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Jewish Journal

Most Jews Support Health Care Reform

by Rachel Tepper, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

August 18, 2009 | 4:36 pm

Even as polls and heated rhetoric suggest opposition to Democratic health care reforms is mounting, Jewish organizational support appears to be holding steady.

Only one group — the Republican Jewish Coalition — is voicing opposition. The RJC has been urging its members to oppose Democrat-backed health care legislation, sending out an action alert last week warning that the measures, which the group dubs “Obamacare,” will result in massive spending and debt, widespread loss of jobs and health care coverage. In its alert, the RJC warned that Obama’s plan will result in a “government takeover of health care.”

However vigorous RJC’s opposition, it appears to represent the lone voice among Jewish organizations speaking out against Obama’s plan. Liberal groups, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the National Jewish Democratic Council, have been staunch supporters of health care reform. Both have taken to the Internet in recent days, creating Web sites advocating comprehensive health care reform.

The NJDC launched RabbisForHealthCare.org, a site featuring a sign-on letter to Congress asking rabbis to lend their support to health care reform. The RAC started JewsForHealthCareReform.org, a nondenominational Web site featuring fact sheets on the health care system, Jewish texts on health care mandates and action alerts containing pre-written letters to Congress in support of reform.

“For the sake of our democracy, and for the sake of a health care system that is so clearly dysfunctional, we cannot, we dare not, stand on the sidelines,” Rabbi David Saperstein, the RAC’s director, said in a statement surrounding the debate around health care reform. “It is time to get in the game, to reclaim the agenda and to demonstrate that concerned Americans will not be cowed.”

Several other prominent nonpartisan Jewish organizations, including the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, have come out for universal health care and expressed support of a public insurance option advocated by the Obama administration and many congressional Democrats.

Though the Republican Jewish Coalition has not directly criticized other Jewish organizations by name, its action alert last week included a sample letter to Congress asking legislators to be wary of organizations “purporting to speak for Jewish Americans.”

Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Reform movement’s action center, downplayed the suggestion of any real schism in the Jewish community over health care.

Pelavin stressed that despite claims to the contrary, there is “a strong consensus in the Jewish community that we need to fix the health care system.”

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