Church Shooting in Texas

Police in front of Texas church after the shooting. Photo: NBC News

Texas church shooting. Photo: NBC News

by Adam Kessler

Our hearts are heavy as we learn of yet another mass shooting, this time in a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  Three of the five deadliest shootings in modern U.S history have occurred in the last 18 months.  We thought that nothing could be more outrageous than the mass murder in Las Vegas barely five weeks ago. We thought the same thing after Orlando,  Sandy Hook, and Columbine; the list continues to grow with an alarming regularity. At the same time, while mass shootings garner most of the attention, non-mass homicides by gun happen daily with shocking frequency.  Simply by way of example, Chicago is close to recording its 600th homicide for the year. [Read more…]

Lynne Honickman Grants $100,000 for Matching Donations to CeaseFirePA

Honickman donation to CeaseFirePA announced at City Hall

Honickman donation to CeaseFirePA announced.

With a $100,000 challenge grant to CeaseFirePA, Lynne Honickman, founder and president of The Honickman Foundation and a board member of CeaseFirePA, is supporting communities calling for an end to gun violence. The foundation’s grant was publicly announced at a ceremony at City Hall attended by Honickman, Governor Ed Rendell, Councilman Darrell Clarke and executive director of CeaseFirePA, Shira Goodman. [Read more…]

Standing With Las Vegas

A vigil is being held to remember those lost, injured and impacted by the tragedy in Las Vegas. Mayor Kenney as well as other elected officials and faith leaders will call for unity against hate and gun violence.

For more information, contact Adam Kessler, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, at 215-832-0651 or at akessler@jewishphilly.org.

SOUTH JERSEY GUN VIOLENCE AWARENESS DAY and MEMORIAL TO THE LOST

An educational program, walk, and Memorial to the Lost will be held in downtown Haddonfield to honor the 100 people from Camden,  Burlington and Gloucester Counties who were killed by guns during the last two years.

2:00 PM: Educational program and call to action, Grace Episcopal Church, 19 Kings Highway, Haddonfield

2:45 PM: Walk to Memorial to the Lost site, Haddonfield Friends Meeting Graveyard(just west of the corner of Kings Highway and Haddon Avenue)

3:00 PM: Remembrance and interfaith prayers

 

SPONSORS: Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence
                         Haddonfield Friends Meeting, Religious Society of Friends
                         Haddonfield Council of Churches
                         Cherry Hill Unitarian Universalist Gun Violence Prevention Task Force

Too many people, families, neighborhoods and communities are devastated by the uniquely America epidemic of gun violence. 

The Memorial to the Lost will remain at Friends Graveyard from June 3 to 30

Panel on Gun Violence Prevention

CeaseFirePA and Old York Road Temple Beth Am are hosting a panel discussion about gun violence and gun violence prevention, focusing on how citizens can get involved in this critical work.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro will offer the opening remarks, followed by the keynote speech, which will be presented by CeaseFirePA’s Shira Goodman. There will be a panel discussion with the following panel members: State Sen. Art Haywood, State Rep. Madeleine Dean, former Abington Police Chief Bill Kelly, and Dorothy Johnson-Speight of Mothers in Charge.

Heeding God’s Call to End Violence

There will be a prayer service to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. The service will take place at a dramatic installation of 26 t-shirts on frames, representing the elementary school students and adults gunned down during that tragedy. All are welcome to this memorial service.

People of faith need to remember and honor those lost at Sandy Hook and those lost each day in Philadelphia and elsewhere to the American scourge of gun violence. And, the American faith community must take the lead in heeding God’s call to save His children from gun violence.

Taking Aim at Gun Violence: Implications for Our Jewish Community

Sponsored by the Women of Vision of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in cooperation with the Jewish Community Relations Council, this event is a panel discussion on what can be done to help ensure our community’s safety. Among other issues, the panel will discuss what Jewish tradition teaches on this topic and what the implications of gun violence are for children and families. The panelists include Rabbi Gregory Marx and Jillian Glick of Congregation Beth Or, Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA, Dr.Joel Fein of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Dorothy Johnson-Speight of Mothers in Charge.

The event includes a kosher lunch. Although online registration is now closed, walk-ins are still being accepted.

For more information, contact Susan Lundy at 215-832-0849 or Dwight Young at 215-832-0892.

Gun Control Today, Not Tomorrow

Cartoons courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Cartoons courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

— by

In Orlando, a gunman carried out the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, killing 49 and wounding an additional 53 at the gay nightclub Pulse. With such an atrocity comes the normal tragic dialogue regarding how this has once again occurred, and the motivations of the perpetrator have already come into question. While the act was undoubtedly an act of hate during the height of Pride month, the deaths of these innocent club-goers have already been politicized to suggest that ISIS ties were the catalyst. Instead of acknowledging prejudice and discrimination against the LGBT community and the issues of gun control, national dialogue has focused elsewhere.

