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To Drown Out Gun Violence, Faith Leaders Unite in Song

Is anyone else tired of the interminable noise of this election season? Even more disquieting than the din of the politicians, their surrogates, the pundits and the crowds is the unrelenting sound of gunfire in our communities. If you can’t hear it, you aren’t listening. No neighborhood – no person – is immune, even when you’re sure it won’t happen close to your home or affect someone you know… until it does.

Sh’ma: Hear this:

Every year in our country, roughly 33,000 people die from guns. That’s an unconscionable 91 people a day, and a heartbreaking seven of those are children and teens. Firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for black males ages 15–34. Every 16 hours between 2006 and 2014, an American woman was fatally shot by a current or former romantic partner. About 15 veterans kill themselves each day using a firearm. Between 2010 and 2014, there were an estimated 43,000 hate crimes committed in the United States that involved guns. More Americans have been killed by guns since 1968 than in all U.S. wars combined.

Sh’ma: Can you hear it now?

It’s time to drown out that noise, to turn up the music and join together in harmony to create a new sound.

Artists, activists and faith communities are raising their voices in song on September 25th as part of the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. From Jackson Browne to Lior Ben Hur, from Rapper Mistah F.A.B. to concert pianist Louis Nagel, not to mention high school jazz bands, college a capella groups, synagogue members, church choirs, Roseanne Cash, Lizzy G and Kenny Loggins – all will be performing, along with hundreds of other musicians of all stripes. They will be appearing in a dizzying array of venues coast to coast: at the Beacon Theater in New York, the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, church and synagogue sanctuaries, school gymnasiums, hotel rooftops, cafes and biergartens, public parks and private homes.

As a universal language reaching across boundaries and transcending differences, music offers an unparalleled power to unite and inspire. Songs have helped spread the message for so many progressive social movements – for labor beginning in the early 1900s (think of the Industrial Workers of the World 1901 Little Red Song Book), civil rights (with spirituals like “Oh Freedom,” “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” and “I Shall Not Be Moved” as well as the movement’s anthem “We Shall Overcome”), and the anti-war movement (with “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “If I Had a Hammer,” and “Turn, Turn, Turn”).

In our Jewish world, we often use music to express our hopes and dreams, our values and deepest aspirations: from the 19th century penning of Hatikvah to Debbie Friedman’s incorporating words from our sacred texts into beautiful melodies; from Shlomo Carlebach’s wordless niggunim to peace songs sung in Hebrew and Arabic.

The Concert Across America is an opportunity to use music to give voice for all those who have been silenced by gun deaths; to sing out for the lives that have been irreparably harmed by gun injuries; to harmonize alongside those whose lives have been forever changed by the loss of a loved one; and to call for a change in our policies and culture so that we value lives over the profits of the gun industry and the influence of the gun lobby.

The Concert Across America is spearheaded by Massachusetts-based Stop Handgun Violence, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, and dozens of other organizations, such as Rabbis Against Gun Violence, who are committed to saving lives and building safer communities with common sense measures. Faith communities have stepped up in a big way with well over 150 planned events, in some cases with the simple act of dedicating a song during worship services in memory of lives lost needlessly to guns. The events will be connected by social media using hashtags #ConcertAcrossAmerica and #EndGunViolence.

Congress designated September 25 as A National Day of Remembrance of Murder Victims by Congress. But our representatives – in Washington and across the country – must do more than offer remembrance and prayers. They need to take common sense steps to halt the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our homes and our communities. The Concert Across America will not only raise awareness, but also encourage all to vote in November – and beyond – for gun violence prevention. By joining forces, we will be sure that everyone can hear us!

Sh’ma – Can you hear it now?


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