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Or Shalom Jewish Community Statement On Universal healthcare

Health Care for All Is a Moral Issue

A Faith Perspective from Or Shalom Jewish Community


“Supporting sick poor people is more important than the maintenance of a synagogue.”

— Shulchan Arukh, Yorah De’Ah 249    

As people of faith, we want to make our ideals and traditions manifest in the world. So we are obliged and committed to push for affordable health care for all. Our society can afford to do this. Morally and ethically, we can’t afford not to!

America’s contentious public debate about health care and health insurance has until now mostly focused on political, social and financial issues. We need to incorporate into the debate the ethical problem of rationing health care according to the patient’s ability to pay. A society as wealthy as ours should not allow people to suffer and die because they are poor.

We believe our faith leaders and faith communities have a role here. We should use our moral standing to push our country to do the right thing: provide decent and accessible medical care to all Americans.

Each year, the United States spends nearly twice as much on health care per capita ($9,800 in 2016) as any other industrialized country. We are less healthy than residents of nations that spend much less per capita, and we still have an unconscionable number of people without access to decent health care. France spends $4,600 per capita and covers everyone; Israel, $2,820; Canada, $4,750; Spain, $3,250.

American organizations have pushed for guaranteed universal health care without success since the 1880s. A patchwork of programs has developed over the decades — Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), ACA (Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act) — which provide care or insurance for most Americans over 65, many low-income and disabled people, and some children. The trajectory has been to provide health insurance for increasing numbers of ailing Americans. However, many still lack access to care.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans favor a national publicly funded health plan, as do many medical professional organizations. The California Nurses Association has spearheaded California’s current proposal for universal health care, Senate Bill 562 (SB 562). But we remain mired in a profit-driven health system that leaves many without care. Meanwhile, our scripture (Leviticus, 19:16) directs us to take profit out of the equation: “Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor.”

While there is debate and confusion in the United States over the government’s obligations around health care, in much of the industrialized world, the public role has been much clearer. The debate centers on the moral imperative to reduce suffering, and proceeds logically toward “How shall we efficiently care for the largest number of people?” Other countries, such as Taiwan, Japan and virtually all of Europe, have created universal coverage without the debate being driven by those pushing medicine to produce wealth rather than health..

The European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights both declare the fundamental human right to health care and medical attention. The United States stands alone among wealthy nations by not acknowledging health care as a community responsibility. Our historical reliance on market-driven medicine seems to blind us to the moral imperative to care for our fellow humans. But our sacred text commands us: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

We seek to join the voices of the faith community with those that have long called for a health-care system that cares for every person in the United States. Faith communities have a special duty to cut through the narrow debates about finances and control. We need to push ourselves to create a better version of America. We must call out the inhumanity of a profit-driven medical system and demand high-quality health care for all Americans, focusing on prevention and rational use of resources.

“Anyone who saves a life, [it] is as if he saved an entire world.”

—  Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4

Or Shalom Jewish Community Statement Against Racism

As Jews who have been perennial victims of the form of racism called antisemitism for thousands of years, we deplore all acts of racism, racial profiling, hate speech, hate crimes, ethnic assault, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, including all forms of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and homophobia, regardless of who the perpetrators or victims are.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched for civil rights with his friend Reverend Martin Luther King, described racism as “the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason”. Our tradition reverently teaches that all lives matter and that the destruction of a single human being is as if it were a destruction of an entire world, while the saving of a single human being is as if it were the saving of an entire world (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a). Having escaped our slavery, we were a diverse group at Mt. Sinai, which we still are, and we respect and value the strength, beauty, and wisdom of diversity.

As a progressive community of Jews and non-Jews dedicated to learning (limud), acts of lovingkindness (gemilut chasadim), Jewish spiritual practice (avodah), and social action (tikkun olam), we stand resolutely against all forms, whether in word or deed, of hate, racial discrimination, religious bigotry, and sectarian violence, so often directed against racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. 

Statement of tikkun olam in our times

Please see that statement here

Wed, June 3 2020 11 Sivan 5780