As a member of both the Jewish community and the Brady community, I am devastated by the carnage at Tree of Life Congregation. But I am not shocked. We live in a country where anti-Semitism and hatred of minority communities is on the rise; where basic civility has been equated with “political correctness” and demonized for political gain; and where for too long our lawmakers and leaders have made gun access easier and easier while the types of firearms and accessories available to civilians have become increasingly lethal. While the details of each mass shooting continue to shock the conscience, the fact that they keep happening is a tragic but logical conclusion of our choices as a country.
This week’s shooting has brought back memories of my childhood growing up in a synagogue and community not unlike the Tree of Life Congregation. I had a vibrant Jewish upbringing that included Hebrew school three times a week, Shabbat and holiday services, youth group activities, and overnight camp every summer. Five months ago, my wife and I held a bris for our newborn son – the same ceremony that was reportedly happening at Tree of Life – to welcome into him the peaceful Jewish communal life that we have experienced. I am insulted by the suggestion that we can only be protected from hate and violence by an armed guard. The four walls of a synagogue do not bind Jewish life, and the threat of hate and gun violence is not limited to a place of worship. My family has a right to be with our community in a weapon-free environment of our choosing. This right should not be held hostage by those who long for an unabridged right to be armed wherever, whenever, and however they want.
Our voices have grown louder with each mass shooting over the last year that “thoughts and prayers” are not sufficient. Expressing outrage toward calculated inaction is a start, but it is not enough for the times in which we live. The enormity of America’s gun violence problem may seem daunting and impossible to overcome. But I was reminded by a friend yesterday of these paraphrased words from the Talmud: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”
Honor with action is a phrase we often use in the gun violence prevention movement. We can honor the lives lost at Tree of Life by joining a local vigil. If there is not one already planned for your community, lead one.
Want to do more? If you have not yet taken your first step to support the gun violence prevention movement, start today and learn more at BradyCampaign.org. If you are already active, there is always more to do. Here is a list of Brady-endorsed candidates on the ballot next week. Support them. Vote for them. And, by holding them and all other lawmakers accountable when they are in office we have a real chance to disarm hate.
If we each do our small part, we can ensure that our current reality is not the future for the next generation of our communities.