By Helaine Bach, NFTY-SW
Until December 24 of last year, I had never really thought about gun control. It was one thing on a long list of issues the government didn’t seem to be doing much about. Why should laws be passed to prevent the slight chance of mass shootings when people die of inadequate health care every day? Prioritizing is key when creating laws and until that day, the government did not see the benefit of passing stronger gun control laws in the grand scheme of things. The school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut changed this.
The media is a powerful thing. So powerful, in fact, that it can create pressure for lawmakers to take action for causes which otherwise may have been ignored. The shooting set the gears moving in the lawmaking system and it also started the gears in my head. I was suddenly faced with an issue that I had never given much thought. In fact, it was everywhere: in the media, conversations with my friends, and even my Jewish world.
As I was preparing a D’var Torah for the NFTY competition this year, my rabbi suggested that I include a paragraph about the shooting and the responsibility of government officials in the advancement of gun control laws. At first I was hesitant. While the subject would provide a topical aspect to my D’var Torah, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to speak about this topic. I thought about it for a while and in the end decided to include a section which addressed the issue.
I became increasingly interested in the issue of gun control and when it came time to sign up for workshops for NFTY Convention, one of my choices was “Assault Weapons: Constitutional Right or Stoppable Killer?” I wanted to learn more about the subject and figured that NFTY would be a perfect opportunity.
At NFTY Convention, I was not only able to expand my knowledge on Jewish views of gun control during the workshop, but also had the opportunity to hear from Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he addressed NFTY Convention in a video broadcast about the issue of gun control. Mayor Bloomberg used the time he had speaking to the Jewish youth of North America to call us to action. We were called to stand for stronger gun control laws and were given a way that we could help.
I was so happy to be finally hearing of a way that I could make a difference, even if it was a small one. Mayor Bloomberg directed NFTY to http://www.demandaplan.org/, a petition that we could sign and also a resource of information about what Mayors nationwide are doing to curb gun violence.
Mayor Bloomberg’s parting words struck me the strongest: “every voice matters and saving even one life is like saving the whole world.” I took this as a call to action and it is my hope that the rest of NFTY did as well. A call to action to end gun violence in the United States and in doing so, to save the world by saving a life.