February 27, 2020

Rabbis to L.A. County: Fund healthcare for undocumented immigrants

One day after the open-enrollment period for Obamacare health care exchanges ended, Temple Isaiah’s Rabbi Dara Frimmer was among those calling for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to live up to a promise it made to those people — many of them undocumented immigrants — not eligible for the new initiative.

County representatives have committed to funding a health care program for those not included in Covered California, the state’s new health insurance exchange, or Medi-Cal. Concern persists, however, about whether there will be sufficient money to provide care for everyone who needs it.

On April 1, this apprehension prompted OneLA, a social justice coalition comprising community organizations and synagogues such as Temple Isaiah, to hold a press conference calling on L.A. County to “fully fund a health program for the residually uninsured,” a figure OneLA says amounts to 1 million people. 

“Don’t be foolish, 1 million county residents left out of health coverage puts all Angelenos at risk!” the organization’s press release says.

Frimmer was the sole Jewish speaker at the 10 a.m. press conference that featured remarks by clergy and civic leaders. She echoed the call for equal access to health care regardless of legal status.

 “One million people not having access to basic health coverage affects everyone, including those of us on the Westside,” said Frimmer, whose congregation is located on West Pico Boulevard. “If we think about what type of city we want to live in and what type of city we want to build together, it should be a city that recognizes the basic human rights of health care for every person, regardless of who they are.”

Rabbi Rachel Timoner of Leo Baeck Temple also turned out for the press conference, which took place downtown at the entrance to the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration at Temple Street and Grand Avenue.

“I wouldn’t want anyone in my family to face a serious illness without preventative health care,” Timoner told the Journal. “But that’s what the uninsured in California face every day.”

OneLA provides community-organizing training to its members and fights for social justice on behalf of the marginalized. Additional Los Angeles synagogues that are part of the organization include Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Temple Judea in Tarzana.

Frimmer acknowledged in an interview that the demographic of Los Angeles County’s uninsured does not include many people from the local Jewish community, but she did say her congregation has “a few.” She said Jews have an obligation to extend a helping hand beyond the fold, however.

L.A. synagogues have shown an ongoing interest in health care issues that don’t directly impact Jews. Last year, an event at Temple Judea that educated people about how to sign up for health care exchanges drew mostly non-Jewish Angelenos.

Earlier in the year was a Yom Kippur event at Temple Emanuel, where community members, including those who would not be impacted by the implementation of Obamacare — otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act — posed questions to a panel of experts.

“We believe that we’re only as healthy as the person sitting next to us,” Temple Isaiah congregant Janet Hirsch said, explaining her interest in shedding light on the plight of the county’s uninsured.

Hirsch was among several Isaiah congregants who showed up to the April 1 press conference. Others included Susan Bartholomew, Amy Martinez and Nancy Reimer. Temple Isaiah rabbinic intern Jason Rodich attended, as well. 

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors includes prominent Jewish community activist Zev Yaroslavsky.