many other countries, but what the heck, we’re here.

This is not to say that stem cell research will now proceed in a straight line to knock out any number of diseases. The practice of science does not always keep pace with its promise – nor does the money to pursue it.

But the promise is, indeed, great.

In that November piece, our columnist quoted Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor of biology at Yeshiva College and of Talmud at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, as well as a highly respected researcher: “We don’t cure disease ourselves,” he said at a 2001 panel sponsored by the Pew Foundation. “But every few generations God allows us to move one veil of nature, and we get a little bit smarter. Right now, stem cell research is the hope of mankind.” RKB

In November, shortly after the presidential election, our columnist Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer predicted that “in one of his first acts as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama will reverse” the 43rd president’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Obama did just that on Monday, and Jewish groups have, virtually unanimously, commended his decision. There may be some divergence, but it has not come our way.

The National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement that “Obama has put science over politics by removing the Bush administration’s ban on this promising medical research.”

“Embryonic stem cell research,” the statement continued, “has the potential to help find new treatments, or even cures, for those individuals suffering from degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Alzheimer’s.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted in a statement that his movement “has for many years been an outspoken advocate for stem cell research, working with leaders across the political spectrum.”

He noted that “[o]ur tradition requires that we pursue advances in science and medicine that have the potential to save and enhance lives, and that ‘when one delays in doing so, it is as if he has shed blood’ (Shulchan Aruch, Yorei De’ah 336:1).”

B’nai B’rith International said in a statement that “[t]he potential for major medical breakthroughs is enormous, as embryonic stem cells can develop into any kind of cell or tissue.”

And the American Jewish Congress noted “the near unanimity amongst rabbis of all denominations of Judaism that Jewish law would accept stem cell research as wholly moral.”

A heartening message was conveyed by the very fact of Obama’s announcement: We’ve finally entered the 21st century – a little later than many other countries, but what the heck, we’re here.

This is not to say that stem cell research will now proceed in a straight line to knock out any number of diseases. The practice of science does not always keep pace with its promise – nor does the money to pursue it.

But the promise is, indeed, great.

In that November piece, our columnist quoted Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor of biology at Yeshiva College and of Talmud at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, as well as a highly respected researcher: “We don’t cure disease ourselves,” he said at a 2001 panel sponsored by the Pew Foundation. “But every few generations God allows us to move one veil of nature, and we get a little bit smarter. Right now, stem cell research is the hope of mankind.”

RKB