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Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin Headshot

Bless and Remember the Children of Newtown

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Hamal'ach Hago'el oti. The Angel who redeemed me from all harm-bless the lads. In them may my name be recalled, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac. And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth. (Genesis 48:16)

These words are part of the blessing that an elderly and ailing Jacob offered his favored son Joseph. They are found in the Torah portion Vayechi, which will be read on Saturday morning, December 14th. Jacob wanted to ensure that his progeny would be protected and that they would remember those who came before them. The words of this blessing have made their way into bedtime rituals for countless Jewish boys and girls. The blessing is often sung when a child is already in bed, face washed and teeth brushed, in the arms of a parent or guardian, and it precedes the final kiss of the night.

December 13, 2012 was the last time that certain parents would say goodnight to twenty innocent children, and it was the last complete day on earth for six caring adults. This was the last night of calm and normalcy for these people's families, for the brief lives of their children were taken the following morning, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Most of us remember where we were when we heard the shocking news unfold. I happened to be in the passenger seat of a hearse, next to a funeral director, after officiating at a funeral for a wonderful woman who had lived for more than 100 years. I was close to this woman, and the funeral was particularly difficult. A year later, I can fondly remember the gentle woman who I loved dearly. On the other hand, I still cannot process how one person could own so many guns and so much ammunition, and decide to use it on innocent children. I remain angry and dumbfounded that a gunman was able to enter an elementary school, cutting short the lives of so many.

In the future, when we talk about Sandy Hook, it won't be difficult to forget that twenty children and six adults were murdered. To truly honor the deceased, it is incumbent upon us to remember the name of each and every precious child and adult. When Jacob blessed Joseph, he said: in them may my name be recalled.

When we remember the massacre at Sandy Hook, we must remember all the victims by name. We must take the time to read/recall Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison N. Wyatt out loud. By taking the time to remember these innocent victims by name, and speaking about them as individuals, we honor them and recall them, just as Jacob asked Joseph to do.

These innocent children and the adults who looked after them deserve to be alive. But because of a madman who had access to guns, in a country with weak gun control laws, they are not. By recalling their names, especially on the anniversary of the massacre, their memories truly will be for a blessing.

Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin is the spiritual leader of Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in Queens, NY.
Her essay on gun control can be found in Peace in Our Cities: Rabbis Against Gun Violence, available on Amazon.