Tikkun Olam at Temple Beth Am

Connecting our congregation to social action opportunities


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Zichronam Lirracha, For Their Memory Shall be a Blessing

Zichronam Lirracha, For Their Memory Shall be a Blessing

The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is collecting signatures for a national Jewish petition to urge action on gun control and mass violence.

FInd Petition here.

December 14, 2012’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has reminded us that the issue of gun violence in our nation must be dealt with immediately.

Please sign this petition to encourage our nation’s leaders to support comprehensive action, including meaningful legislation to limit access to assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, aggressive enforcement of firearm regulations, robust efforts to ensure that every person in need has access to quality mental health care, and a serious national conversation about violence in media and games.

On Friday December 14, a gunman armed with three high-powered firearms and high-capacity magazines walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Hundreds of shots were fired and twenty first-graders, ages six and seven, and six educators were killed.

This violent and horrific event aimed at children shocks our conscience and country. Our hearts are broken, our souls weep, and our arms are outstretched to the families of the victims, the survivors, the first responders, and the entire community of Newtown, Connecticut. In just the last few months, we have seen shootings at schools, malls, theaters, and houses of worship. We are pained and dismayed by the pandemic of gun violence, far exceeding other western nations, and we will not accept it.

Our tradition teaches us of the sanctity of life and how each and every person is created in the divine image. We must directly confront gun violence so that our nation is not marked nor the years measured by senseless massacres. We will not allow the intense emotion we feel now to return to a place of complacency where we become desensitized to the atrocities that unfold around us daily. We must come together to build a society worthy of those lost and a culture that represents our best virtues.

We stand committed to working with our local, state, and national leaders to squarely address these issues and honor the victims, survivors, and their families. We recognize the right of Americans to own guns, but we do not accept the current state of affairs. We stand united and call on our leaders to support comprehensive action, including meaningful legislation to limit access to assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, aggressive enforcement of firearm regulations, robust efforts to ensure that every person in need has access to quality mental health care, and a serious national conversation about violence in media and games.

We, the undersigned, ask that President Obama, Congress, and every citizen to take direct and unequivocal action to stop the outrageous and unacceptable violence that is destroying the fabric of our society.

FInd Petition here.

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Afraid to drop my kids off at school

Post by Guest Blogger Suzi LeVine
http://suzilevine.wordpress.com

In 2006, a lunatic got into the Seattle Jewish Federation offices and shot/killed people. This man wasn’t just a lunatic. He was/is a terrorist. He struck terror into the hearts of the Jews throughout Seattle. The day after the incident, a group of us met on a hillside our neighborhood, with a police officer stationed nearby to keep us safe. To the depths of our souls, we were afraid. That’s terror. That’s what terrorists do.

To help keep our community safe, many of the Jewish institutions in Washington State received funding to turn their facilities into fortresses. I was on the board of Hillel (the Jewish Student organization at the University of Washington) at the time and we really wrestled with this conundrum. We wanted to make sure that students felt that it was an open and hospitable environment. Yet – we needed our staff and students to be safe. We had just built a beautiful window-filled building designed to convey that sense of welcoming and lightness.

6 years later, we have bullet proof front glass doors, an intercom system to buzz people in, a surveillance system that captures footage of the surrounding area, and armed police officers for many of the big events. Fortunately, students are resilient and they have continued to come. They have grown accustomed to a new – and perverse – normal.

In 2007, my family and I went to Israel and, during our trip, went to a mall in Eilat to buy some sandals. We went through metal detectors that were staffed by young men with very large and imposing guns. Throughout their country, Israelis go through security to shop and live their lives. They have grown accustomed to a new – and perverse – normal.

Today, I drove my 2 elementary school kids to their respective schools. There was a police officer at my daughter’s school but no noticeable security at my son’s school. I have never been scared of dropping my children off at school before. But my brain couldn’t help but run through macabre scenarios at what are sweet and very open/accessible schools. Would some crazy young man (they are all young men, unfortunately) go into the school with a semi-automatic weapon and murder my babies? Of course the odds are against that happening, but are there mentally ill copy cats who would do that? Just last year, some dumb high school students carried fake plastic weapons onto the play area of one of our neighborhood elementary schools. Granted, they wouldn’t fire on anyone – but if there can be non-mentally ill high school students who do something as moronic as that (last I checked, “stupid” wasn’t classified as a mental illness), then it’s not a stretch for someone to bring a real weapon to one of the schools

So what’s the solution? How do we reduce the terror? How do we reduce the gun violence?

