Jewish Values and Gun Violence Prevention
Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity and primary value of human life. The Bible commands us, "Thou shalt not murder" (Exodus 20:13). The Talmud teaches us that "he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe" (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). In an increasingly impersonal and alienating society, the dehumanizing of the human being and the carelessness with which human life is taken stand in direct violation of these affirmations of our tradition.
Scripture encourages peaceful pursuit of our mutual welfare. Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth "beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks." (Isaiah 2:4) We are commanded to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society. The following text from the Bereshit Rabbah (21:13) further idealizes the land free of weapons, "The Rabbis, commenting on the words: 'He placed at the East of the Garden of Eden the Cherubim and the flaming sword' say: 'At the East of the Garden of Eden at the very spot where stood the Cherubim with the flaming sword - there was Gehenna created.'
The Reform Movement and Gun Violence Prevention
The URJ has long recognized the need for legislation "that would limit and control the sale and use of firearms" and has called on the United States government to "eliminate the manufacture, importation, advertising, sale, transfer and possession of handguns except for limited instances." (URJ 1975). Over the years, the URJ has spoken out on gun violence prevention with particular passion, insisting that gun regulation is "a vital necessity."
The Reform Movement makes gun violence prevention a top priority. In 1999, URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie made it the primary social action topic of his Biennial sermon and called for a nationwide campaign to end gun violence. The Biennial passed a resolution urging congregations to initiate projects and speak out publicly on the issue that we continue to abide by in our legislative advocacy.
The North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) has also taken an active stance with gun violence prevention and passed a strongly worded resolution calling for stricter gun laws.