Rabbi David Saperstein:We recognize that the challenge of revitalizing the American economy is a complex one, but it must be done in a way that lives up to the highest aspirations of our society in ensuring the well-being of all Americans.
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 10th, 2012 – Today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to the members of the conference committee charged with negotiating on the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, calling for a yearlong extension on both programs. The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Senator Baucus and Congressman Camp,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis, I write to urge you to extend unemployment insurance benefits for a full year and, similarly, extend the payroll tax cut. We recognize that the challenge of revitalizing the American economy is a complex one, but it must be done in a way that lives up to the highest aspirations of our society in ensuring the well-being of all Americans.
There is no more urgent moral command in the Jewish tradition than to pursue economic justice as a founding principle of society - to protect and uplift the poor and the weak, to reach out to the stranger, and to build a community that strives for a time when "there shall be no poor among you" (Deuteronomy 15:4). We are taught in Deuteronomy 15:7, 8: "If however there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that God the Eternal is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather, you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs." The rabbis remind us that "sufficient for whatever he needs" implies we are commanded to maintain him at the level he is at, neither making him rich nor allowing him to fall into poverty. These texts and teachings continue to inspire us and our commitment to assisting those who are struggling.
More than 46 million Americans today live below the poverty line, and the Department of Agriculture recently reported that 17.2 million American households were food insecure in 2010. Programs that help American families keep food on the table and roofs over their heads are clearly essential, and unemployment insurance is precisely such a program.
Failure to extend unemployment benefits would endanger not only the financial and physical health of American families, but unemployment insurance also provides a valuable source of economic stimulus. A recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that every dollar spent on unemployment insurance could yield up to $1.90 in economic activity, more than either tax cuts or infrastructure spending in the short term.
We know you share our commitment to the fiscal well being of our nation and its families. We look forward to working with you on these challenging issues central to our economic recovery.
Rabbi David Saperstein