I get it. We pray to honor victims, whose lives are cut far too short by gun violence. We
pray to comfort the mourners, who face the impossible task of mourning their loved
ones far too soon. We pray in appreciation for the first responders, mental health
professionals and clergy of all faiths, who must rescue, protect, and/or comfort far too
often. But for me, however well-meaning our prayers, however sincere, they’re just not
enough. Prayers in the face of inaction-- prayers that don’t lead to courageous, systemic
change and social healing-- to me, are trite.
My heart is broken for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
shooting, as well as for their families and friends. My heart is broken for us all. In the
words of my rabbinic colleagues David Stern and Steven Fox at the Central Conference
of American Rabbis, “Even as we weep for our own, we affirm that all America’s
children are our own.” That said, even shattered hearts and compassionate tears are
not enough. We must DO more.
Our tradition calls us to be strong and of good courage (Deut. 31:6). That means when
it comes to standing up to gun violence and the culture that permits it, we be brave and
of good action, not just prayer. When our neighbors are bleeding over and over again,
we must not stand idly. By itself, prayer doesn’t prevent the spilling of blood. Prayer
doesn’t automatically move our feet.
Seventeen people have died in the Parkland massacre, five of whom were Jewish:
Jamie Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff, Alex Schachter, Meadow Pollack, and Scott Beigel
who was a teacher. One of these victims, Alyssa Alhadeff, was the good friend of
children and families my family and I know quite well. Alyssa went to Camp Coleman,
one of the URJ summer camps, in Georgia. Betsy and I are parents of URJ campers,
who love their fellow campers. As such, our family grief feels particularly acute this time
around. This kind of grief is so bewildering and the issue of gun violence so large, it
seems really hard to put that first foot forward. But we must. We must do something,
even if we cannot do all the work ourselves. We cannot wait around as if God will save
us from ourselves. Instead, we must act as though all depends on us.
In a Facebook post, Alyssa Alhadeff’s mother, Lori, called on us all to be Alyssa’s voice
and breathe for her, to never give up and inspire for greatness. But how do we inspire
for greatness? How can we breathe life into Alyssa’s memory? How do we make our
nation a safe place?
For a clue on what to do, Betsy reached out to a friend of ours, Rabbi Joel Mosbacher,
whose father was murdered here in Chicago with a gun. Rabbi Mosbacher is one of the
most important voices on standing up to gun violence. The issue Betsy brought to him
was how to help our teens, who are not voting yet, to do something to influence our
political leaders. Rabbi Mosbacher responded immediately that we organize a diverse
group of people and get a meeting with our mayor, police chief or county executive.
According to Rabbi Mosbacher, 122 public officials from around the nation are using
their political power to demand that gun manufacturers control the most irresponsible
dealers and innovate smart gun technology. Let’s get started on the organizing and
invite Mayor Emanuel for a life-saving, breath-giving conversation.
In the meantime, I have copied some links here for your exploration:
Jewish Resources for Coping with the Tragic Shooting in Parkland, FL
How We Can Help our Littlest Learners in the Wake of Tragedy
CCAR Resolution on Gun Violence, August 2015
Should you need to speak with me about this recent tragedy or related tragedies, I am
here for you. Zei gezunt (Be well).
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!