Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Supporting the New Century Alliance for Social Security's Criteria for Social Security Reform
May 6, 1999—On behalf of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, I am pleased to announce our support of the New Century Alliance for Social Security's criteria for Social Security reform.
Jewish tradition recognizes the vulnerability and abandonment that may come with old age. "Cast me not away in time of old age, forsake me not when my strength is spent" laments the psalmist in Psalm 70. The Bible responds to the fear of old age by urging people to respect and care for their elders. As it says in the book of Leviticus "You shall rise up before the grayhaired and defer to the one who is elder. Thus shalt you revere your God, I am Adonai" (Leviticus 19:32).
Social Security embodies these biblical principles of intergenerational responsibility and support. For over 60 years, it has been the main avenue through which the United States has assured a reasonable income for its retired workers and their families, as well as for those who have lost family income due to the death or disability of a worker. Social Security, arguably the nation's most successful anti-poverty program, is a social insurance program and a crucial safety net for some of our most vulnerable populations.
Social Security must continue to be a social insurance program whose primary role is to provide for the elderly, widows, widowers, orphans, and people with disabilities. It should continue to be progressive, basic protections for women should be strengthened, and Social Security's benefits should be portable and guaranteed, should provide a decent income, and should keep up with inflation. Private accounts should not be substituted for Social Security's defined benefits, in whole or in part.
As we consider changes to the Social Security system, we must be careful not to divert funds from other vital programs. Instead, we should invest in health, education, and job training, working to ensure a strong future for our economy and for Social Security well into the 21st Century. That is our responsibility, to care for our community l'dor v'dor, from generation to generation.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.