Examples of gun violence are found in the news on a near-daily basis, and about 30 people gathered at Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park on Dec. 18 to learn more about the issue.
“A Time for Advocacy: Gun Violence Prevention from a Jewish Perspective” was held to educate and gauge community interest in gun violence prevention advocacy, according to Michele Rifkin, co-chair of the synagogue’s Social Action Committee.
“We wanted to keep this issue alive,” she said. “It’s something that was really near and dear to our hearts, especially with the Tree of Life synagogue (shooting).”
One of the event’s speakers was Shira Goodman, the outgoing executive director of CeaseFirePA, who starts work in January as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Philadelphia. She said gun violence doesn’t just refer to mass shootings but also includes suicide, domestic violence and violent crime. She urged those at the event to reach out to local officials.
“We are not immune, and we need to be part of the solution,” Goodman said. “This really is a choice. Other industrialized nations do not face gun violence this way, and they do have the same levels of violent video games, violent crimes, mental illness. It is about access to guns. We do have a Second Amendment. We do have strong gun rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution and strong gun rights in Pennsylvania generally. But there’s a lot that’s consistent with those parts of our constitutions that can be done, that we are failing to do.”
A 16-minute video was screened at the event.
The film featured members of the Jewish community whose lives have been affected by gun violence, as well as experts on the topic, including Goodman, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rabbi Rachel Kobrin, soon-to-be-retired ADL Philadelphia Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer, Honickman Foundation founder and President Lynne Honickman and Arlene Fickler, board chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Carra Minkoff, co-chair of the Social Action Committee, first began work on what would become the short film five days before the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The project was completed in May 2018 and funded by grants from Jewish Federation’s Women of Vision. It can be viewed by the public for free on Vimeo.
The event’s other guest speaker was Gil Haven, 23, the Bonimot Tzedek Program coordinator at Habonim Dror Camp Galil.
At the event, he spoke of the social justice program started last year at the camp. High schoolers participating in the program chose gun violence prevention as their advocacy topic for the year. The students partnered with CeaseFirePA to learn more about legislation. They also joined CeaseFirePA in Harrisburg to lobby and meet with legislators.
“Even when it was something about some other Jewish value,” Haven said, “we brought in the gun violence aspect so we could use that as a case study for understanding how our values that we learn from our parents and from going to shul and stuff like that can be brought … into these larger overall issues.”
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