Aiding Medically Uninsured Jews
ack of health insurance is a
problem in the Jewish com-
munity. It may be a big prob-
lem affecting between 11-13
percent of our Jewish community of
96,000. That's a lot of people. To be
exact, it's between 10,560 and 12,480
of our friends, neighbors and relatives.
After all, isn't our community a
microcosm of the general community?
There are 41 million uninsured indi-
viduals in this. country and 1.3 million
of them live in Michigan.
These are not homeless people living
in poverty. They are people we know.
According to Drew Altman, president
of the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation,
"losing health benefits is becoming a
middle-class issue." Data indicate that
16 percent of all families headed by a
worker lack health care coverage.
The Nov. 25 New York Times cited
these data and stated "... the health
care crisis is spreading up the income
ladder and deep into the ranks of those
with full-time jobs ... The largest group
of newly uninsured, some 80,000 peo-
ple, had incomes over $75,000."
At Jewish Family Service, we see the
problem daily. More people than ever
Rachel Yoskowitz is director of the
Center for Jewish Healing, Southfield.
before are in need of help to pay for
basic daily costs of living. They have
no health insurance and they need to
decide whether to buy food or medi-
cine. They are sick but can't afford to
visit the doctor. To make a prescrip-
tion "last longer," they take their heart
medicine every other day or adminis-
ter their child's asthma medicine only
when the child has difficulty breath-
ing. The list goes on and on. And this
is but the tip of the iceberg.
Hard to believe? It is painful and
surprising that in the 21st century, our
health status may be declining because
citizens of the country with the great-
est health care available in the world
can't access that care.
This week is nationally recognized as
"Covering the Uninsured Week."
Events are scheduled across the coun-
try to highlight the plight of those
who can't access health care because
they have no health benefits.
We at Jewish Family Service have rec-
ognized that issue in our community
and with the support of the Jewish Fund
are trying to identify those in need of
health care so that we, as a community,
can begin to address their needs. Via the
newly created Project Chessed, we will
survey community members to find out
how many people are in need of access
Will Arabs Follow Asia To Freedom?
Ramat Gan, Israel
orty years ago, political and
economic conditions in Asia
(except Japan) and in the
Middle East (except Israel)
shared a number of characteristics —
both regions were deeply embedded in
the gloomy and seemingly hopeless
Third World. Governments were con-
trolled by small and corrupt elites sup-
ported by the military and other securi-
ty forces. There was no room for toler-
ance or pluralism. The economies were
also stagnant. Violence and conflict
were widespread, both internally and
Since then, however, the countries of
Asia, including China and India, have
managed to break out of this economic
and political- prison, but the Arab
Middle East remains stuck where it was
in the 1960s. With the partial exception
Gerald M. Steinberg is a political sci-
ence professor and director of the
Program on Conflict Management and
Negotiation at Bar-Ilan University. His
e-mail address is email@example.com
of the petroleum exporting countries in
the Gulf, poverty has become even more
deeply embedded, and the political sys-
tems remain hermetically sealed.
Leaders are installed for life (and
beyond, with the advent of presidential
succession in Syria). In Saudi Arabia
and other oil-rich countries, tens of bil-
lions of dollars are the private property
of small tribes and royal families and
their retainers. In addition to the huge
price paid by the citizens of these coun-
tries, this situation feeds the frustration
that turns into terrorism and violence.
In this environment, the removal of
Saddam Hussein and a regime change
in Iraq could trigger a domino effect in
the Arab world, from North Africa to
the Gulf. While there are different pre-
dictions regarding the day after the war,
the replacement of the current regime
with a more open and responsible gov-
ernment, as in the case of Afghanistan,
is still the most likely outcome.
Once the floodgates open and the cli-
mate of fear in Iraq is lifted, and the
population begins to celebrate its
restored freedom, the citizens in neigh-
embarrassed silence. because they
are too ashamed to admit that
they can't afford health insur-
ance. We need to help them
come forward and respond.
The Jewish Fund has recog-
nized the importance of identi-
fying and assisting those mem-
bers of our community who lack
YOSKOWITZ access to health care. Through
their support, Jewish Family
Service is able to conduct this
important survey. All of us need
to recognize that now is the time to
Finding Those In Need
encourage the uninsured people whom
we know to stand and be counted.
In the weeks ahead, through Project
The responsibility rests on all of us
Chessed, we will be conducting a
to speak up for the uninsured and to
detailed survey of our community. The
help them improve their health status.
survey will be distributed through our
day schools, congregational schools and This is very much a Jewish issue and
working together, we can address it. ❑
agencies. There will also be a phone
line set up specifically for the survey,
enabling members of our community
For more information on
to call in and complete the survey by
Covering the Uninsured Week,
phone. If you or someone you know
visit the Web site at
can't access health care because of lack
of health insurance, call Jewish Family
org If you or someone you know
Service. We want to talk to you.
lacks health insurance and would
Only through a major cooperative
like to participate in our survey,
effort can we identify those in need of
please call Jewish Family Service
care. Only when people come forward
in Southfield, (248) 559-1500.
can they receive the assistance they need.
This is not a time for people to maintain
to health care.
Some of our uninsured may
be eligible for health care serv-
ices through existing programs.
In those situations, we will
connect people to the entitle-
ments for which they qualify.
Some of the uninsured in need
of immediate attention may be
assisted in other ways. Where
there is a need, we will work
with people to find a solution.
The same factors are neces-
boring countries around the
for the societal transfor-
Middle East will be infected.
mation that will lead to peace,
Dramatic leadership change in
and the replacement of rejec-
Baghdad will launch a chain of
tionism with acceptance of the
similar processes in the region.
legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish
After Iraq, the Palestinian
state. While there are no guar-
Authority might be next. The
antees, there is at least the
Arafat regime and the PLO have
controlled Palestin-ian life for
GERALD M. hope that in a more open
decades, with no lasting accom-
STEINBERG political atmosphere, the blind
hatred and incitement will be
plishments. The hope created
with the 1993 Oslo agreements
Commentary replaced by mutual acceptance
and a stable peace. A leadership
has been destroyed by terrorism
that is accountable to its citi-
and violence, Israeli troops have
returned to the cities, and the creation of zens would also restore the credibility of
Palestinian pledges with respect to pre-
a Palestinian state seems as far off as ever.
venting terrorism and in other areas.
Instead of the promised economic devel-
These changes will not take place in a
opment, a corrupt and incompetent
vacuum, and from Baghdad and
leadership has gone in the opposite
Rarnallah, similar processes will spread
to other countries, including Syria and
Within Palestinian society, this criti-
Saudi Arabia. While the first priorities
cism is growing, coinciding with the
will be towards internal political and
demand for regime change in President
economic change, this foundation can
Bush's June 24, 2002, speech on
open the path to real peace based on
Middle East peace. Thus, the -forces
popular support throughout the region.
unleashed by the replacement of
Four decades after Asia started down
Saddam Hussein could provide the cat-
the road to freedom and economic
alyst for ushering in a new more open
growth, the Arab Middle East may
and democratic Palestinian society
finally have a chance to follow a similar
ready to cooperate with Israel in a two-