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Rabbi Aaron Alexander Headshot

Remember, Reflect, and Recommit -- The Year After Sandy Hook

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Co-authored with Rabbi Ronit Tsadok, IKAR

So much can happen in a year. So little can actually change. The watershed tragedy of Sandy Hook, just about one year ago today, is an all-too-potent reminder of this phenomenon. The massacre of 20 children and 6 teachers cracked open our hearts, captured our attention, and many of us honestly believed there would be a paradigm shift in how we as a nation talk about our collective safety in the face of 300 million guns that are less regulated than most children's toys.

Yet since Newtown there have been 24 school shootings. You read that correctly -- that's pretty much one every other week. And if that alone doesn't generate enough frustration and sadness, consider the fact that at least 194 children ages 12 and under -- from across all spectrums of society -- have also been killed by guns in the past year. Moreover, as a nation, we are still unwilling to lift our blinders and acknowledge the needs of underserved urban communities. How is it that we continue to withhold serious resources from proven programs that would give hope to those who too often think there is no way out of violence's vicious cycle?

A year later and we've not mustered the courage to transcend the mentality of a schoolyard brawl -- two sides exchanging blows, hoping only to injure the other, with little chance of a positive outcome. And the stalemate, as we've seen, not only discourages many from engaging at all, but is quite deadly.

So how do we mark a year of a few grassroots victories alongside major disappointments in advocating for our nation's safety, a year when Congress could agree on practically nothing but a plastic-firearms ban extension? How do we honor the lives of the over 30,000 who died at the hands of a gun in the past twelve months?

We remember, we reflect, and we recommit.

We remember those we have lost. We recall the terror and vulnerability we experienced last December. We seek out -- and listen to -- the stories of those who are plagued on a daily basis by gun violence and its traumatic and lasting impact. We honor their memories through acts of kindness.

We reflect on the value of each and every life. On what that life contains -- God and Godliness. We meditate on our shared responsibility to one another, with an awareness that our connections run deeper than that which our eyes allow us to see. And we revisit the ways in which we've been silent, negligent, or numb.

We recommit to seeing this through. To not letting the slow tides of change discourage our steadfast commitment. We stand together, reaffirming our obligation to ensure a safe and secure learning environment for every child, regardless of zip code.

From this point on let's all make the promise that Moms Demand Action has challenged us with: No More Silence. In matters of life and death, even when we refuse to pick sides, there are no sidelines.

On December 14 carve out space for all of these experiences -- the opportunities will be ample. Remember, Reflect and Recommit by joining the nation's major gun-violence prevention groups at vigils that will hold our pain and rekindle our hope.

Here in Los Angeles, a robust gathering and vigil will occur from 3:30 - 6:30 at the Federal Building (11000 Wilshire Blvd), co-sponsored by a broad coalition including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, The Brady Campaign - Calif. Chapter, Organizing For Action, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, The Courage Campaign, IKAR, and many more.

Rabbinic wisdom teaches us that she who brings her friend to perform a religious obligation is considered to have herself performed the act. (B. Sanhedrin 99b) It isn't meant to be a system of points, but a pathway to recognizing our own strength in the transformational power of another person's actions. We're all in this together.

Make your promise today, and make it known. Encourage a friend to join you. No More Silence.