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July 28, 2014 | 1st Av 5774

Statement on Jewish Values and Health Care

Our tradition teaches us that human life is of infinite value and that the preservation of life supersedes almost all other considerations. We, as Jews, believe that God endowed humanity with the understanding and ability to become partners with God in making a better world. The use of our wisdom to cure illnesses has been a central theme in Jewish thought and history. Providing health care is not just an obligation for the patient and the doctor, but for society as well. It is for this reason that Maimonides, a revered Jewish scholar, listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services that a city had to offer to its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De'ot IV: 23). Almost all self-governing Jewish communities throughout history set up systems to ensure that all their citizens had access to health care. Doctors were required to reduce their rates for poor patients, and when that was not sufficient, communal subsidies were established (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:16; Responsa Ramat Rahel of Rabbi Eliezer Waldernberg, sections 24-25.)

The Union for Reform Judaism has consistently supported universal health care coverage. A 1975 URJ Resolution on "Health Care and Health Insurance" called for a "national comprehensive prepaid single benefit standard health insurance with no deductible, to cover prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in all fields of health care." Similarly, in a 1976 resolution, the Central Conference of American Rabbis called on Congress to "enact a comprehensive national health insurance program."

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