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Gun violence survivors must lead us

Courtesy of the author
Author Rachael Joseph holding a photo of her aunt, Shelley Joseph-Kordell, who was killed in Minneapolis in 2003.

In September of 2003, on the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, a woman carried a gun in her purse as she walked through the sanctuary at Temple Israel, looking for my aunt Shelley Joseph-Kordell. Shelley was, of course, at home making a fabulous meal for my family to celebrate the New Year together. That Rosh Hashanah meal was the last time I saw Shelley alive — the woman with the gun in her purse found Shelley that Monday morning at the Hennepin County Government Center and shot her to death.

Temple Israel has always been my family’s safe, healing space. It was for my great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and it is now to my children and me. Because a woman was able to go to a Minnesota gun show and buy a gun for $60 with no paperwork or background check required by Minnesota law, my family nearly lost our safe space at Temple Israel. My heart breaks for the congregation at Tree of Life shul in Pittsburgh — where on Shabbat, a violent individual with easy access to an AR-15 stole that safe, healing space from our community in Pittsburgh.

We are heartbroken. We are devastated. We are weary. But, as Jews, we must live our values of Tikkun Olam (healing the world) now more than ever.

  • We must wrap Tree of Life and gun violence survivors in our love, our protection, and our support.
  • We must speak out against the hateful rhetoric that threatens our Jewish community, our communities of color, our immigrant community and our Muslim brothers and sisters.
  • We must do more as a faith community to prohibit the ownership of weapons of war, strengthen our background checks system, and start assisting victims and survivors with legislation, as well as our thoughts and prayers.

Until we can change the laws, Survivors Lead will continue to lift up our fellow survivors, new in their trauma by providing support and guidance as survivors navigate unsolved homicides, criminal trials, bureaucracy, and grief. We will continue to develop retreats between survivors of police violence and law enforcement cadets to combat the dehumanization necessary to take a life, and we will continue to train and support survivors interested in running for public office. Survivors will no longer spend years begging lawmakers in committee for gun reform, survivors intend to lead those committees. Survivors must lead so our numbers stop growing.

Please join us in demanding more from our lawmakers, whose inaction results in daily gun violence in our communities and houses of worship — no more stolen places of solace and healing.

Survivors Lead will intensify our commitment to stop gun violence, support survivors, and reduce the easy access to guns in our country–please join us in living this value of Tikkun Olam. As the Talmud says, “he who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the entire world.”

Rachael Joseph is a gun violence survivor, Jewish community member, and the executive director of Survivors Lead, the only gun reform organization led 100 percent by survivors.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 11/01/2018 - 02:32 pm.

    No one can legally buy a handgun at a gun show or any store without a background check AND a permit to carry or purchase (at least in MN on the 2nd part). Now they could buy one privately without a background check but criminals do that all the time illegally as well.

    The issue is mental health, not guns. As we are seeing in places like the UK, banning guns simply means the crazies will use knives or other weapons. And we also see a much higher violent crime rate in the UK where guns are very rare.

    No one should ever have to be a survivor of violence but the reality is we must not make it harder for law abiding people to defend themselves against the bad actors. Just look to Chicago as an example of the utter failure of gun control laws.

    • Submitted by Brian Gandt on 11/02/2018 - 10:32 am.

      Chicago is the way it is because it’s easy to go outside the city. That policy never stood a chance.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 11/02/2018 - 01:33 pm.

        No it’s that way because law abiding citizens can’t own guns to protect themselves. The police can’t be everywhere all the time. Criminals by definition don’t obey the law. Baltimore is another bad place with lots of gun control laws.

        • Submitted by Brian Gandt on 11/02/2018 - 03:42 pm.

          I’m referring to what appears to be the intent, which is a gun free zone. Of course, criminals don’t care, which is why it doesn’t work.

  2. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 11/01/2018 - 06:56 pm.

    I encourage all women to empower themselves by taking their safety into their own hands.

    If Shelly (my aunt’s name, BTW) had a firearm and had taken a course on its use (the NRA holds seminars several times a year all over the country), the outcome might not have been different. But she would have had a chance.

  3. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 11/02/2018 - 09:39 pm.

    My sincere sympathy on the loss of your aunt. At my (Catholic) church there is the obligatory sign forbidding guns on the premises. I am assuming that Temple Israel now has such a sign now and am sure that the Hennepin County Government Center has the same signage. Unfortunately, signs and laws seem to do little to stop evil people from doing evil things. This is no solution, but sadly a fact, and I am indeed sorry that very bad things happen to very good people. Thank you for sharing your story, I think that your aunt is pleased that you honor her in this way.

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