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“Justice Within” – Shabbat Shoftim, Friday, September 9, 2016

This has turned out to be a long, hot summer. The unrelenting heat and humidity seem to have made people more cranky than usual. The tenor of public discourse, within the presidential campaign and outside of it, has been personal and ugly. The effort to disenfranchise the poor, the young, the old, and people of color is ongoing. Zika is spreading. Gays have been targeted. Women have been targeted. Jews have been targeted. And Sunday will mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, reminding us all that Americans, too, remain a target.

All of this is happening in a constant and exhausting whirlwind around us, just at the time when we Jews are preparing to delve into our period of reflection, penitence, and teshuvah. And maybe that’s more than coincidence.

We’re now in the month of Elul, which leads up to Rosh Hashanah. Tonight is the first time, as a congregation, when we hear some high holy day melodies, and when we sing songs and offer prayers asking for God’s mercy. We are preparing to stand before God during the Days of Awe. We know we will have to stand before each other as well. But before we can do any of that, we need to look in the mirror and really take stock of ourselves.

This week’s Torah portion focuses on the topics that underlie all of the turmoil in the world: Fairness. Transparency. Mutual respect. And, above all, justice. Justice in the courtroom and in our streets. Justice at home and at work.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, the Torah tells us in one of its most famous and enigmatic passages. Justice, justice, shall you pursue.

We usually translate this doubled phrase to mean that we must seek peace near to home and pursue it from afar. That puts a great responsibility on us to set ourselves to the task of assuring fair treatment of the poor, the young, the old, people of color, women, gays, and fellow Jews.

After all, the Rabbis of the Mishnah declared:

“The sword comes to the world on account of delay in justice, on account of subversion of justice, and on account of those who interpret the Torah not in keeping with accepted traditions.”

But my colleague, Rabbi Richard Address, has suggested that we read these words in the days leading to Rosh Hashanah because they also carry another meaning: seek peace near to home, and pursue it even closer.

We are asked, wrote Rabbi Address this week, “to pursue justice in the world at large” – what we call tikkun olam. But, he wrote, “perhaps this verse can also be seen as a command to pursue justice within our own self . . . what some call tikkun ha’nefesh, the care and repair of our own self.”

And lest you think that sounds selfish in the context of pursuing justice, consider this. How in the world can we expect to make things better for others when we don’t feel right about ourselves?

Think about the last year and the choices you made. Were you uncomfortable? Did you feel pressured? Did you go out of your way to please a spouse, a parent, a child, or a boss, but do it in a way that went against your better judgment? Or did you cut corners, knowing the task was not being done properly but simply lose interest when fatigue set in? Did you let somebody else clean up a mess you made – literally or figuratively? Did you lose your temper with someone who did not deserve the brunt of your frustration? Really think about this carefully. If you answered yes to any of these, then it’s time to work on yourself first, before you can do right for others.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof. Justice shall you pursue near to home. Justice shall you pursue even closer.

Maybe this means making hard choices about commitments – saying no when you’d like to say yes, when everybody else is used to you saying yes. Maybe this means asking for help, or for a little extra time, when you’re tired or frustrated. Maybe it means committing to physical exercise you never seem to make time for, or the healthier meals you keep promising yourself you’ll start preparing.

Maybe it means setting ground rules and boundaries for how you let other people treat you – how late you answer the phone, how often you interrupt family time.

Maybe it means realizing that it’s not really selfish when you sometimes put yourself first. Because you can’t be your best for others when you’re not feeling right about yourself.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof. Justice shall you pursue near to home. Justice shall you pursue even closer.

Rabbi Address also reminds us that sometimes we are not free in our choices, and that leads to regret. Sometimes we let people influence our behavior in ways we know are not right. Is it easier to go with the flow? Not to speak up when a co-worker is being mistreated? Not to make waves when a child is being bullied by peers? Not to voice our political opinions when they might go against what our friends think? Probably. But if we know in our kishkes that we’re not doing the right thing, we need to think about the price of conforming to somebody else’s expectations.

