This week, we read my favorite portion in Genesis, Parashat Vayishlach (“he sent”). Among the other stories in Vayishlach, we read about the brothers Jacob and Esau’s first meeting since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright and fled in Parashat Toldot. Jacob sends messengers to Esau and discovers that Esau is coming, along with four hundred men, to meet him. Jacob is scared that Esau will come to kill him and prepares gifts to dull his anger. Yet when Esau sees Jacob, he runs to embrace him, and they are overcome with emotion (Genesis 32:3-33:12). Jacob’s fear of his brother always stuck with me, as we see Jacob, who is often so creative and cunning, in a situation where he is helpless. Esau, always the stronger of the two, knows where Jacob is, and Esau has a much bigger contingent traveling with him. Jacob cannot prevent his brother from doing what he wants, so Jacob can only hope that Esau’s anger has subsided since his birthright was stolen. In a sense, Jacob’s helplessness is a very modern feeling. None of us has personal security teams—in a world with firearms and weapons of mass destruction, we go to school and work, attend sporting events and concerts, and travel in cars and bikes knowing that we are never quite safe. Even if we are trained in self-defense, we are helpless to so many incidents and attacks that we have to trust that others do not want to harm us. Yet for some, that feeling of helplessness is so much greater because they face others who want to harm them. Women who are murdered by guns are more likely than not to be murdered by their current or past intimate partner, and a high percentage of those who are murdered by intimate partners experienced stalking in the year before their murder. For so many women, they can do little to prevent others from lashing out in violence against them—it is still legal for convicted stalkers to buy guns, and while domestic abusers are not allowed to have guns, the law against abusers does not apply to dating partners. To close some of these loopholes, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has proposed the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (S.1290), which would extend domestic violence protections to include “dating partners” or others “similarly situated to a spouse,” and make it illegal for convicted stalkers to own guns. Take action and urge your Members of Congress to co-sponsor Sen. Klobuchar’s Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (S.1290).
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!