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Statement of Rabbi Marc Israel, Congregational Relations Director Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism at the Million Mom March Interfaith Service
Sunday, May 14, 2000
Washington, DC

At the Million Mom March's Interfaith Service, Congregational Relations Director Rabbi Marc Israel released the following statement:

My name is Rabbi Marc Israel and I am the Director of Congregational Relations for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. It is wonderful to be here today, to be taking part in this important interfaith service, to stand together, all of us representing the great diversity that is America, all of us together marching against gun violence.

There could not be a more appropriate day for us to gather here than Mother's Day, since in its inception Mother's Day celebrations were created as a day dedicated to peace in the post-Civil War era. But we know that mothers' suffering the loss of their child through violence dates back long before the civil war, long before the founding of this country, long over 2000 years ago. The Bible records the angst of a mother's pain as she waits for her son to return from war, knowing that he never will.

Listen to these words from the book of Judges:

    Through the window peered Sisera's mother, behind the lattice she gazed: "Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why so late the clatter of his wheels?"

We feel here the universal pain of mothers, the aching felt when a child is lost, the grief and disbelief, not wanting to admit what you know to be true. The universality of this pain is emphasized all the more by the fact that the Bible records this incident despite the fact that Sisera was the leading general fighting against the Israelites.

And while mothers who face these losses are our primary focus today, we must not forget the pain of fathers as well. The Torah records their pain, too, most poignantly with the loss of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu. Here, after his boys are struck down for offering a strange fire, the Torah tells of Aaron's suffering with just two words: Vayidom Aharon-And Aaron was silent. Silent and never the same.

But we, we cannot afford to be silent. For we are losing too many of our children to senseless gun violence and we have been silent too long - silent, stunned into despair; silent, wanting to cry out; silent, wondering who is listening. But we know, each of us standing here today knows, that we can be silent no more, for our silence has been taken by others to be acceptance, our silence has been understood to be apathy, our silence has meant complicity.

No, we must not be silent, we must not sit behind our windows wondering what has happened to our children. In Jewish tradition, Aaron is not mainly remembered for his silence, but much more so, for the active role he plays as a pursuer of peace, and we are taught to be disciples of Aaron, to be pursuers of peace.

And this is why we are here today:

We are here today to pursue peace in our cities and our towns;

We are here today to pursue peace in our schools and in our community centers;

We are here today to pursue peace in our homes and for our families;

And we are here today to pursue a society in which all of children can grow up in peace, free of hatred, free of violence, free of guns.

Let there be no more mothers looking out windows, waiting, frightened, knowing why their child is not coming home. And let there be no more fathers, stunned into silence.

Let us pledge today to work together within and across our faiths and together to build a nation in which we do not tolerate violence, a nation in which we are not afraid of the gun lobbyists, a nation in which we have sensible gun laws, laws meant to protect us, to protect our communities, to protect our children.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

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