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Jewish Leaders Push Plans To End Gun Violence

Jewish leaders representing the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements are all answering the nation’s call for ideas to end gun violence.

Together, they have held news conferences, written to Vice President Joe Biden’s gun control task force and sent letters to Congress.

On Jan. 15, which would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 84th birthday, members of an interfaith alliance known as Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence held a news conference to urge Americans to work together to help curb gun violence.

They called for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines as well as improved background screening of gun buyers. They also spoke of a need to improve the way people with mental illnesses are helped.

These ideas were included in their two-page letter to Congress, which urged its members to lead the way toward a safer society that not only protects children in schools against a mass shooter, but also stops individual inner-city gun murders as well.

The letter was signed by 47 religious leaders from numerous faiths including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement, the Rabbinical Assembly, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and Women of Reform Judaism.

Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Religious Action Center, said at Tuesday’s news conference that there has been “Enough pain. Enough despair. Enough injustice. Let us learn from our grief and the errors of the past and resolve in this very moment to do better.”

Laser announced that religious leaders throughout the country will mobilize their congregants to join in an Interfaith Call to Prevent Gun Violence on Feb. 4. On that day, Americans will call their Congress member and ask that they be “held accountable for the safety of our communities.”

On Jan. 14, a similar letter was sent to both the president and vice president. It, too, makes an urgent plea to address effectively the subject of gun violence. The letter was spearheaded by the Rabbinical Assembly’s Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and organized by Susan Stern of the Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

“As religious and non-profit leaders, we commit to building consensus and support in our communities for steps that will turn our collective grief into shared hope. We acknowledge that the privilege of American freedom also carries a moral responsibility,” the letter read in part.

Another letter sent to Biden’s task force came from Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox organization in New York.

“Violent incidents that have occurred in school settings during the past numberof years have demonstrated that the need for securiy hardware – cameras, metal detectors, barricades, etc. – is particularly compelling. Unforutnately, despite the need for increased school safely – whether in the realm of disaster preparedness or crisis management – budgets put forward by the Bush and Obama administrations – and passed by various Congresses – have significantly and steadily slashed funding for these purposes – the the point where meaningful federal school safety assistance is virtually non-existent,” Agudath’s Rabbi Abba Cohen wrote.

Cohen also pointed out the unique threat that Jewish schools face, from outside the school and ouside the community in the form of terrorismand extremism.

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