Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
My kids are afraid to go to school. They know about the frequent school shootings. They know about the mass murders across the country and the shooting deaths in our own city. They know that the world is not safe. What can I tell them? I acknowledge their fear, but I do not lie and say they are safe, that nothing will happen to them. I can’t guarantee that. I can comfort them and tell them I love them. I can tell them about the safety measures their school is taking. I talk to them about their lockdown drills and what to do in an active shooter situation, but having this conversation with my kids makes me physically ill. To think that this is a real possibility is unacceptable. It’s intolerable. We have to do better for our children.
Judaism teaches us that we must care for the vulnerable in our midst. The Torah specifically mentions the orphan and the widow (Deuteronomy 24:19), the hungry (Leviticus 19:9-10), and those bound by the shackles of oppression (Isaiah 58:6). But this list is not exhaustive, it is merely symbolic. These are categories of people in need. In Biblical times, these people would have been reliant on society for their welfare as they would not have had the means to provide for themselves. The Torah mandates that they be cared for by the community. Our ancestors understood that every person has value and deserves to have their rights protected and their basic needs met.
Understanding this, I traveled to my state capital with nearly 200 other Reform Jews to lobby our state senators and representatives. There were many teenagers with us who spoke for themselves, expressing their own fears and demanding our legislators do better to protect their safety. I explained that we are called by the principles of our Jewish faith to speak out and act to protect the rights of all those in our community, even the very young who cannot speak for themselves. Our tradition demands that where we see injustice, we must strive towards justice. Where we see someone suffering, we must ease their suffering. When we see someone who is unable to care for themselves, we must tend to their needs. As adults, we understand that these commandments require us to protect our children.
We urged our legislators to pass bills currently in committee that would enact responsible gun safety laws. There were those among us who had personally experienced the tragedy of relatives’ deaths at the hands of gunmen. We shared our pain. We shared our vision for a better world. While the votes have not yet been cast and we do not know whether these bills will be passed, we know that there is a long road ahead. These bills are just beginning steps to ensure our children’s safety. We must raise our voices, be persistent and not tire. There is so much work to do.