Jewish groups praise fiscal cliff deal, remain concerned about future cuts

WASHINGTON (JTA) – While not totally satisfied with the results, many Jewish groups have come out in support of Congress’ last-minute efforts to reach a fiscal cliff deal.

Linda Slucker, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, said her organization welcomed the part of the deal that protects Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while extending unemployment benefits and raising taxes on those making more than $400,000.

However, she said in a statement, “We remain concerned about what is to come."

"Those favoring further austerity before the economy fully recovers are busy trying to skew the public debate ahead and promise to use the need to raise the debt ceiling to extract more spending cuts,” Slucker said.

She added that the country needs “policies that promote jobs and growth, not a reduced standard of living.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement saying that he was “pleased and relieved” that a deal had been struck. But he said the center was “deeply concerned that decisions in the coming months could threaten the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Saperstein also said, “We urge our government to honor its historic commitment to caring for the most vulnerable in our communities, especially in the face of economic turmoil.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, echoed the call to keep America’s safety net and praised politicians for “coming together to avoid dangerous across-the-board economic disruptions.”

However, he said in a statement, “We remain concerned about the future of important programs that support the most vulnerable and provide pathways to prosperity for millions of Americans including Head Start, workplace training programs, important research and development, and food for low-income mothers and children.”

The Jewish Federations of North America also welcomed the compromise and urged Congress and the Obama administration to protect the charitable tax deduction "to ensure that any spending decisions don’t devastate the nation’s safety net."

“The deal struck by Congress and the Administration rightfully does not hinder charitable contributions and, for now, defers cuts to the programs that make up our vital social safety net,” Michael Siegal, chair of the JFNA’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement Thursday. “However, we know the fiscal debate isn’t over and, as this fight continues, Federations will continue to work with coalition partners to ensure utmost protections for those at risk.”

B’nai B’rith International President Allan Jacobs expressed “significant concerns as we look ahead to another sequester — debt limit — deadline.”

“What will be on the negotiating table next time? Probably the same menu as this time,” Mark Olshan, B’nai B’rith’s associate executive vice president, said in a statement. “Non-discretionary domestic spending programs that help the elderly, sure, but we’re also going to hear calls for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid again. We certainly hope Social Security would be left out because it is self funded and doesn’t contribute to the deficit but we have reason to be concerned about that as well.”

Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice called Congress’ actions “an imperfect deal, yet nonetheless one worth supporting.”

The deal “clearly establishes the principle that deficit reduction cannot and should not be achieved purely by cutting spending,” Bend the Arc CEO Alan van Capelle said in a statement. "As Jews and as Americans, we believe in the responsibility of the individual to the community and of the community to the individual."

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