URGENT: A Jewish Letter to Sen. Joseph Lieberman on Pekuach Nefesh (Saving Life) & the Health-care Bill

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Dear chevra, below you will find a letter directed to Senator Joseph Lieberman, concerning his intention of supporting a filibuster to prevent an up-and-down majority vote on the health-care bill.

If you agree with its basic sentiments, please sign onto the letter by clicking here.

We are making this letter public as soon as possible with a sizable number of signatures from members of the American Jewish community, in the hope of bringing him to change his position. [he did not budge. His intransigence forced the Senate to drop the two aspects of the bill he opposed. The issue may return,however, when the Senate and House versions of the bill are woven together for final passage. We are, therefore, still seeking signatures.]

[For a report on the results and a follow-up exploration of whether and how to encourage Jewish communal responsibility for ethical behavior by Jewish public figures, click here.]

(Please click the link at the end of the letter, to download this text of the letter, complete with over 2,000 signatures
Thank you!
Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Senator Joseph Lieberman
United States Senate


We are rabbis, cantors, and other committed Jews. Many of us were delighted in 2000 when you were nominated for Vice-President and proclaimed to all that you were an observant Jew, carrying into the highest level of public service the values of the Jewish people.

Now we see with deep distress that you have announced that you will not support the bill before the Senate to bring health care in America even part way toward the universal and affordable coverage that is assumed in every other industrial country, including Israel. You have announced that you intend to join a quasi-filibuster against even taking an up-and-down vote on the bill if it contains either a "public option" provision or one extending the universally praised Medicare system to some younger people.

Doing this would thwart the will of a majority of the Senate, the majority of the American people, and the majority of the American Jewish community.

In our eyes, this is not the behavior of an "observant" Jew. "Pekuach nefesh, Save Life," is the prime directive of Torah,

and "Tzedek tzedek tirdof, justice justice shall you seek," is among the Torah's most important commandments. And in pursuit of justice, no autonomous Jewish community has ever allowed the poor to go without healing. It is clear that the present health insurance system based on private insurance companies is broken in every aspect except assuring enormous profits to itself. It costs Americans the highest medical costs in the world while providing mediocre health care as measured by life expectancies, newborn death rates, and other indices across the developed world.

We recognize that major health insurance companies are headquartered in Connecticut and that you may view your obligations to them as constituents as an important political responsibility. Yet thousands of Americans die each year unnecessarily because they are refused coverage by or are unable to purchase insurance from these same companies.

So we believe your obligation of pekuach nefesh, saving life, saving the lives of the flesh-and-blood citizens of Connecticut, shaped in flesh and blood in God's Image and subject to damage of that same flesh and blood that requires healing, is an even higher obligation than you owe to your insurance-company constituents. Indeed, two-thirds of your flesh-and-blood constituents support a health-care bill that includes a strong public option.

We therefore call you to do tshuvah – to turn yourself again toward fulfilling the commands of Torah and meeting the needs of the American people. Then we will be happy once again that you are bringing the values of an "observant Jew" to the public service of the American people.


(Please click the link at the end of the letter, to download this text of the letter, complete with over 2,000 signatures!)


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