Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on the United States' Debt to the United Nations

September 29, 1999- The prophet Micah once dreamed of a day when the nations shall come and say: Let us go up to the Mountain of the Eternal... We will walk in God's paths; for the law shall go forth from Zion... and God shall judge among many people and rebuke strong nations from afar. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more.

We can only dream of reaching such a time, but insofar as humankind can act to bring us closer to that day when one ethical law shall bind nations together and when nations shall find peaceful ways to resolve their differences, the cooperative international order represented by the United Nations plays an indispensable role pointing us in the right direction.

But how self-defeating for the world to cast so many of its most intractable problems on the agenda of the U.N. and then withdraw from it the resources it so vitally needs to meet those challenges. That kind of cynical political posturing is irreconcilable with the values our nation cherishes.

Since its founding in 1945, the United Nations has fed, sheltered, and clothed millions around the world. It has comforted and protected refugees. It has immunized children. It has negotiated and administered peace agreements, ending bloodshed and violence. It has asserted and protected the human rights of all of God's children. Day after day, month after month, year after year, in a very literal sense, the United Nations is involved in the work of repairing our broken world, in the work of Tikkun Olam.

But just as no community can do its work without the fair and equitable support of the entire community, so the United Nations cannot do the work of the community of nations - the community of humankind - without the fair and equitable support of every member of that community. We in the United States are the most powerful, the most influential, and the wealthiest member of this community. For us not to pay our dues — in full and in a timely fashion, without any restrictions — is a shame and an embarrassment. For America to be the world's biggest deadbeat is unconscionable and unacceptable.

For a nation of laws to dishonor international commitments is wrong.

For a nation built on concepts of fairness and equity to not pay its fair share of U.N. dues is neither equitable nor right.

We must settle our arrears so that the United Nations can continue its vital peacekeeping work in East Timor, Kosovo, Bosnia, and dozens of other areas of the globe wracked by violence and bloodshed.

We must settle our arrears to preserve our credibility and our vote in the U.N. General Assembly.

We must pay our dues before the Congressional budgetary enabling legislation expires at the end of this fiscal year.

We must settle our arrears because, first and foremost, it is the right and just thing to do. As we approach the third millennium of the common era, let us make it an era of great hope and achievement; let us resolve to do better; let us agree that we, as a nation, should — no, must — pay our fair share as a responsible neighbor in an interdependent world.


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.

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