After laying out the ethical guidelines for pursuing justice, the Torah then warns us about setting a king over us, just like everybody else has. The Torah’s immediate concern is that a king will become haughty, aloof, or self-absorbed, forgetting that he, too, must follow God’s mitzvot and cannot be above the law. “When he is seated on his royal throne,” declares God, “he shall have a copy of this teaching written for him on a scroll by the Levitical priests. Let it remain with him and let him read in it all his life . . thus he will not act haughtily toward his fellows or deviate from the Instruction to the right or to the left.”

But I think the underlying concern is that the people will think the king will do everything for them, and abrogate their own responsibility to create a community of justice and fairness. That they will neglect the obligations of everyday people to one another.

The pursuit of justice by every individual, says the Torah, is the only way that the nation as a whole will thrive in the Promised Land.

That pursuit of justice must begin within before it can be applied without.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel said: The world stands on three things: on truth, on justice, and on peace, as the prophet Zechariah said: “Execute truth, justice, and peace within your gates.”  These three are interlinked: when justice is done, truth is achieved, and peace is established.

And the establishment of peace is, after all, the ultimate goal of both tikkun ha-nefesh and tikkun olam.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof. Justice must we pursue near to home. Justice must we pursue even closer.

Kein yehi ratson. As we approach our days of Awe, let this be God’s will and our own. As we say together: Amen.

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©2016 Rabbi Audrey Korotkin

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“When Words Hurt” – Shabbat Devarim, Friday, August 12th, 2016

When I was a kid – and maybe some of you remember this – we were taught a little proverb to say back to people who were mean to us: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but [words will never hurt me].” Turns out, that’s a total crock.

I’ve spoken about the power of words in the past – but, given the events of this past week, I think the message bears repeating.

Words are powerful tools. They tell others exactly how we feel, and where we stand. From the mouths of compassionate and sensitive people, words can be enriching, inspiring, and healing. From the mouths of insensitive narcissists or bullies, words can be devastating – even life- threatening.

In last week’s Torah portion, at the end of the book of Numbers, we learn through the laws of swearing oaths that God presumes that we mean what we say, and that we have an obligation to fulfill what we promise. “If a man makes a vow to the Eternal or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself,” says the Torah, “he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.”

This Shabbat, in the first chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, as Moses begins his final oration to the people before his death, the Torah shows us the power of choosing our words carefully. Alternatively chastising and motivating, Moses reminds the people of all the times they neglected the oath uttered at Sinai, Na’aseh v’nishmah, “we will do, and we will heed,” resisting God’s commandments and his own leadership.

But his words also are a reminder to them that they have persevered under God’s protection through their forty years of wanderings, and that – despite their occasional outbursts of pique and frustration – God has indeed fulfilled the promise of bringing them as a free people to a land of their own.

Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words need to be chosen very carefully.

And that’s why so many of us in the Jewish community were so horrified, angry, and disappointed by the words – one word, actually – that appeared in the manifesto of The Movement for Black Lives – an umbrella statement on behalf of some 50 groups, including Black Lives Matter, that are fighting for racial justice. Most of the platform focuses on what the group sees as the systematic oppression of black people in America; it calls for an end to, and reparations from, economic, educational, social, and political discrimination. But then there’s this:

“The interlinked systems of white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy shape the violence we face,” says the document. “As oppressed people living in the US, the belly of global empire, we are in a critical position to build the necessary connections for a global liberation movement.” And to that end, the platform singles out one, and only one, nation outside the US as a partner in this imperialism enterprise:

“The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”

Genocide. “The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” The word sends shivers down our spines. We Jews know genocide. We lived it. We died in it.

In the wake of the Holocaust, it was the United Nations itself that adopted this word to describe the systematic destruction of the Jewish people by the Nazi regime, and to condemn it as an international crime.

We have watched in horror since then as tyrannical regimes have engaged in genocidal slaughter: Tens of thousands of ethnic Kurds slaughtered by Ba’athist Iraq in the 1980s; the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia in the 1990s; and, most recently, the wholesale slaughter of the Yazidi people by the Islamic State.

Israel today is threatened by the avowed genocidal ambitions of the mullahs of Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and elements of the PLO in the West Bank.

