Statement Of Rabbi David Saperstein Director, Religious Action Center Of Reform Judaism National Coalition On Health Care
January 23, 1997
I am Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and I am here today representing the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the CentralConference of American Rabbis. These two organizations represent 1.5 million Reform Jews and1,800 rabbis in 850 congregations throughout the United States and Canada. The views of theseorganizations represent a broad consensus in the mainstream Catholic, Protestant, and Jewishcommunities, as evidenced by our long-standing coalitional cooperation in the Coalition with suchorganizations as the National Council of Churches, representing thirty-three Protestant andOrthodox denominations, and the Catholic Conference. Today, I stand here with my fellow NationalCoalition on Health Care partners to support, with optimism and determination, this neweducational campaign that aims to fundamentally change the way that Americans perceive healthcare reform.
I stand here today because the Bible teaches us that all humanity was created in the divineimage. God did not divide creation between the sick and the well. God did not divide creationbetween those who are entitled to health care and those who are not. Rather, God created us all,endowed us with equal rights, and charged us to take responsibility for one another. People offaith have always understood that responsibility to include the obligation to bring health to all, andhealing to the sick and infirm. It is in that spirit that we join this vital campaign to bring healthcare reform back to the center of public policy debate.
To those who would say that religion has no place in the health care reform debate, we say thatthis is a quintessentially religious issue. The health care crisis touches nearly every citizen,every community, every church, mosque, and synogogue; every member of the clergy and everycongregant. The failure to provide universal health care coverage for poor adults and children, theelderly, and the disabled challenges the most central Biblical commands. Sacrificing quality forprofits cannot be reconciled with the Bible's prophetic command, expressed by Ezekiel, that"Every living thing shall be healed." It is these values and these concerns that bring the religiouscommunity here to say: America deserves better than the reality this newly released studyreflects.
- For the 10 million uninsured children, we say: America deserves better!
- For the millions of disabled whose health care is threatened, we say: America deservesbetter!
- For the millions of hard working families who cannot afford health insurance, we say:America deserves better!
- For those sick and dying in hospices and at home who are afraid that they may lose theirhealth plans, we say: America deserves better!
- For all of those tens of millions of Americans who fear that they may lose their accessto comprehensive coverage, and their life savings is threatened by catastrophic illness, we say:America deserves better!
Jews, Christians, and Muslims have all agreed that the question "Am I my brother's keeper?"must be answered in the affirmative. In that spirit, for 2,000 years we have maintained thatproviding health care is the responsibility of both doctors and societies. This is also not solely aJewish issue. So many Christian and Jewish denominations and faith groups have strongly heldpositions that echo our own—urging reform of the nation's health care system to ensurethat "all Americans, whether or not they are able to provide for themselves, are guaranteedessential health care coverage." The moral test of health care reform is whether it provides forour country's low- income seniors, children, disabled, and impoverished. These are the people atrisk, and these are the people who rely on us to ensure that they can find affordable and adequatehealth care coverage.
In bringing health care reform back to the center of public policy debate, the National Coalitionon Health Care is forging a partnership with America. This partnership will aim to ensureuniversal health coverage for all and improved quality of care at a reasonable price. That is why Iam proud to stand here today, supporting the National Coalition on Health Care's efforts. That iswhy the churches and synogagues of America will actively participate in this educationalcampaign. The values of the Biblical tradition caution us that the present health care system isunacceptable. Our traditions demand better. Our nation seeks better. God's children deservebetter.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office ofthe Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbisrepresenting 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in more than 850 congregationsthroughout North America.