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Nothing But Nets: Jewish Values and Global Disease

Jewish Values and Global Diseases

The moral test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable. Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease, though it kills thousands of people each year and cripples Africa’s economy. Malaria keeps families and children in poverty because children are forced to stay home from school, parents must miss work to care for sick children, and because of reduced productivity, tourism and business investments plummet.

Our tradition teaches that we cannot “stand idly by the blood of our neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16) and must pursue healing, rodeph rephuah. In today’s increasingly global society, we are all neighbors. By limiting the aid we provide to fight malaria, we limit our help to those who need us to prevent and overcome the disease and the cycle of poverty it produces. We are taught that “one who saves a life…it’s as if he saved an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5), thus we value each net we are able to send. 

In 2005, the Union for Reform Judaism adopted a resolution on Ending Global Poverty, which endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Millennium Development Goals were to be completed by 2015 and sought to reduce the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. The MDGs helped to catalyze resources and action to dramatically reduce malaria cases by 2015, helping to achieve the goal of reversing the malaria epidemic and leading to nearly 7 million lives being saved.

Signed at the UN in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals will build on the progress made under the MDGs, continuing the push to eliminate and eventually eradicate malaria.Together, with the Union for Reform Judaism and Nothing But Nets, we can destroy this deadly disease in our generation.