Editorial | Kudos to rabbis for fighting against gun violence

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The Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) instructs us that we are not obligated to complete the work of repairing the world, but neither are we free to desist from it. That is true of Rabbis Against Gun Violence, a new coalition organized by a local rabbi. In its first week, the group had nearly 1,000 people join on its Facebook page.

This group of rabbis certainly will not complete the work of ending the carnage guns have wrought in the United States, where some 33,000 people are shot to death each year. But it adds an important voice to the fight, and should help bring the issue to the forefront of Jewish communal consciousness.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, leader at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley since 2007 and the founder of the group, has been an outspoken activist ever since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Like many demanding tougher gun laws since that awful day, Creditor has been disappointed by the inaction of Congress, with too many members who remain in the thrall of the National Rifle Association. The only progress has been a few executive orders from the Obama administration regarding background checks for potential gun purchasers. Over time, an army of Jewish clergy just might lend a powerful moral argument for commonsense changes in America’s approach to gun violence.

Another Bay Area Jew stepping up to the plate is Mountain View resident Eileen Soffer, a longtime anti-gun activist and formerly national deputy field director of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She has come aboard as the full-time coordinator for the new rabbis’ group, and will help get the message out on a national level.

When we see open carry laws spreading in states such as Virginia and Texas, laws that allow guns in hospitals, theaters, schools and universities, we know America is moving in the wrong direction, and dangerously so. No other nation on Earth has anywhere near the gun violence that we do.

The problem has its roots in this nation’s founding. The Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, was written for a society in the middle of revolution, suspicious of any encroachment on its freedom. The struggle between protecting freedom and ensuring safety continues to this day. States’ rights, the free market and an aggressive gun lobby further complicate efforts to restrict gun ownership, even as the body count climbs.

It would be easy to despair, and whenever we have another school shooting or a movie theater massacre, we momentarily give in to that hopelessness.

But then we see heroes arise, speaking out and pushing back against the psychosis. We hope and pray Rabbis Against Gun Violence makes a difference.