“Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” [Lev.19:16]
“In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, all are responsible.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
As Jews, we have been witnesses and victims to mass killings and pogroms for centuries. More than 3,300 people have been killed by guns in the United States since the tragedy at Sandy Hook School on December 14th and nearly 30 people in our nation each day die from gunshot wounds. Tragically, these are not surprising statistics, since the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership and the 2nd highest rate of gun deaths (after Mexico) among industrialized nations.
The magnitude of gun deaths, seldom reported in our media until there is a mass murder, leads us to overwhelming emotional volatility ranging from denial to outrage. Many of us are fearful because we believe there are too many guns in our society and others say they are fearful because there are not enough guns. Clearly, this issue has aroused considerable emotion in the months since the Newtown tragedy, across the country, in our state, and yes, within the Jewish community.
A working group on gun violence prevention has recently been formed at Congregation Bonai Shalom. The goals of the working group are advocacy and education/dialogue. We feel strongly that it is time for us to take action for many reasons:
- We cannot stand idly by as so many of our citizens are being killed daily or take their own lives with guns that are too easy to access.
- A large majority of citizens, including many gun owners, do not agree with the NRA’s positions on gun control, in particular, its opposition to universal background checks, to the banning of assault weapons, and to the banning of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
- The 2nd Amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms but does not guarantee the right to keep and bear all arms.
- And most compelling: It is an ethical imperative of our tradition to seek and to pursue justice. We are called to make our streets and our schools safer.
Although we recognize that gun violence prevention is a complex issue, we have come to believe that three policies — universal background checks, the banning of assault weapons, and the banning of high-capacity ammunition magazines at the federal and state level — are essential to decreasing gun violence in our society. Consequently, we will be focusing much of our advocacy efforts on those three legislative goals, although not necessarily to the exclusion of other relevant initiatives. We hope that Congress acts to protect Americans from gun violence with legislation that is similar to the bills that have recently passed in our own state Legislature.
We invite you to join our committee where we will be taking various actions in the near future: contacting our state and local legislators, marching at the State Capitol, and working collaboratively with other local faith communities. For more information on the committee, please e-mail Stephanie Greenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on an upcoming silent march in Denver to honor victims of gun violence follows below.
For those in our community who have different views and would like to engage in discussions about gun violence prevention, we invite you to work with us to develop opportunities for dialogue.
The rabbis teach that “if you save one life, it is as if you have saved the whole world.” Each of us shares the responsibility to ensure that every life is sacred, every human being created in the Divine image. The time is now!
Rabbi Marc Soloway
2013 Silent March to Honor Victims of Gun Violence
Thursday April 18th, from 12 noon to 1:00 PM on the west steps of the State Capitol. The event is organized by Colorado Ceasefire and other Colorado organizations. On display at the march will be hundreds of pairs of empty shoes symbolizing America’s preventable epidemic of firearm-related deaths and injuries. If you have old shoes around the house, please support the march by adding them to the labeled collection box in the rear entryway at Bonai Shalom before April 17th. The shoes will be collected on April 17th and will be donated to charities after the march. Even better, consider going to the march. We will be organizing a carpool from Boulder. For more information on the march, please contact: email@example.com. If you would like to carpool from Boulder, please contact Barbara Trager at: firstname.lastname@example.org.