Washington — In the year since 20 school children and six adults were murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., the organized Jewish community has been frustrated by the inability of a paralyzed Congress to agree on new gun control regulation.
Two rabbis, however, not willing to take no for an answer, have been seeking creative ways of dealing with gun violence. Both have a deep personal attachment to the issue. And both are working on different ways to bypass federal legislation. Together they are seeking to create a national understanding about gun safety, one that will not require Washington’s stamp of approval.
“We’re trying to take a ‘world as it is’ approach,” said Rabbi Joel Mosbacher of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom synagogue, in Mahwah, N.J. Instead of waiting for politicians to approve tougher laws that would ban or limit gun sales, he has decided to go directly after the gun manufacturers, marshaling the power of consumers. “What I’m hearing from clergy all around is that we are all tired of performing funerals of gun victims and tired of bringing comfort to those in grief. We need to do something.”
Mosbacher knows all about this type of grief. Fifteen years ago he lost his father to gun violence. But it was the Newtown shooting that led him to take action and become one of the driving forces in a movement working to change the way guns are made and sold. “Even though I have a personal story, I needed this to start taking action,” he said. “Perhaps for the first time since my dad has been killed, I feel optimistic about bringing change.”
The December 14, 2012, shooting at the Connecticut elementary school also changed the life of Rabbi Shaul Praver of Newtown’s Congregation Adat Israel. “I took an oath to bring about a change in this culture,” said the rabbi, who stood by the family of 6-year old Noah Pozner in the days following his murder. “I’m prepared to spend the balance of my life fighting for this.”