Many people have questioned why guns were sold to an unstable man such as Omar Mateen. Politicians and community leaders see this tragedy as a call to action. From Columbine to Virginia Tech, from Sandy Hook to Orlando, innocent citizens have become victims of gun violence with little to no policy changes made to prevent such violence in the future. The time to take a stance is not tomorrow, but today. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. took a stance on Monday, asking Paul Ryan when debate about new gun policy would occur. As the congressman drew attention to the one year anniversary of the Charleston shooting approaching this Friday, House Speaker Ryan promptly dismissed the call for gun reform and moved on.

6-17-16-slave-patrolsShortly after the San Bernadino shooting, when Senator  Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) proposed another bill requiring background checks and a mandatory waiting period, it was shot down 50 to 48. As Democrats continued to push for the immediate passage of a bill preventing people on terror watch lists from buying firearms or explosives, Republicans argued that the government could mistakenly place innocent people on the watch list and thus mistakenly deprive them of their Second Amendment rights.

Dismissing problems and moving on without resolution is far too common in today?’s political climate, especially in regards to violent gun crimes. The leniency of the U.S gun control system has allowed for massacres such as these to occur unchecked.

Comprehensive background checks are a necessity.  Far too many individuals bypass background checks and rarely renew gun licenses, as Mateen purchased his weapons with an expired gun registration and was on the FBI list of suspected terrorists. Florida is specifically known to have very relaxed gun control policies. The Brady Campaign, a prominent gun control group, gave 26 states including Florida an F rating in 2013. Assault weapons, such as the one used by Mateen to carry out the Orlando attacks, are legal for any citizen to purchase who can pass the background check.

Guns can change lives in a matter of seconds. These items should be treated as weapons and not toys. Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States as of 2008. Of these murders, about 10,886 or 67% were committed using firearms. While guns won?t stop murderers, or prevent disturbed individuals from executing acts of terror, we have the power to slow their course and reach.

No person thinks they will fall victim to an act of gun violence. While walking across campus at Virginia Tech, no student expected to be gunned down and murdered. No Sandy Hook Elementary School parent expected to drop their child off for class only to never see them again. No one expects the terror and effects of gun violence will touch them. Yet attacks could happen anywhere, any place, anytime and we allow for it.

Close to 33,000 Americans were victims of gun-related deaths in 2011 and an average of 268 citizens are shot every day. By focusing efforts to reform and combat the current system, we can prevent future attacks and save lives. While we may never be able to bring back those lost in brutal attacks, we can rise to the occasion, bettering society in their memory so no child, parent, or friend has to go through the pain and grief of losing a loved one through gun violence.

As our government once again failed to act for the safety of its people by passing significant gun reform legislation, innocent lives once again paid for their negligence. This time it was the 49 dead and 53 wounded who were celebrating Pride at a nightclub in Orlando. Unless our government acts now the question is, who will be next?

Reprinted with the permission of the National Jewish Democratic Counsel

Hate has Absolutely no Place in America

Hillary Clinton. Photo Credit: Ida Mae Astute

Hillary Clinton. Photo Credit: Ida Mae Astute


— Hillary Rodham Clinton

I join Americans in praying for the victims of the attack in Orlando, their families and the first responders who did everything they could to save lives.

This was an act of terror.  Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hard at work, and we will learn more in the hours and days ahead.  For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad.  That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.

This was also an act of hate.  The gunman attacked an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month.  To the LGBT community: please know that you have millions of allies across our country.  I am one of them.  We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear.  Hate has absolutely no place in America.

Finally, we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.  This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.

This is a time to stand together and resolve to do everything we can to defend our communities and country.

One Small But Significant Step Forward Against Gun Violence

Rabbi Tarfon taught: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either” (Pirkei Avot 2:16).

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The Executive Order signed by President Obama is such an example of Rabbi Tarfon’s teaching. We cannot eliminate all acts of gun violence, but we must do what we can to advance the cause. Regardless of one’s stance on the Second Amendment or the effectiveness of these Executive Orders, we cannot turn a blind eye to the horrifying levels of violence and death that occur in our country. These limited executive actions seek to better enforce existing laws. The idea that criminals and emotionally disturbed people will find it harder to gain access to weapons of death is a good one.

I wish we could do more, but that is not a reason to do nothing. Progress comes in small steps, an incremental march toward what should be from what is. We measure a great civilization not by its great monuments but by its ability to protect the weak within its society. The victims of mass shootings, the victims of urban gun violence, the victims of suicide are all testimony to how much more we have to do to protect ourselves and lift everyone to a better place.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says the Chinese philosopher Laozi (Tao Te Ching). We have a long way to go before the work is complete, but at least we are started on the path.