There are far more qualified people thinking about the criminal science and legislative angles on this. But here are just a few ideas from a mom who wants to make sure that, tonight, I get to kiss and hug my babies:

  1. Eliminate the weapons and their ammo – we need federal, state and municipal efforts on this:
    1. Ban them and make it impossibly hard to acquire and/or keep them – including ones that people already own (when legislation gets introduced on this, it’ll be incumbent on all of us to work hard and make a ton of phone calls in support of this legislation. The Pro-Assault Gun lobby has a lot more money and will do a lot to stop this, but we are stronger).
    2. Buy them back from people so that they feel fairly compensated (And for those who say that only the people who are truly dangerous will then be able to acquire them, I have only to point out that, if Adam Lanza’s mother had not been able to LEGALLY acquire the weapons she had, maybe he would not have been able to do what he did). Here’s more on the NY andChicago buy back programs. Each program had pros/cons – but if you can couple the ban WITH a buy back program, perhaps it can be more successful.
    3. Make the ammo cost (as Chris Rock says) $5,000/bullet.
    4. Charge obscene levels of taxes on any weapon related purchases. If we can tax soda, cigarettes, gas and candy more, we sure as heck can tax weapons/ammo more.
  2. Especially in the interim when the politicians are fighting/hashing through what can still respect the 2nd amendment – Turn the schools into fortresses
    1. If you can’t keep a lunatic from getting a weapon – then you better tell me you’ll make it a heck of a lot harder for them to get into my kid’s school. Governors, Mayors, Senators, Presidents – find the funding to get my kids’ schools secure. I don’t want my kids’ principals to have to tackle the lunatic. I don’t want the lunatic to get into the school.
    2. One thing NOT to do, though, is to introduce more guns to the situation. It’s truly insane to think that arming and training teachers/school administrators to USE and keep guns is going to prevent gun violence. So – what – you want to have a Wyatt Earp style standoff next to the girls bathroom and lockers? That’s not okay.
  3. Address the mental health crisis
    1. At both of my kids’ schools, one of the first things cut with budget limitations was a school counselor. What if school counselors and mental health were the top priorities?
    2. Better fund early learning – as that’s the time to identify and address many of the issues that eventually balloon into much bigger issues. What if we could identify a lapse in brain development in the area of the brain pertaining to empathy – and then provide strategies and tools for development? What if programs like Roots of Empathy could help EVERY student develop those areas more effectively. Prof. James Heckman from the U of Chicago did a study that showed that, for every dollar we invest in early learning (zero to 5 in his study) we save $7-14 later in incarceration, rehabilitation, and other crime related costs.

Given how long it will probably take to pass and then enact legislation, I would suggest that we need parallel action tracks to address this scourge on society.

Ever since they were teeny, I would emphasize to them that my number one job (besides loving them) was to keep them safe. For example, if they were doing something fun, but dangerous (playing with sharp sticks), I would be a buzzkill and tell them to put the sticks down. After they guffawed with a two syllable “mo-om!” I would simply ask: “what’s my main job” – and they’d put the stick down while reluctantly saying “keep me safe”.

This time “keeping them safe” feels much more daunting, especially since it relies on the whole community and country. But I’ve watched enough movies to know that, when the group comes together to take down the bad guy, the group – and good – always triumphs.

Change on this front is not going to happen if we don’t push for it. So – while I still feel afraid today to drop my kids off at school, I am going to work hard to make sure that condition doesn’t persist – and I ask you to help too.

For a start – here are some resources/places to engage and stay tuned to the effort:

Also – call your Mayor’s, governor’s, and state legislators’ offices. There’s a lot that can be done locally and not just federally.

Lastly – Take 18 minutes to watch President Obama’s speech last night at the Newtown interfaith vigil.

Be ready. Your help will be needed.

A


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4th Annual Light the Night: A GLBTQ Hanukkah-December 11th

Hi everyone, I hope you had a good Thanksgiving and are still smiling because of our R74 victory.  Kolenu, Seattle’s Jewish LGBTQ Young Adult group(http://kolenuseattle.blogspot.com) hosts a Hanukkah party every year where they honor LGBTQ leaders in our community.  This year, the event will focus on the effort to achieve marriage equality in Washington State.  I want to encourage everyone to come and also to invite your friends, congregation, and organizational members to come also.  The event is open to the public.  There will be a program where we will honor individuals and communities.  Please come and please spread the word!  See below for more details.
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Kolenu invites you to their 4th Annual Light the Night: A GLBTQ Hanukkah
Enjoy tasty latkes, colorful dreidels, music and a beautiful candle lighting symbolizing both the miracle of Hanukkah and the idea that great leadership and community action will prevail against oppression.
This year, we are fortunate to celebrate a new “miracle” in our time: marriage equality in Washington State. In this spirit, we will be honoring community leaders who were active in Referendum 74.
FREE and open to the community. Allies, friends and family welcome. Due to the location, this is a 21+ event.
This event is made possible through the generous support of Jconnect Seattle, The Lobby Bar, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Jewish Family Service, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
What:                                     4th Annual Light the Night: A GLBTQ Hanukkah
Where:                                   The Lobby Bar (916 E. Pike Street, Seattle, Washington 98122)
When:                                    December 11, 2012 6-8 pm
Facebook Event:                  https://www.facebook.com/events/483533345003014/


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Have a Real Impact: Contact Your Legislator NOW on Same-Sex Marriage!

News reports say the Washington state Senate is just one vote away from achieving a majority in support of same-sex marriage And two of the senators still on the fence represent districts in Beth Am’s backyard: Lynnwood’s Paull Shin and Redmond’s Andy Hill.
So if you live in one of these districts, tell your legislator how you feel! (Even if you don’t, your legislator wants to know how much support there is.)
Here is a link to an online petition from the Jewish community.
And remember Marriage Equality Advocacy Day is Thursday, Feb. 16. Join a delegation from TBA and other members of the Jewish community in Olympia to lobby state legislators on this issue.
Contact David Jacobson for more information.