But Israel is a victim, not a perpetrator. It is not perfect, by any means, and it has caused a lot of damage and made a lot of poor decisions. I have challenged Israel’s leadership on any number of occasions from this pulpit, and criticized its policies. But it does not engage, and has not engaged, in the deliberate and systematic destruction of the entire Palestinian Arab population.

The person responsible for the language, Ben Ndugga-Kabuye, says he can’t understand what all the fuss is about. He says their solidarity with the Palestinian people is not any different than their connection with Somalis or Colombians. But his document does not single out any other nation for condemnation, nor attribute genocidal intent to any other. Only Israel. And that rightly sticks in the craw of Jews and Jewish organizations around the world, many of whom have worked in partnership with black civil rights groups for decades in the fight for equality and human dignity.

Some of us could see this coming. I preached last winter about Black Lives Matter and how it publicly turned its back on one of its strongest and most committed supporters, Rabbi Susan Talve of St. Louis, who had literally been on the front lines of protests in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago. Her crime was in being a Zionist – that is, by their definition, she is an enemy of the Palestinian people and therefore an enemy of black Americans. The Movement platform is a codification of that notion that black Americans and Palestinian Arabs have some commonality that Jews – we who lost six million of our brothers and sisters to genocide – somehow cannot understand.

It is a rupture in a relationship that will not be easily healed. As Yair Rosenberg wrote in Tablet Magazine, “It is sadly clear that those select activists who shoehorned such a slur in to the Black Lives Matter platform, whether out of ignorance or malice, have needlessly driven a wedge into the very necessary alliance to ensure equal treatment of America’s African-American brothers and sisters.”

Some Jewish voices on the left – many of whom support boycotts and divestment from Israel and identify her as a racist and aggressive state, came to the defense of BLM this past week. They told us to check our white privilege at the door and choose to side with these liberation movements. They contended that Zionism is antithetical to Jewish liberation.

To them, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel in Washington DC penned a spectacular public response:

“Movements that struggle for racial justice teach us that privilege binds us,” he wrote:

“In America, good-hearted white people can delude themselves, believing that they understand black people because they care. But BlackLivesMatter and similar movements remind them that, while they may care, privileged people cannot understand what it is to be denied privilege . . .

“When BlackLivesMatter supports BDS and labels the Jewish people as perpetrators of genocide, then BlackLivesMatter is falling into the very oppression that it seeks to dismantle. BDS and similar groups are the product of privileged people who care about Palestinians, but who cannot understand the full complexity of dynamics in Israel-Palestine.

“From their position of privilege, BDS and all movements that seek to deny the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, distort and oversimplify the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The result is a dangerous narrative that denies the voice of human beings – Israelis – who genuinely struggle for safe and just lives alongside their Palestinian brothers and sisters. The reality is that the Jewish state is an incredibly diverse and complex democracy, where the majority of Jewish people are struggling to end the occupation in a peaceful and just way.”

Rabbi Steinlauf has hit on two very important points. First, black Americans don’t understand what it’s like to be Jewish or Israeli any more than I can understand what it’s like to be a black American.

Second, the BDS movement and other similar anti-Israel groups are not really about the rights of Palestinians. They are committed to delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist, willfully ignoring the historic four-thousand year link between Jews and the Land of Israel, and characterizing the Jewish homeland solely as a post-Holocaust white colonial land grab.

As Bradley Burston wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week, “There’s a name for a belief that there is only one country which has permanently forfeited the right to exist, only one people which is so abhorrent, so incomparably wicked, that it alone has no right to self-determination.” That name, he said, is “racism.”

It is a sad, hurtful, and harmful thing that has happened: that a movement committed to racial equality has been coopted – perhaps by a small radical element – into championing what is, at its heart, a racist agenda.

I do not use that word lightly, because Torah teaches me how much power words have. But, like the Israelite who makes an oath, I have to take the Movement at its word. I have to presume that it has made a deliberate choice – in a world rife with slaughter and slavery – to single out Israel and only Israel as a perpetrator of genocide.

Movement supporters may say: Oh, but it’s only one word out of 40-thousand. But that doesn’t matter. As General Michael Hayden said this week in response to an equally incendiary public remark, “You’re not just responsible for what you say, you are responsible for what people hear.” And what I heard was untrue and unacceptable.

