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Saperstein: "At a time of significant economic challenges and escalating budget deficits, all Americans need to be open minded about balancing investments for sound fiscal, political and moral purposes while containing the deficit and debt that can threaten our future economic well-being."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 2, 2011 -- In response to comments made last week by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) calling for the elimination of all U.S. foreign aid, as well as other recent proposals to reduce foreign aid, including calls to isolate Israel from the rest of the foreign aid package, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, issued the following statement:
The Reform Movement has long supported U.S. foreign aid as a means to assert and ensure U.S. moral, political and economic global leadership and strengthen our national interests by supporting allies around the globe. Since the beginning of the nation-state, foreign aid has been an essential means of building relationships across borders. Foreign aid enhances stability, allowing the U.S. to project strategic influence across the globe, combating environmental degradation, disease and malnutrition that can spread between nations. The modicum of support that foreign aid provides helps to stabilize the people of the world.
At a time of significant economic challenges and escalating budget deficits, all Americans need to be open minded about balancing investments for sound fiscal, political and moral purposes while containing the deficit and debt that can threaten our future economic well-being. Proposals to eliminate all or most foreign aid, however, are not a fiscally, politically or morally responsible choice. We appreciate the continued support for foreign aid that members of both political parties have demonstrated. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has pointed out, such aid plays a vital role as national security insurance for the U.S. by improving the lives of people overseas.
Additionally, we reemphasize our support for foreign aid to the State of Israel as a continued demonstration of American support for democracy and security in the region. Foreign aid represents a significant investment in American jobs, as over 75% of Israel aid is spent to buy goods and services in the United States.
As Jews we are guided by the teaching that the highest level of tzedakah, or charity, is to give so that the recipient may become self-reliant. For men, women and children around the world, U.S. foreign aid has meant not only the difference between starvation and food, between illness and health, and between life and death, but it also represents structural investments empowering people to transform their lives: micro-enterprise investment, agricultural and environmental sustainability, education to make them competitive in the changing world. These are the kinds of investments that can open new opportunities and empower the poor and women. These foreign aid programs allow recipients around the world to improve their own lives and the lives of generations to come. We urge Sen. Paul to reconsider his position and urge the 112th Congress to continue to take seriously the United States' position as a world leader, by supporting a robust and effective foreign aid program.