UJC Now Lobbying for Universal Health Care

By Nathan Guttman

Published July 08, 2009, issue of July 17, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

One of the largest and most influential Jewish groups has signed on for the first time in support of universal health care in the United States.

United Jewish Communities, an umbrella group for local Jewish federations, pushed its members to lobby over the July 4 weekend for health care reform that would provide universal coverage. In talking points sent out to federation activists, and to members of local Jewish community relations committees, activists were urged to tell their elected officials that “any health care reform effort should ensure that every individual and family has access to qualified medical professionals and providers for their care, regardless of income or other barriers.”

While a number of other Jewish organizations in Washington have long lobbied for universal health care, the federations traditionally viewed health care reform through their own prism, as owners of hospitals and senior care facilities. As such, the federations and their national advocacy efforts historically focused more narrowly on ensuring government funding for these programs, regardless of the issue of universal accessibility to health care.

Last May, though, UJC decided to sign on to a joint statement with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, dedicating both groups to lobbying for universal health care based on the “moral mandate from our Jewish tradition” and on their experience as health care service providers.

“Now people are working together for both causes: universal health care and funding for health care services,” said Hadar Susskind, vice president of public policy and Washington director of the JCPA. Susskind, who was involved in the negotiations that led to signing the joint statement, said, “We see it as a fundamental issue that will make the federation system involved in the broader issue of reforming health care.”

UJC is so important because it represents 157 federations and 400 independent communities that raise and distribute more than $3 billion each year. It is the largest provider of social services in the Jewish community, and as such it is the key organization dealing with government funding for community-based services.

UJC is wading slowly into the waters. William Daroff, UJC’s vice president of public policy, did not acknowledge that the recent lobbying represents a major change, although he did recognize that his mandate has been broadened because of the new cooperation with the JCPA on health care reform.

“I don’t think this is a shift. It is smart politics,” Daroff said. “We want to be inside the tent for these discussions because of their critical importance for the Jewish community.”

During the lobbying weekend, UJC gave local Jewish activists a push to promote current federation programs alongside a broader change that would enable universal health care for Americans. UJC told its lobbyists also to focus on Medicare and Medicaid funding, which are crucial for Jewish nursing homes and old-age facilities.

One potential sticking point for UJC is the Obama administration’s plan to decrease tax deductions on charitable giving for high-income individuals. The change has been proposed as a way of securing funding for an overhaul of the health care system but UJC has argued strenuously against it.

Daroff would not say if the group would part ways with the JCPA on health care if its concerns, mainly those regarding charitable tax deductions, are not met. Current versions of health care legislation do not include the measure, but it is too early in the legislative process to know what the final language will contain.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and a longtime supporter of universal health care, said he believed that all Jewish groups hold strong views on the need for an accessible health care system.

“I’d be surprised if any Jewish group would back off because of any particular interest,” he said.

Saperstein spoke after an interfaith lobbying day July 7, during which leaders of 15 faith groups spoke with legislators and administration officials in support of universal health care. Among the attendees were representatives of many Jewish groups that are actively advocating for passage of health care reform. Saperstein believes that this turnout proves how important the issue is viewed within the community.

“Health care reform will not happen without the political drumbeat for the absolute moral commitment, and the Jewish community is important in determining this moral commitment,” he said.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.