Rabbi David Saperstein Joins Senators at Capitol Hill Press Conference Calling for Gun Control Measures, Anti-Violence Programs
WASHINGTON, DC, May 6, 1999—Joining a half-dozen Senators and the Chief of Police of Boston at a Capitol Hill press conference today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, called on Congress to pass legislation limiting gun violence in this country. The Senate is expected to consider a number of provisions to reduce gun violence next week.
Rabbi Saperstein observed that "every two hours, gunfire ends the life of another precious child", creating "another Columbine every day." He related the Jewish teaching that "all are created in the image of God, that the spark of the divine resides in each of us, in every man, in every woman, in every child." "When we resort to violence, when we celebrate or glorify violence, when we allow so many in our community to be the victims of violence, we allow that spark to be diminished," he said. "Violence dims the divine spark; violence diminishes God's presence among us," Saperstein concluded.
The full text of Rabbi Saperstein's statement follows:
Twelve innocent children were slaughtered at Columbine High School. Consider this: every two hours in America, gunfire ends the life of another precious child; twelve children every day—a "Columbine" every single day.
Our Jewish sages teach us that God began the human race with a single being to teach us that when anyone takes a single human life, it is as if they had destroyed the entire world-and anyone who saves a single life, it is as if they had saved the entire world. And we are taught that all are created in the image of God, that the spark of the divine resides in each of us, in every man, in every woman, in every child. We are all touched by God's presence, and we are all imbued with holiness.
Yes, the spark of the divine is within us all. And when we resort to violence, when we celebrate or glorify violence, when we allow so many in our community to be the victims of violence-then the divine spark is dimmed and God's presence among us diminished.
Our Bible repudiates violence against children when the Angel of God stays Abraham's hand as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah, saying, "Lay not thy hand upon the child,"—an eternal rebuke to those who would harm our children.
As we think about the story of Abraham and Isaac we ask ourselves-who are we, as a nation, as people of conscience in this tale?
- Isaac, the innocent victim?
- Abraham, nearly the perpetrator?
- The servant boys, the idle bystanders?
No, on this day, we—Senators, police, clergy, parents, people of conscience all—we are none of these. We must, instead, be the angels—God's messengers who cry out, "Lay not thy hand upon the child!"
We cry out, "Lay not thy hand upon the child" when we support effective violence prevention programs.
We cry out, "Lay not thy hand upon the child" when we work to eradicate the epidemic of gun violence, beginning with our support for these Senators to enact effective gun control legislation.
We cry out, "Lay not thy hand upon the child" when we call on those who shape our popular culture to stop glamorizing and celebrating violence.
We cry out, "Lay not thy hand upon the child" when we come together to build a community in which all of our children are safe, all of our children able to realize their full potential.
What the faiths' traditions of American hold in common, above all, what the experience of good people in Boston has taught us, what communities across American aroused to action by the tragedy in Littleton attests to, is that we are not the prisoners of a bitter and unremitting past doomed to repeat our mistakes, but rather we are, all of us, partners with God in shaping a better and more hopeful future for all God's children.
The commitments heard here today and the dialogue in Congress next week should inspire all Americans so that, working together, we can build a future in which our children will grow up in the world of compassion, decency and hope which is their right.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.