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Reform Jewish Movement Calls on Congress to Make Good on Promised Funding for Global Aids Initiative

Pelavin: Jewish tradition calls on us to protect the most vulnerable in our midst… the millions of men, women, and children in Africa and around the world who are affected by this pandemic are relying on us to speak for them.


Contact:
Alexis Rice or Jacob Fain 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, September 17, 2003 - The Reform Jewish Movement today called on Congress to fund fully the recently authorized Global AIDS initiative and the Millennium Challenge Account, President Bush's proposed new framework for more effective developmental foreign aid.

Citing the commandment of Leviticus 19: Lo Ta'a-mod al Dam Re'echa ("You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor"), the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and Central Conference of American Rabbis joined a broad coalition of Jewish organizations in calling for full funding of the Global AIDS Act at the $3 billion level authorized by Congress and full funding of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) at $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2004, per the President's budget request. The letter also stressed the importance of meeting these funding priorities without cuts to other lifesaving programs directed to poor countries.

Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which partnered with the American Jewish World Service in coordinating the letter, noted, "This letter illustrates not only the Reform Movement's commitment to addressing the global AIDS crisis, but also the commitment of a wide spectrum of organizations across the North American Jewish Community. We must remind ourselves and our elected representatives that Jewish tradition calls on us to protect the most vulnerable in our midst. We must be the prophetic voice of those who cannot speak for themselves. The millions of men, women, and children in Africa and around the world who are affected by this pandemic are relying on us to speak for them."

The letter's distribution coincided with a meeting between President Bush and Irish rock star Bono to discuss the AIDS crisis, and is a part of an interfaith campaign to ensure full funding of these critical international humanitarian programs. Signatories to the letter include: the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, American Jewish World Service, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and Ve'ahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Member of the 108th Congress:

We stand now at a moment of crisis for the people of the world's poorest nations. As President Bush recently said, "Today, on the continent of Africa alone nearly 30 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, including 3 million people under the age of 15 years old. In Botswana, nearly 40 percent of the adult population - 40 percent - has HIV, and projected life expectancy has fallen more than 30 years due to AIDS." Every minute of every day, ten people are infected by the HIV virus and another six die of AIDS. We cannot afford to delay our response. The 42 million people infected with HIV desperately need our support to save lives, prevent the disintegration of countless communities, and stem the spread of this terrible disease.

Because each of us is created b'tzelem elohim, in the divine image, each person's life is of infinite worth. As Jewish organizations dedicated to combating the AIDS pandemic, we believe the United States and the rest of the world must assume responsibility to help those striving to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa. We must all be guided by the commandment of Leviticus 19: Lo Ta'a-mod al Dam Re'echa - You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.

These fundamental Jewish obligations and values compel us to urge that you vote to fully fund the new AIDS initiative at the $3 billion mark that was promised earlier this year. We also ask you to support full funding of Millennium Challenge Account at $1.3 billion to help alleviate extreme poverty and promote human life and dignity in the world's poorest countries, especially in Africa. But this funding should not be at the expense of crucial development assistance for poor countries, particularly those that may not qualify for the MCA.

Your leadership is needed now to ensure that these initiatives succeed. By acting now, we can save lives and provide hope to millions. If you have any questions please contact Jacob Fain, Washington DC Policy Associate at the American Jewish World Service, 202-387-2800 or jfain@ajws.org.

Sincerely

American Jewish World Service
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Ve'ahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee
Women of Reform Judaism

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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