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On Shabbat, Jews march for gun reform

[from The Cleveland Jewish News]

Among the thousands who congregated March 24 at Public Square in downtown Cleveland, a group of about 100 B’nai Jeshurun Congregation members could be spotted throughout by their kipahs as well as the Jewish proverbs and Hebrew lettering written on signs. Their message: lawmakers should take action on gun reform.

The March For Our Lives in Cleveland was one of close to 800 marches that happened across the country with the main march in Washington, D.C., led by student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and faculty were shot to death by a former student using an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle.

Before protestors began marching, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, student organizers of the march, activists and a mother of a student who witnessed the Parkland shooting spoke during a rally. As they spoke, their voices echoed through the streets – as did the crowd’s cheers and applause.

Because the march fell on a Saturday, Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike had an “unconventional Shabbat,” while still not defying Shabbat law. He drove to Cleveland the night of March 23, had a Shabbat dinner and led an abridged service at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and East 22nd Street in Cleveland. The next day, attendees marched with Rudin-Luria to Public Square. 

“The rabbis say that if there is a national crisis, that gives us the right to sort of break the bounds of Shabbat, to push away this idea of a restful idea of Shabbat, a Shabbat of peace, when we need to raise our voices communally to join together as a nation to say that something is wrong with our world,” Rudin-Luria said. 

The service was part of a partnership between the congregation and cathedral formed by Rabbi Stephen Weiss and Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. Weiss felt gun violence was an urgent issue that needed to be addressed. Having a morning service at the cathedral was a way to provide his congregants a way to observe Shabbat while still participating in the march. 

“It certainly is an expression of how serious this issue is to me that I did this,” Weiss said. “There are lots of marches and protests on Shabbat that we do not participate in ... but this issue is of such urgency that I felt compelled that we had to find a way to be a part of this, to include our voices, to support our children.”

Weiss was unable to attend the march because he had a bat mitzvah planned for the same morning. Although his presence was missed during the march, his sermon focused on the march and why he believes there is a need for gun reform legislation.

“The Torah says, ‘Don’t stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.’ When you see somebody’s life at risk, we are obligated to save that life,” Weiss said. “To ignore that and not stop that violates our commandment.” 

When Rudin-Luria arrived at the cathedral in the morning, he wasn’t sure who would be making the journey to Cleveland to join him, but he was touched by the turnout.   

“I’m very moved. I did not know who would join me,” he said. “I set up about 40 chairs and we were overflowing and needed to bring in more chairs. I was very moved, and the prayers we shared together were very powerful.” 

Praying can be a form of protest, Rudin-Luria said, referring to the civil rights movement in the 1960s when Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched alongside Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. After Heschel marched in Selma, Ala., he said he was praying with his legs, which Rudin-Luria felt he was also doing during the March For Our Lives.

To read the full article, visit Cleveland Jewish News.

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