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Leaders Call for Commitment in Fighting AIDS

Jewish groups from across the denominational spectrum are calling on the community to help fight AIDS in Africa and other places hit hard by the pandemic.

In an open letter to the Jewish community issued by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist leaders called on “synagogues and rabbis to renew and affirm our commitment to ending the AIDS crisis in Africa and elsewhere around the world.”

“For the sake of our shared humanity, we cannot afford to fail,” the letter said.

The letter was issued Monday, the 16th annual World AIDS Day.

Jewish leaders across North America spoke out this week to affirm their commitment to fighting the deadly disease. Worldwide, 40 million are infected with AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“In the case of AIDS, we think that these are preventable deaths. There are few mandates in Judaism as clear as pikuach nefesh, to not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,” said Ruth Messinger, president and executive director of the American Jewish World Service. The service helped found the Jewish Coalition Responding to AIDS in Africa, a coalition made up of 18 organizations and congregations in the United States.

Part of the open letter’s intent was to make people aware of how seriously the Jewish community is taking the AIDS epidemic, said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center. “Now we hope the letter will be distributed to synagogues and rabbis across the country and lead them to do more educational programs and look for ways to be helpful in expanding the response to this issue,” Saperstein said.

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