October 2, 2023 -
This entry to “If Not Now, When?” our interactive blog, is excerpted from the remarks of Fairmount Temple’s Senior Rabbi, Robert Nosanchuk on Monday, April 8 at a demonstration on the steps of Cleveland’s City Hall. Together with Mayor Jackson, US Attorney Dettelbach, Chief of Police McGrath, members of the Cleveland City Council, gun safety advocate Lori O’Neill, and more than 100 demonstrators from the community, including many from Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and its social action committee, and Rabbi Nosanchuk’s colleagues Stephen Weiss and Hal Rudin-Luria, along with the Jewish Federation’s Dayan Gross. All who were gathered listened to these words, and pledged their continued commitment to action. If you’d like to get involved with these or similar efforts, please contact Cathy Lipton at our temple office for more details at email@example.com.
So many words and pledges have been offered already today. Yet if you listen in the distance, you can already hear what will be said of our efforts. You know it. You can hear it.
You hardly need me to fill in the blanks. For you know the words. They are the lyrics of a recurring tune of indifference, a tune which has been played and repeated countless times over the years to drown out our promises to act in good faith with the families who have been needlessly torn by gunfire. Yes, indifference is a powerful tune, loud enough so that no one can hear our confessions of regret for having exalted lethal force in America as if it were the only response to the brutality and conflict we face.
My name is Robert Nosanchuk, and I am a rabbi at Fairmount Temple. But I am here today on behalf of faith leaders all over Ohio, to say that our society’s obsession with weaponry, our unfettered access and unchecked backgrounds of those who purchase and sell our weapons – that this view of the laws regarding guns and gun rights is nothing short of idolatry.
We condemn such idolatry, just as our prophets taught us. Indeed our prophets taught us to walk with humility on pathways of peace and healing for the afflicted, the orphaned and widowed, and to take steps to assure that the mothers and fathers who allow their children the independence of a walk to school don’t have to fear that a gunman will turn their babies into target practice. For that image, the maiming and slaughtering of our children by gunfire is what anyone’s religion calls an abomination. It is an abomination I say, to hear our leaders preen in the public square about our glorious freedoms while our children are in harm’s way. It is an abomination to stand so idle while our neighbor bleeds.
We gather here instead to demonstrate our commitment to universal background checks, an end to gun trafficking and measures to protect us and our children from gunfire in schools, temples, movie theatres and our nation’s streets and cities and places of business.
We are here with honored leaders in our city, our county, and our nation, to give life to a movement that is not about to fatigue. We are here to act as grown-ups do, as adults can, to respect all the amendments of our constitution too much to say that they amount to the childish comic-book notion that one can only meet up against the violent aggression of the bad guy with the even more violent aggression of the good guy.
I stand here today and tomorrow together with thousands of people of faith across America, who will utilize the next 24 hours to call every Senate chamber and share with our leaders a resounding message. The message we have is clear and specific: we tell them we want background checks for gun purchases, we want common-sense measures to block gun trafficking, We want our leaders to enforce existing gun laws, but also to block the massive loopholes in those laws. For we are a movement determined not to stand idle any longer while bloodletting occurs.
To our honorable Senator Portman, we ask you to hear our clear message over all the tumult you’ll hear from the other side. We are counting on you to do something, to say something. Pick up the phone and call Senator Toomey, to pick up the phone and reach out to Senator Coburn and Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer and do something. For goodness sake, do something to take action to show us you were serious when in December you said you’d take steps to change the status quo on gun violence.
For as you review the recent history of gun violence, you notice that going back to Columbine High School one of the ways students and educators have avoided being hurt was to lie on the floor and pretend to be dead. This is just what we are afraid our congressional leaders will do. With meaningful proposals being offered to reduce gun violence, we fear that our leaders will lie motionless on the floor of the US capitol, pretending that they are as good as dead when matched up against a powerful gun lobby.
Senator Portman, this is your moment, your moment to show you are concerned. You can look alive and act with your energies. You can step up on the Senate floor and speak the truth as you understand it. You can be sure that each proposal receives a fair hearing. You can help our nation expand our background checks for gun purchases. You can close the loopholes in our laws. You can take steps to be sure existing gun laws are enforced and that the laws around carrying weaponry in schools and college campuses are not relaxed. Senator Portman, we are counting on you to act- to act with humanity and courage and decency.
You need look no further than your colleague, former Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona who has fought against long odds to survive the gun attack she suffered outside a local market. She has pledged her energies- not only to her own recovery and to helping others similarly terrorized. But this law-abiding gun-owning Congresswoman has stood up- with courage, with resilience and certitude and said: “Enough! Enough of bloodshed and tears!”
We ask for our leaders in congress to join Gabby Giffords and realize: this is not a moment that can be waited out for fatigue of the demonstrators. We are not riding a wave that is coming into the shore. We are still out in the midst of the ocean and this movement for a better and safer day has only begun to rise.
We only ask that Senators Portman and Brown rise with us. We ask that they remember all those touched by gun violence. And now, as a small gesture of memory, as a little token of our remembrance we have distributed among you, balloons to rise over us. These are each small symbols of remembrance of those who’ve been killed by gunfire here in Northeast Ohio over the last year. I ask you who are holding onto these balloons- as a final act in our assembly, to use this moment to let them rise, let them rise this very moment, as a memorial to the values of the lives lost and as an indication of your rising energy, let them rise and say after me, “We remember! We will rise! We will end gun violence now!”