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OBAMA, HEALTH CARE REFORM AND AMERICAN JEWS

By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B. reporting from Washington

While in downtown Washington on November 5, I noticed that people were starting to gather for some kind of protest on Capital Hill.  Sensing a potential “storm” brewing, I went to the scene.

By about 9:30 a.m, people of all ages were gathering to protest   President Obama’s healthcare reform, and a line of buses began swarming Capital Hill.  Many people arrived with handmade signs, and I quickly began to read as many as I could, to try to  understand what the opposition to the  proposed  health reform was all about.

One young blonde haired white man held up a sign saying, “Abortion is not health care.” Two people were dressed up as Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, with blood stained clothing, carrying baby dolls and fetus like plastic shapes.  It was a rather shocking and horrific image. Cameramen snapped photos of them.  The crowd began chanting-“Nancy, can you hear us now.”  This crowd said it did not want the federal government, directly or indirectly, funding abortions in any way. 

A blond haired middle aged white woman, near me, was saying, “I don’t want some bureaucratic government health board, that isn’t even made up of doctors, telling me whether I can have a hysterectomy or not.”

Other signs focused on the claim that the U.S. government didn’t have enough financial resources to pay for extending healthcare.  The lawn was awash with signs saying “We can’t afford Obama care”, “Economic Slavery,”  “No to socialism,.” “No Government Run Healthcare, No New Taxes, No New 111 Agencies.”  One rather nasty sign carried by a white middle aged man wearing a baseball cap said “No to Obama Care. Re--distribute my work ethic.” Another middle aged white man had given his young daughter a sign saying, “GIVE ME LIBERTY, NOT DEBT-I’M ONLY 8.”

The crowd was polite, and at times began singing God Bless America, as a huge American flag was held over people’s heads.

I think it would be safe to say that virtually all of the people there had voted Republican in the last election. I didn’t see one Afro-American in the crowd.  Nor did I see a lot of other visible minorities.  And I decided that I must have been pretty well the only Jew in the crowd- let alone the only Canadian Jew. As the flag was passed over my head, one fellow was saying something about this feeling like a “baptism ceremony.” 

I pressed up against hundreds of people to get to the front of the demonstration, where a man with a loudspeaker was announcing, “We’re going to have ourselves a good old fashioned sit in at Nancy Pelosi’s office.  It’s office number 225.  We’re going to bring her all 900 pages of the health care bill, and start ripping them up one at a time.  You’re all invited to participate—as long as you don’t mind getting arrested.”  Many in the crowd chuckled, and a boisterous chant of “Kill the Bill” began.

Just then, two women arrived with   a copy of all 900 pages of the health care bill, to be ripped up. Police officers stood on the hill, looking down over the crowd.  About an hour and a half later, the lawn was completely filled-with estimates being that 25,000 people were there.

Several days later, the Obama health care bill narrowly passed through Congress, but still  it must wind it’s way through the U.S. Senate.

I thought of  the  memorable scene I had witnesses on Capital Hill, several days later on November 10th  when  I sat listening as Rahm Emmanuel, The White House Chief of Staff, addressed the  3000 delegates at the General Assembly of  Jewish Federations  in Washington.

In his address to the delegates, Emmanuel said, “We are closer than ever to achieving quality healthcare” and “He [President Obama] is fighting for a day when no one loses healthcare because of pre-existing conditions.”  Emmanuel received warm applause when making these statements.

Those Jewish delegates who attended the General Assembly would never have been out protesting “Obama Care” on Capital Hill. 

Most American Jews, who voted for Obama en masse, are in favour of his health care reform package.  On the whole, they believe that  publicly funded   health  care  is  in keeping with  traditional Jewish values—the  need to care for  all  the vulnerable in society, and the  idea of  not leaving  anyone behind. The State of Israel, of course, has publicly funded health care. 

When it comes to health care, Obama, American Jews and the State of Israel  see eye to eye.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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