The Movement for Black Lives is insisting that I repudiate my Jewish identity and my Jewish home if I am to be their partner. And I’m not going to do that. There are plenty of religious, ethnic, and civil-rights groups committed to issues of social justice and personal dignity, with whom I can find common ground and who will not expect me to check my Jewish self at the door. It is, after all, that Jewish self that compels me to work for equality and freedom and justice.

I’m not going to give up the work. But I may have to find someone else whose hand I can hold, and whose counsel I can rely on, to get the job done.

Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our own. As we say together: Amen.

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©2016 Audrey R. Korotkin

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Water and Wisdom: Remarks to the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona, July 19, 2016

Presented as part of the “Matter of Faith” Interfaith Summer Series on “Caring For Our Common Home”:

Most people here are familiar with the story of Creation in Genesis, chapter 1: how God created an ordered material world out of the tohu va-vohu – the empty nothing that once existed. The earth is divided into oceans and continents, animals evolve from sea creatures to walk on dry land, the earth brings forth the lushness of the plant kingdom, and, eventually, humans are created from the dust of the earth itself, animated with the breath of God, and given the responsibility of tending the garden.

But according to Jewish tradition, three creations actually preceded the making of the world as we know it: water, wind and fire. That is to say, the earth could not be what it is without these three things existing first. In this mystical telling of the Creation story, water conceived and gave birth to thick darkness, fire conceived and gave birth to light, and wind (understood as God’s spirit) gave birth to wisdom. The world, then, is maintained by means of these six creations: water and darkness, fire and light, wind and wisdom.

We don’t often think of it this way. But I believe it is crucial that wisdom – born of the very breath of God – is included in this list of basic elements. Wisdom imbues words and actions with intention and thoughtfulness. That’s why we honor wisdom, as an element of creation, in our morning prayers every day:

מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶֽׂיךָ יְיָ, כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִֽׂיתָ

“How great are Your works, O God, in Wisdom have You made them all.”

But Wisdom is not reserved for God alone. If God’s spirit brought Wisdom into being, and if Wisdom is a basic element of the earth, then Wisdom was made to share with humanity. And to be used by humanity, to speak and to act with intention and thoughtfulness, just as God does. We are God’s messengers on earth. We must use wisdom in the way we treat the other elements of the world – earth and air, fire and water, light and darkness.

Jewish tradition and Jewish law – based in Torah, our sacred Scripture – are very clear about our responsibilities. Not to dominate the earth, but to take care of it.

And I want to focus on just one of these elements tonight, and how we ought to be treating it with wisdom. Water, in particular, is a powerful symbol in Judaism.

Water is a symbol of purity. Archaeological excavations at the southern entrance to the Temple mount have uncovered the mikva-ot – the ritual baths – in which our ancestors immersed themselves before they could ascend the steps to the Temple courtyard. Even today, Jews plunge into the waters of the mikvah to ritually cleanse themselves before the Sabbath or before being married.

Water is a symbol of hospitality. When Abraham’s servant went to look for a suitable bride for Isaac, he found Rebekah at a well, and chose her because she not only gave him water, but drew water for his camels as well. Isaac dug wells where his father had traveled, and where God called to him and blessed him.

Water is a symbol of transcendental change. It’s no coincidence that Jacob became Israel in the midst of a flowing stream, struggling for survival against an angelic creature. It’s no coincidence that the turning of the Nile from water to blood was the first miracle that Moses performed in Egypt. And that God’s parting of the sea – controlling the power of water over us – is the miracle that allowed the Israelites to escape the Egyptian army.

Miriam the prophetess is connected with the miracle of finding water in the desert. It was immediately after her death that the wells dried up, and so did the vines and fruit trees around them. Late in his life, Moses’s anger led him to strike at a rock to draw the water out, rather than coaxing it out as God had commanded. His punishment was that he would not be allowed to cross the Jordan River with the people, into the Promised Land.

The symbol of water points not just to our past but to our future: The prophet Ezekiel imagines the restoration of Israel as a time when God will sprinkle us with water to cleanse us from our sins, putting a new heart and new spirit within each of us.

