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The Rabbi’s Rave – We Marched for Life, Now Let’s Get Serious About Action

The Rabbi’s Rave

Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer

Disclaimer: portions of this blog entry were liberally lifted from a posting by Rabbi Danny Burkeman and Cantor Hollis Schachner of Temple Shir Tikvah, the Massachusetts synagogue cited below.

When the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting happened in Florida, we were once again dismayed at the ongoing specter of gun violence that plagues our country. And I have wondered what we could do as individuals and as a synagogue community to move beyond thoughts and prayers to concrete actions.

We have preached around the subject before and held discussions within our synagogue community. There is frustration at the inertia on the federal level, with a sense that given the gridlock in Washington, nothing will be accomplished there. And living in Maryland we are lucky to be in a state with some significant fire arms legislation and representatives who take a stand, actively speaking out against gun violence.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, we were inspired by the words and actions of the teenagers who took a stand and provided both a moral voice and conscience for this country. We were also heartened to see the action businesses are taking to offer leadership and direction to confront this issue.

When Edward Stack, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, issued his statement, I was heartened and impressed. As he wrote:

“Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America – our kids. Following all of the rules and laws, we sold a shotgun to the Parkland shooter in November of 2017. It was not the gun, nor type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been.” He then resolved to extend the ban on the sale of assault style rifles from their stores, to no longer sell firearms to anyone under the age of 21 and to no longer sell high capacity magazines. He implored “our elected officials to enact common sense gun reform” and he concluded: “We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children. They are our future. We must keep them safe.”

What I, and others, read in his statement and actions was an act of teshuva (repentance). Maimonides suggests that full teshuva happens when people find themselves in a position to commit the same action again but decline to do so. Through its decisive action Dick’s Sporting Goods ensured that if Nikolas Cruz walked into one of their stores today he could not buy an assault style rifle, he could not buy high capacity magazines, and he, as a 19-year-old, would not even be allowed to buy a firearm.

So today, as I prepared once again, to offer a sermon on this subject, this time I have a concrete action to suggest, inspired by a similar action taken successfully by a congregation in Massachusetts.

I think it important that we say thank you to companies sending the message to the NRA that their policies are repugnant to a majority of Americans. Companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Enterprise, Alamo, Hertz, and National Car Rental, and First National Bank of Omaha are to be commended for their stand.

Let us express our gratitude to the CEO’s and employees so that they know we support their actions. We should do our bit to let them know that rather than being detrimental to their business, we will actively encourage support for their courageous leadership.

So let’s go shopping.

The Massachusetts congregation printed little business cards with a statement of thanks and I suggest that BJC do the same. The cards will include words from the Torah portion Vayikra 19:16: “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” We will encourage members of our community to purchase items for use in their homes and businesses from companies no longer doing business with the NRA.

It is low hanging fruit, but the only way to create the change we wish to see in the world is to insure that our actions match our principles.

Marching and rallying is good. Half a million people out in the streets makes a powerful statement. But, that is an afternoon in time. It is easy for the NRA, and the politicians taking donations from them, to wait out the wave of indignation. They have no reason to do otherwise. It has worked every time before.

But ongoing action, economic action, is a power that lasts.

For example, Cerebrus Capital Management, owner of Remington Outdoor Armaments, also owns Safeway Grocery Stores, GE Capital, and Avon Cosmetics, just to name a few of their myriad holdings. Can you imagine the impact an organized boycott of these retailers would have upon the parent company? Could we convince Cerebrus to pull the financing out from under these manufacturers of death unless they change their policies and cease funding the NRA through their subsidiary.

Note that this action is not directed specifically towards the policies of Safeway or the other retailers owned by Cerebrus, although they would be affected. Safeway’s management has put into place a “No Firearms Policy” in their stores and for this they are to be commended. The retailers are, in a sense, bystanders impacted by the actions of the parent company. The economic pressure on Cerebrus subsidiaries will hopefully lead to action by the parent company to cease all funding of the NRA through Remington Outdoor.

The March for our Lives was great but we know there is much more work to do, and that every action will be a small but necessary step in the fight against gun violence. Judaism teaches that the person who saves one life saves the entire world. We believe that the decision made by Dick’s Sporting Goods and the other aforementioned companies will save lives and we should be proud to support them and thank them, an act we hope will strengthen their resolve and encourage others to follow their example.

Shabbat Shalom!


Bethesda Jewish Congregation

Bethesda Jewish Congregation