Jewish Democrats create “Rabbis for Health Insurance Reform”; will the Orthodox sign on?

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

You can’t say the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) isn’t doing its part for their party’s embattled  health care reform legislation  – or, as the Obama administration has rebranded it, health insurance reform.

While some Republican figures continue to argue that Democratic proposals will lead to socialism and “Obama death panels” (where does ex-Gov. Palin get this stuff, anyway?), the Democratic partisan group is mobilizing rabbis from across the Jewish spectrum to support health care reform as an urgent Jewish priority.
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Today the partisan group launched Rabbis for Health Insurance Reform.

“Presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have tried and failed to reform our system, because they’ve been caught up in political point scoring or derailed by special interests who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo,” said Ira  Forman, the group’s CEO. “With the launch of Rabbis for Health Insurance Reform, we are encouraging rabbis to speak up and take action to help ensure that Congress passes health insurance reform in this congressional session. Health insurance reform can wait no longer – we need to take action on this critical issue now.”

Nice, but I wonder: how many Orthodox rabbis is the group going to get to sign on the dotted line – or, more precisely, on the Web site the group has set up?

It’s hardly a secret that suspicion of the Obama administration and the Democrats, mostly because of their Mideast positions, runs deep in that segment of the Jewish community – a small minority, but a vocal one.  How many rabbis will want their names out there in support of a party and a president relatively unpopular in their community?

But several Orthodox activists I asked say they don’t see any discernible trends in their community with respect to Democratic health care plans.  So who knows?

On the other hand, the Reform movement has been a key backer of sweeping health care legislation, and NJDC should have no trouble getting swarms of Reform rabbis to sign on, along with many in the Conservative movement.

The NJDC effort may help balance a religious debate on health care reform that until now has been dominated by Christian right leaders who insist the Democratic plans will lead to forced euthanasia, a rise in abortions, nasty government bureaucrats making life-and-death decisions for individuals and maybe the creation of an American Commitern.

Check out the NJDC announcement here.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.