But water is a potent symbol because it is far more than just a symbol. Let’s talk for a moment about water today. A number of our speakers last week talked about how we use it, how we waste it, and how we hoard it. Considering that 71 percent of the earth’s surface is made of water, you’d think we’d have enough. But it never seems to work out that way.

We Jews know what that’s like – and not just because of the Bible stories. Most of the land of Israel – and the modern state of Israel – is semi-arid, and rainfall is modest, at best. The Jordan River begins in Northern Israel, where there are some lush rain forests with magnificent waterfalls. But looks can be deceiving:. Israel been in a drought for most of the last decade. And Lake Kinneret, the source of much of Israel’s water supply, is well below what it should be.

But we Jews are resilient and resourceful. So we’ve come up with a lot of modern-day methods of well-digging. It was an Israeli, Simcha Blass, who first developed modern drip-irrigation techniques decades ago to, as we say, “make the desert bloom.” Instead of pop-up sprinklers or big irrigation rigs that waste water, either spraying it where it’s not needed or leaving it to be evaporated, drip-irrigation runs perforated hoses around the base of plants and trees dropping just enough water exactly where it’s needed – with water savings of 20 to 50 percent. Israel has been exporting this technology: one company, Netafim, operates in 150 countries around the world. But you can also get drip irrigation kits at Lowes and Home Depot for your own garden.

Israel also embraced desalinization – taking salt out of sea-water in the 1990s after yet another extended drought.  The coastal city of Eilat was a pioneer in the 1970’s, and now all of its municipal water supply comes from desalinization. And an Israeli company is now building a desalinzation plant in San Diego, as one way of dealing with the shrinking availability of clean water in an area of the country that seems to have an insatiable thirst for it.

The mechanics of all of this are one thing. But changing peoples’ minds about water – that’s something else. All of our speakers last week talked, in some way, about the environmental footprint each of us has. Shamsa [Anwar, speaking from the Muslim tradition] pointed out that when we use more than our fair share, we are leaving others with less than they need – sometimes with devastating results. I’m a child of the suburbs, where I’ve always taken clean water for granted, for drinking, bathing, and even brushing my teeth. It never occurred to me till pretty recently how much water it costs the earth to make one cotton t-shirt or one hamburger patty. So when I do environmental studies with my students, and we look at our water or carbon footprints, I do them along with everybody else to see where I’m being wasteful.

The book of Proverbs begins with the admonition: “L’Da’at chochma u-musar” – to understand wisdom and ethics. But the Rabbis also have translated it this way: “To understand wisdom and self-restraint.” Why pair wisdom with self-restraint? If a man has wisdom, say the rabbis, he will learn self-restraint. But if he has no wisdom, he is incapable of learning self-restraint.

I’d put it this way: Wisdom is a gift from God, embedded in the very creation of the world, which we can choose to use or to waste. If we choose to waste it, we also waste a lot of what the world offers us, thinking it’s just there for the taking – whatever we want, as much as we want, as long as we want it. When we choose to use it, we understand how very small we are, our very short are our years, and how very restrained must be our needs.

And we take to heart what the rabbis teach about Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden: “Take care of the world I have given you, says God. Because if you do not, there will be no one to do it after you.”

Thank you.

©2016 Audrey R. Korotkin

 

 

 

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“It’s Not What You Think: Reflections on Extremism and Violence” – Friday, July 15, 2016

It seems to be a pattern lately: When tragedy strikes anywhere in the world, the Jewish and Israeli press seem to get the information out first. And they have deeper and different information than anybody else. After Orlando and Dallas – and even today after Nice and Turkey — the stories that showed up first in my Facebook news feed were from Israeli and Jewish media outlets.

I don’t know why that is. Maybe we’re just so used to responding to tragedy that we’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Anyway, in this week when we’re trying to make sense of events that seem to defy it, it was an article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency feed earlier this week about the Dallas sniper that gave me some perspective.

While the mainstream American media have focused mostly on Micah Johnson’s military service, the JTA pieced together some other crucial details.

