WASHINGTON (RNS) June 7 -- The president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations is calling on Reform Jews to donate to charity the money they will receive from the tax cut signed into law Thursday, June 7 by President Bush.
"Our Jewish texts teach us that we will be judged by how we treat the least fortunate among us," said Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Reform Jewish organization, in a statement.
His organization was among the opponents of the tax cut package.
"This tax bill, which disproportionately benefits the wealthiest segment of society, will place in jeopardy the future of the Medicare trust fund, Social Security and social service programs," he said. "It is precisely because this bill does not meet the needs of the less fortunate in our society that the Reform Movement has advocated against the tax-cut package since its inception."
Yoffie sent a memo to the nearly 900 Reform Jewish congregations in America asking them to form a Tzedakah (charity) Collective that can be used to pool the money donated by members to help the needy. The donors will determine where their contributions will be sent, but Reform movement leaders will provide congregations with a list of programs that are underfunded in the budget.
"Each individual will need to decide how much of the rebate they will donate to the collective," Yoffie wrote in his memo. "But in a congregation of 400 families, with an average gift of $300 per family, you could provide groceries for 50 families of three for an entire year. If you multiply that by 900 congregations, you will see the impact that we, as a movement, can have."
President Bush said he was glad to see the tax bill become a reality. Depending on their marital status, many taxpaying households are scheduled to receive rebate checks of $300 to $600 by September.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 34 percent of Americans expect to use the refund to pay bills, 30 percent plan to save or invest the money and 21 percent plan to spend it.