October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when we devote time and energy to making ourselves and those around us aware of one of the most insidious and silent problems that plagues women, men, and children in this country. Earlier this month on RACblog we discussed how can channel our moral outrage at domestic violence into action and urge our Members of Congress to support the International Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 3571/S. 2307). You may be aware that domestic violence is an issue in this country. You may not know, however, about how crucial the issue of gun violence prevention is to the protection of victims of domestic abuse. The Violence Policy Center’s recent report When Men Murder Women shows that 61% of women murdered by guns every year (roughly 926 female homicide victims) were wives or intimate partners of their killers and that 264 women were shot and killed by their partner during an argument in the home. The statistics from the report roll on: far more women are killed by intimate partners than men, far more women killed are killed by guns than any other weapon. Our Jewish values speak directly to this issue, both on the level of gun violence prevention and at its intersection with violence against women. In Leviticus 16:19 we are told “do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” It is not enough simply to abide by “thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13); we are commanded not to be complicit in ongoing gun violence or violence against women. Silence, as we know, can be just as harmful as committing the act itself, and so instead we speak out against violence. The problem here is clear and is one that we should be aware of during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, certainly, but also throughout the year. This issue will not end at the close of October, but will continue to silently affect victims in their daily lives and to lead to more than a thousand gun deaths every year. If you would like to do more to prevent gun violence and raise up the issue in your community especially during this month, check out the Religious Action Center’s Gun Violence Prevention Guide for sermon starters and programming ideas for your community.
In 1994, Rabbi Robert Klensin urged the congregants of his Arnold, MD reform Jewish synagogue, Temple Beth Shalom, to take a stand on gun violence prevention. Now, 30 years later, his grandson, 17-year-old Elijah Paul, carried the torch l'dor vador.
On March 20, we will prepare to engage voters from marginalized communities as we launch our 2024 Every Voice, Every Vote Campaign!