Thursday, May 26, 2022

No Policy on Gun Control?!

A family grieves at the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School (JTA)
I never thought I would say this, but I side more with the Conservative and Reform movements than I do with Agudah on this issue.  To say the least, I am very disappointed –  even angry -  at Agudah’s response to the massacre of 2 teachers and 19 elementary school students in Uvalde, Texas last Tuesday: JTA reports the following:

Agudath Israel of America, the umbrella body for haredi Orthodox Jews, said it was “horrified” by the attack, but a spokesman said the organization has never had a formal position on gun control… 

No policy?! I cannot understand this. How can they not have a policy on gun control? They have a policy on just about everything else.  What happened  in Uvalde can happen to us. Are they really saying that they believe that gun control is not a Jewish issue?! Crying for the bereaved and leaving at that is not good enough. I prefer the position of Conservative and Reform movements: 

The statement by the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly suggested a barely concealed fury at the conventional calls for “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings.

“While our hearts and sincere prayers go out to the people of Uvalde, especially the families of the victims, thoughts and prayers have never been enough; it is past time for action,” said its statement. “It is high time that United States politicians, currently obsessed with reelection campaigns, put aside partisanship in order literally to save lives.” 

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, described on Twitter “the rage and heartbreak of living in a society that repeatedly permits the destruction of life.” 

“God forgive this country for loving guns more than children,” he added. 

I could not agree more!. Agudah’s lack of a policy on the matter can only be explained one way. Politics. I assume they have no position on gun control because they don’t want to alienate those members of congress (mostly Republicans)  who have sold their souls to the NRA. 

Lest anyone think this a prudent approach to which all Orthodox institutions should subscribe - see the following: 

Nathan Diament, the O.U.’s Washington’s director, said his tweet was focused on the tragedy (but added in an email)  “The O.U. supports ‘common-sense gun safety measures’ — which includes (post-Sandy Hook) supporting the Manchin-Toomey bill,” a failed bipartisan bid, written after the 2012 mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, that would have strengthened background checks for gun purchases.  

Let me also add Rabbi Yosef Bechhofer’s comments on President Biden’s response to the massacre: 

The President is 100% right. The appalling lack of gun control laws in this country discriminates against any and everyone who an evil person chooses to target.  

Agudah likes to say they represent Daas Torah. Which is to say that they believe that their views represent the moral authority of the Torah. 

I cannot  accept a claim of moral authority when politics gets in the way of clarity on an issue as important as this one. 

Ironically politics generally do not get in their way on issues they consider vital to the Jewish community. Like their policy with respect to the right of a few Orthodox schools to keep their students ignorant - by allowing them to continue refusing to implement  an independent Limudei Chol (secular studies) curriculum.  

Agudah is currently in the midst of a campaign urging Jews from across the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy - from all over the country to publicly express their strong opposition to NYSED’s new public school equivalency requirements. True, it might need some tweaking. But they are attacking it as though Jewish education itself at stake. 

Which it clearly is not! The vast majority of Orthodox religious schools already fulfill those requirements. Or come pretty darn close to it. I guess supporting sensible gun control legislation - which would surely save lives does not make the cut in terms of what is vital to the Jewish community! Even if those lives might God forbid one day be those of their own children or grandchildren!

I find it sad that so many Charedi individuals see this  Daas Torah. Do they think that Charedi elementary schools are immune to massacres by deranged gunmen?! What will it take for them to speak out on this issue? I don’t even want to suggest what I am thinking that might change their minds!

To be absolutely clear about this issue, I will reiterate much of what I said yesterday. Gun control is essential, but not enough. This issue needs to be tackled on several fronts. Which includes supporting law enforcement; changing the way the criminal justice system now operates; better security in schools, churches, and synagogues (at the government’s expense); universal background checks; school policies requiring parents to monitor all of their children’s activity on social media; eliminating bullying through both counseling and/or severely sanctioning bullies when they are caught doing it. 

I truly believe all these steps are necessary if we are ever going to substantially reduce the carnage that now seems to be increasing exponentially with each passing day. But it all starts with passing sensible gun control legislation. 

That the Agudah has no policy on this is a very sad statement about their priorities.