Three years ago, on June 17, 2015, I joined my rabbi at a local AME congregation to offer prayers and support in the wake of the tragic mass murder at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. On Monday night, I stood with leaders of the African American community in Pittsburgh, including more than a dozen faith leaders, as they offered support to the Jewish community following the mass murder at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill. Towards the end of the event, the faith leaders embraced all the Jews who were present and offered a blessing. This was a sacred moment, one where I felt great connection and hope in the midst of tremendous sorrow.
And there were so many moments like that in the last few days in Pittsburgh. The Community Interfaith Healing Service on Sunday night, a visit to the memorial erected outside the Tree of Life Synagogue, an unplanned and unexpected drive past a victim’s home, and visits with friends and community members.
We are all connected, and we all want the same things: a better life for our kids, a healthy, comfortable retirement for our parents, and the ability to feel safe and be safe where we learn, play, work and pray. There is so much more that unites us than divides us.
What also became clear to me yet again is that our gun violence problem is not a black or white problem, not a Jewish or Muslim or Christian problem, not an urban or suburban problem, not a democrat or republican problem. It’s an American problem. And at bottom it is a gun problem.
Again and again over the last few days in Pittsburgh, people asked what they can do, how we can prevent other families and communities from suffering such tragic losses. This is the question that all survivors ask.
There is a lot we can do, and it starts with dealing with our gun problem. Simply put, it is too easy for people who should not have guns to get them and to get deadly military style weapons. There are folks in Harrisburg and Washington who don’t want to hear this, but we need to make them listen. And if they won’t listen, we need to change the folks in Harrisburg and Washington.
We hope you’ll be making your voice heard in the coming days and weeks. We believe doing so is part of mourning and honoring the lost.