Rabbi Grossman has the right idea when she states, “As Jews we seldom have one position on any issue. Certainly, the idea of health insurance did not even exist at the time of those writing our great codes of Jewish law.” That said she goes on to argue why Judaism would support a form of universal health care. While I am less sure than she is as to whether “Judaism” would back the Democratic party’s universal health care proclivities, I am pretty certain that such is the case with the vast majority of Clal Yisrael (the Jewish people) today. Simon Greer in <a href="a great post on jspot makes a very compelling argument for why, as a Jewish community, we are (and should be) concerned with the state of health care in America. Greer tells us:
According to the Shulchan Arukh, we should prioritize using communal funds for the care of the sick over other obligations, including the construction of a synagogue. (Yoreh De’ah 249:16) One contemporary legal authority, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenburg (b. 1917) quotes an earlier medical authority, Rabbi Rafael Mordechai Malchi, in commenting:
‘It has been enacted that in every place in which Jews live, the community sets aside a fund for care of the sick. When poor people are ill and who cannot afford medical expenses, the community sends them a doctor to visit them, and the medicine is paid for by the communal fund. (Tzitz Eliezer 5:4)’…..
Based on my experience at Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ), American Jews are particularly concerned about health care issues, including the recent dramatic increases in the uninsured (up by 7 million since 2000). In May 2007, 87 percent of the almost 9,000 respondents to jspot.org’s survey of domestic priorities choose health care, tops, in a field of 10. In February, when JFSJ brought together 300 leaders from the field of synagogue organizing, health care was the issue of greatest interest to congregants.
What is the genesis of this interest among Jews in health care? Are we taking seriously the obligations called for in the Shulchan Arukh? Or perhaps something more basic: the biblical assertion that all human beings are created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God?
Jewish law and tradition may play a role. But so do more mundane factors. Jews, like other Americans, are growing increasingly insecure about their own insurance. Some live without coverage, and their prayers for good health have an added sense of urgency. Even those Jews who do not worry about losing their coverage are concerned about rising costs. Jews who fall ill are subjected to an industry that too often prioritizes profits over its clients, denying claims or delaying payments.