This is a movement for all people who value human life…
Let’s do our part to end gun violence in America
This weekend, I joined fifty or so members of the Adas Israel community to talk about how we can put our Jewish values into action on urgent social issues — like homelessness, climate change, and gun violence prevention. I was asked to share a few words about why I’m involved in the fight against gun violence. Here’s the story I shared. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to see how you can get involved too.
December of 2012 was shaping up to be a pretty good month for me.
After spending the fall logging long hours on the presidential election, I was enjoying a much-needed lull at work. I took a trip to Puerto Rico with my boyfriend — who was about to become my fiancé — and I was making progress on winning over his family. Not just his parents, but also his sister, her husband, and their three wild and crazy boys, who were at the time 2, 4, and 6 years old.
I was learning how to make them laugh, what they liked to eat for breakfast, which superheroes excited them the most. I didn’t realize it at the time, but, I was already in the process of becoming their aunt. We’d made plans to spend a long weekend at their house in Baltimore just before the holidays. I picked out Hanukkah presents and looked up details on the Baltimore Zoo.
Then, one week before our visit, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and killed six adults and twenty children, who were six and seven years old. The entire world froze in absolute horror. It was at once a familiar and unimaginable moment. The country had faced mass shootings before — even school shootings. But the scale of the Sandy Hook shooting, the age of the victims, the level of media coverage — it was like nothing we had ever seen.
The following week, I sat in my sister in law’s kitchen and watched her choke back tears as she went through the daily motions of sending her boys off to school. I can only imagine the nightmare scenarios that must have been racing through her mind. For the first time in my life, as an aunt-in-training, they were running through my mind too. And they really haven’t stopped.
Three months later, I started a new job with the American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union whose local chapter in Newtown represents teachers at Sandy Hook elementary. On my third day at AFT, someone was killed at an elementary school in San Leandro, California, and I watched as AFT staff pivoted into rapid response mode — searching for information, sending messages of support, offering up resources for students and teachers, countering arguments made online and in the media that the school shootings epidemic would be helped by arming teachers and increasing active shooter drills. Some of these staffers had spent weeks on the ground in Newtown after the Sandy Hook shooting. They carried the trauma with them. And even as they sprung into action, you could see the terror on their faces and hear the pain in their voices. I didn’t know then that I’d become a part of this rapid response system, or that see it go into effect more than once a week for the next 3+ years.
This Wednesday, as I was jotting down some notes for this meeting, I saw a sudden stream of emails come into my inbox, and felt a familiar tight feeling in my chest.
Shooting at UCLA…
2 people down. Campus on lockdown…
We have members there…
What else do we know?…
There have been more than 185 school shootings in the three and a half years since Sandy Hook. I don’t know if my sister in law still feels sick to her stomach when she watches her kids go off to school in the morning. But I do know that the days I spend in rapid response mode, like Wednesday, I come home, squeeze my son a little tighter than usual, and wonder if there is any way to keep him a baby forever, so I never have to send him to school.
That is a crazy thing for a mom to think about. And it’s also impossible. Believe me, I’ve checked. So instead of searching for Peter Pan sorcery, or looking into home schooling, or living in perpetual terror, I have decided to roll up my sleeves and fight for the changes in our laws and our society that will actually keep kids safe at school. Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, maybe an aunt-or-uncle-in-training — or simply someone who wants to put their Jewish values into action, you can make a difference in this fight. Will you join me?
I’m really excited to be a part of the organizing team at my congregation — I think this work is fundamental to who we are as a faith community. But this is bigger than Adas. It’s bigger than Washington, DC. It’s bigger than Judaism.
This is a movement for all people who value human life. Are you one of those people? Good! Then you can, and should, be a part of the movement to end gun violence.
I met a mom this weekend who told me she takes one action against gun violence every day — some days it’s as quick as signing an online petition. Other days she might call her member of Congress, volunteer at a phone bank, attend a meeting. Some days it’s a simple check-in with another parent before a playdate: “May I ask, if you have guns in your home, are they locked and inaccessible to the kids?”
I love this mom’s approach and I’m going to give it a shot. This blog post is my action for today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
Interested in getting involved but not sure where to start? You can take the first step by joining Everytown for Gun Safety — from there you’ll be plugged into local and national actions that are critically important. You can join me and challenge yourself to do one thing a day — or to start with, make it your goal to do something once a week. I bet you’ll succeed.