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 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.
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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