A Giant Step In The Right Direction: A Long Road Remains Ahead

By Doug Rosenblum, Chair of the Rodeph Shalom Gun Violence Prevention Task Force

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, the clergy of Rodeph Shalom convened a series of meetings to provide a forum for grieving and constructive thought on stemming gun violence in our country.  Those meetings first led to a board resolution put forward by Dan Seltzer putting forward a commitment to work on this important issue. Following the school shooting in Parkland, FL, our synagogue leadership convened a task force to look more seriously at concrete ways we could help work to end gun violence.  Our task force has been productive in provoking discussion and welcoming learned community members to visit our congregation and share their views.  Last month, our committee marked an important milestone in the culmination of years of work within city government.
On November 19, 2019, Mayor Jim Kenney committed Philadelphia to joining the national Do Not Stand Idly By (“DNSIB”) campaign.  Rabbi Joel Mosbacher of Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City started DNSIB when he saw a unique opportunity for communities to grab the attention of gun manufacturers.  Cities and municipalities are some of the largest consumers of firearms, ammunition, and related accessories in the world.  Think about it: police departments buy a lot of guns and ammunition.  If gun manufacturers lost those customers, their bottom lines would be severely impacted.  DNSIB provides a forum for those cities and municipalities to harness their collective buying power to ask questions of those companies that manufacturer and sell firearms.  Specifically, DNSIB members have sent a request for information to manufacturers focused on two specific topics:
1. What are you, as a manufacturer, doing to fund and promote the development and implementation of safe gun technology; and
2. What are you, as a manufacturer, doing to ensure that the distributors and retailers of your products are acting in a lawful and responsible manner?
With Mayor Kenney’s signature, Philadelphia becomes the third jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, and the 143rd jurisdiction in the United States to sign onto this campaign.  As many of our congregants know, nothing makes its way to the Mayor’s desk for signature without thorough vetting and debate.  Approximately four years ago, Rodeph Shalom’s clergy first brought this campaign to the attention of our committee.  It was one of our committee’s guest speakers, SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel, that referred us to a contact within Philadelphia’s Office of the Managing Director to shepherd this campaign through city government.  After dozens of phone calls and e-mails, multiple in-person meetings, and a true team effort, Congregation Rodeph Shalom succeeded in adding the country’s sixth largest city to the DNSIB campaign.
Time will tell if the DNSIB request for information will provide fruitful data in the fight against gun violence.  And certainly this one step will not cure all that ails our society.  Much still needs to be done to create a dynamic shift in hearts and minds in the United States towards the possession and use of firearms.  However, this important milestone places Philadelphia on the right side of history in taking a stand against the tragedies in our city and our country stemming from the use of firearms.
Neither Congregation Rodeph Shalom nor the city of Philadelphia will stand idly by as our neighbors’ blood is shed.  Leviticus 19:16.
If you are interested in joining the conversation against gun violence, please email dougrosenblum@gmail.com.