SOURCE: Central Conference of American Rabbis

Central Conference of American Rabbis

April 01, 2014 09:00 ET

Reform Rabbis Highlight Healthcare Inequality & Immigration Injustice at Annual Convention

Rabbis Commit to Action on U.S. Social Justice Issues at 125th Annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Apr 1, 2014) - North America's Reform rabbis took on the sometimes-ignored human costs of two of today's pressing social issues: immigration policy and healthcare inequality.

The rabbis addressed the topics in two sessions -- "Undocumented and Unafraid: Standing Strong as an Immigration Ally," and "The Death Gap: Inequality in America and the Unfinished Business of Health Reform" -- at the 125th annual Convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in Chicago. The CCAR is the world's largest organization of Jewish clergy, with over 2,000 member rabbis. It has a longstanding commitment to social action.

"The overarching inequality in this country, which includes people dying unequally because of lack of access to healthcare, is a moral issue of our time," said Dr. David Ansell, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Ansell led the session on health reform, reflecting on his career as a doctor, especially at Cook County Hospital.

Dr. Ansell brought to life the rampant inequality in the U.S. healthcare system that results from income and wealth inequality; he described a "death gap" defined by 45,000 excess deaths every year caused at least partially by lack of insurance. He sounded a more optimistic note at the close of the session -- the fact that the Affordable Care Act is expected to decrease the number of uninsured Americans from nearly 50 million to around 30 million.

"I think that clergy should be speaking about healthcare disparity from their pulpits, because this is a moral issue that remains unresolved despite the advances of health reform," said Dr. Ansell on the role of religion in addressing health inequality.

Two immigrant rights activists -- Marcela Hernández and Rebecca Katz -- spoke on immigration reform. Marcela Hernández, an Outreach Organizer for the Chicago Religious Leadership Network, and Rebecca Katz, Director of Teen Programs at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, described the current state of immigration reform, bringing into high relief the injustice delivered on the undocumented population in the United States. They also disparaged both congressional inaction and presidential over action, citing the fact that the Obama administration is set to reach 2 million deportations next month.

Immigration reform has been a major social justice priority of the CCAR in recent years. Reform rabbis have advocated for change through grassroots programs like Rabbis Organizing Rabbis and Reform CA.

Hernández and Katz also discussed the Jewish responsibility to care for the stranger, and advised attendees on how to be an ally of the immigration rights movement. They suggested that allies understand that their privilege, as documented citizens, is always present and, first and foremost, that they inform and educate themselves in order to be empathetic as possible.

Other sessions at this year's convention will cover issues like gun violence and labor movements in the U.S.

For more information, please contact Eric Mosher of Sommerfield Communications, Inc. at (212) 255-8386 or Eric@sommerfield.com.

About the CCAR
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. As the professional organization for Reform Rabbis of North America, the CCAR projects a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities. Since its establishment, the CCAR has a rich history of giving professional and personal support to Reform rabbis, providing them with opportunities for study, professional development and spiritual growth beginning while they are still in seminary, through mid-careers, and into retirement. The CCAR is uniquely positioned to meet the ongoing needs of its nearly 2,000 member rabbis (virtually the entire Reform rabbinate) and the entire Reform Jewish community. For more information please visit the CCAR's website at http://ccarnet.org/.

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