Jewish groups join national debate on health-care reform

Jewish groups join national debate on health-care reform

Among Jewish groups, only GOPers slamming Dems' health-care plans

WASHINGTON ““ Even as polls and heated rhetoric suggest opposition to Democratic health-care reforms is mounting, Jewish organizational support appears to be holding steady.

Only one group – the Republican Jewish Coalition – is voicing opposition. The RJC has been urging its members to oppose Democrat-backed health-care legislation, sending out an action alert last week warning that the measures, which the group dubs “Obamacare,” will result in massive spending and debt and widespread loss of jobs and healthcare coverage. In its alert, the RJC warned that Obama’s plan will result in a “government takeover of health care.”

However vigorous RJC’s opposition, it appears to represent the lone voice among Jewish organizations speaking out against Obama’s plan. Liberal groups, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the National Jewish Democratic Council, have been staunch supporters of health care reform. Both have taken to the Internet in recent days, creating Websites advocating comprehensive health care reform.

Rabbi David Saperstein, who favors Obama’s plan, says, “We cannot, we dare not, stand on the sidelines.” Courtesy RAC

The NJDC launched, a site featuring a sign-on letter to Congress asking rabbis to lend their support to health care reform. The RAC started, a nondenominational Website featuring fact sheets on the health care system, Jewish texts on health care mandates, and action alerts containing pre-written letters to Congress in support of reform.

“For the sake of our democracy, and for the sake of a health-care system that is so clearly dysfunctional, we cannot, we dare not, stand on the sidelines,” Rabbi David Saperstein, the RAC’s director, said in a statement on the debate over health-care reform. “It is time to get in the game, to reclaim the agenda, and to demonstrate that concerned Americans will not be cowed.”

Several other prominent nonpartisan Jewish organizations, including the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, have come out for universal health care and expressed support of a public insurance option advocated by the Obama administration and many congressional Democrats.

Both the UJC, the North American arm of the network of local Jewish charitable federations, and JCPA, a coalition of the major synagogue movements, national Jewish organizations, and scores of local communities, are backing several programs they believe will benefit the growing numbers of Jewish seniors.

The JCPA and UJC have focused their support on a voluntary program outlined by the CLASS (Community Living Assistant Services and Supports) Act, which would accommodate long-term health-care needs for adults via a government-run disability insurance system. CLASS is included in the reform legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), but not in other health-reform bills currently in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The UJC and JCPA organizations have partnered in the fight for health care, and together in June sent out a Healthcare Reform Action Toolkit with talking points and sample letters to Congress.

Though the Republican Jewish Coalition has not directly criticized other Jewish organizations by name, its action alert last week included a sample letter to Congress asking legislators to be wary of organizations “purporting to speak for Jewish Americans.”

Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Reform movement’s action center, downplayed the suggestion of any real schism in the Jewish community over health care.

Pelavin stressed that despite claims to the contrary, there is “a strong consensus in the Jewish community that we need to fix the health-care system.”


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