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Earlier in December, the Pew Research Center came out with a new poll on Americans’ attitudes on guns. The survey, Pew’s first on the issue since January 2013, showed an overall gain in support for “gun rights” over “gun control” over the past two years. Some of the main takeaways are below:
At the last L’Taken seminar, Connecticut students spoke to staff from the offices of Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Jim Himes to share why gun violence prevention is important to them as Jews, as Americans, and as young people. Lee Winters, who came to L’Taken along with his confirmation class at Temple B'nai Chaim in Georgetown, Connecticut, shared a personal story about the rippling effects of gun violence in his community:
When I think back to December 14, 2012, I remember that it should have been a celebratory day for me. I had my two last final exams for the semester—logic and operations management—and quickly said goodbye to my friends as I drove from college back home. It had been a busy semester, and an even busier final exam season, but I had found the self-discipline to devote a lot of time to study for these finals. When I turned in my exams, I felt both proud of my work in preparing myself and excited to take a break from studying for a while. Packing my dorm room, I felt ecstatic—I felt that I could finally put a tough semester behind me and spend some much-needed time with my parents.
Today marks World AIDS Day, a day devoted to raising awareness of the AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) epidemic. Despite many advances in the treatment for AIDS since the AIDS epidemic first began in the 1980s and increased knowledge on how to prevent the spread of HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus), 1.5 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2013 alone. And, AIDS continues to be a serious issue around the world. Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of bikur cholim, pikuach nefesh and gemulit chasidim—caring for the sick, saving lives and deeds of loving kindness—and these are the values that spur us to take action to educate others about HIV/AIDS in order to empower them to take control of their own health and advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention.
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.
By Rabbi Josh Weinberg
May it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, to protect me against the impudent and against impudence, from bad men and bad companions, from severe sentences and severe plaintiffs, whether a son of the covenant or not.
No one can bring us back from the deep dark pit; here the joy of victory and songs of praise are useless… Raise your eyes in hope, not through gun sights; sing a song for love and not for wars [originally - for victories]….
Haitian Orphanage Project: Hollywood Cares Jul.