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March 9: Judaism and Stem Cell Research

March 9, 2013

stem-cell-harvestSeveral American Jewish organizations hailed President Obama's decision on this date in 2009 to lift the restrictions that were placed by President Bush on federal funding for research into new stem cell lines. "It is refreshing to have an administration committed to rooting its science policy in fact, no matter its ideology," said Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, "rather than rooting its science policy in ideology, no matter the facts. . . . The Jewish value of pikuach nefesh teaches that preserving life and promoting health are among the most precious of our responsibilities. Our tradition requires that we pursue advances in science and medicine that have the potential to save and enhance lives, and that 'when one delays in doing so, it is as if he has shed blood' (Shulchan Aruch, Yorei De’ah 336:1)." The American Jewish Congress, National Council of Jewish Women, and Jewish Council for Public Affairs all weighed in positively on Obama's decision. In fact, every denomination of Judaism in the U.S., including Orthodox groups, have endorsed stem-cell research, which is also permitted in the State of Israel.

"Far from being shunned, 'playing God' in the Jewish tradition is, in fact, a religious imperative: the concept of emulating God is implicit in the mandate to heal and provide effective medical relief wherever possible." —Yoel Jakobovits,