Johnson was, over time, loosely affiliated with a number of hate groups including some affiliated with Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic Nation of Islam. And he seems to have been, for a time, a member of what’s called the New Black Panther Party. He joined them in Houston a few years ago and attended several protests and other events. This is a group that espouses confrontation, and even violence – and it’s not just anti-white but it’s also anti-Jewish. It’s one of the hate groups that spread those horrific stories that Zionists were responsible for the attacks of 9/11, and that thousands of Jews new about the attacks in advance.

In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the New Black Panther Party, “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews, and law-enforcement officers.” The Anti-Defamation League calls it “the largest organized anti-Semitic and racist Black militant group in North America.”

And here’s why this is important. Micah Johnson was involved with groups like this because Micah Johnson is a hater. Haters hate. That’s what they do. The fact that he was involved with, or a follower of, groups that hate whites, Jews, cops – that just confirms that hate travels in all directions. He said that day that he wanted to kill cops – but he just as easily might have aimed his weapon at Jews.

And Micah Johnson is not unique.

Take Dylann Roof, the young white man who murdered nine black people at Mother AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last June. Much attention was paid to the fact he was wearing the insignias of white-supremacist groups. Much less attention was paid to a Facebook page connected to him that included a hate-filled manifesto railing against “Blacks,” “Jews,” “Hispanics,” and “East Asians.”

And then there was Omar Mateen, who slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. He claimed he was doing it in the name of Islam, but the groups he pledged allegiance to don’t really work together. So maybe he hated gays. Maybe he hated himself, since he was known to frequent the club. His former co-workers reported him to be angry at a lot of people a lot of the time. And his ex-wife said he was unpredictably violent at home and often beat her.

Violence against women is another common thread here, since the Dallas shooter had left the army after a sexual harassment complaint.

Haters hate. That’s what they do. There is something dark and evil and  very frightening inside such people that can lead them to confrontation and violence. And if you only examine one facet of the hatred – if you don’t look at the anti-Semitism or the violence against women – then you miss the bigger picture.

I don’t know what makes some people hate other people because of their color, their religion, their gender, or their sexual orientation, or all of the above. But I do believe that they are more dangerous than ever. First, because social-networking allows them to be bombarded by, and inspired by, the constant chants of hatred as never before. Ironically, it can make them feel both oppressed and empowered. Second, because our laws allow them access to weapons of mass destruction that are far deadlier than ever before.

That another hater will commit another mass murder is entirely predictable. That too many of our elected officials seem committed to doing nothing to stop it is also predictable. Congress has recessed for seven weeks without even passing a pretty toothless bill that says people on the no-fly list who are suspected of terrorist links cannot buy a gun. No fly, no buy. House Speaker Paul Ryan insists that some people might be on the list mistakenly and doesn’t want their second-amendment and due process rights violated. But where’s the due process for children who are slaughtered in their school, worshipers in their church, or young people in a club? Why isn’t the priority on protecting life?

We’ve all heard in the last few weeks the contention by some gun-rights advocates that what we need are more guns – that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But according to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, there were 20-30 protesters legally, openly carrying their guns in that Black Lives Matter demonstration when Micah Johnson opened fire and the crowd scattered in all directions. “In the middle of a firefight,” the mayor said afterward, “It’s hard to pick out the good guys and the bad guys.” Open-carry made the situation more complicated, more confusing, and potentially more dangerous than it had to be. One innocent protester was wrongly identified as the shooter and arrested.

And a new study out this week from the American Journal of Public Health shows that the higher the rate of civilian gun-ownership, the more likely that police officers will face potentially life threatening situations. Line-of-duty homicide rates among police officers were more than three times higher in states with high gun ownership compared with low-gun ownership states.

You want to protect both black and blue? Here’s what the International Association of Chiefs of Police wants: A reinstatement of the federal ban on assault weapons. Expanded background checks. A national gun-offender registry. The vast majority of Americans – even the vast majority of NRA members – support expanded background checks. And even Justice Antonin Scalia, who penned the Heller case that upended the District of Columbia’s handgun ban, also wrote in that same decision that:

korotkin_headshot“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

“Yes, guns can be properly and effectively used in self-defense,” wrote the Washington Post editorial board on Monday. “But saturating the nation with firearms also primes the country for deadly violence, making many situations more likely to end in death. Potential suicides are more likely to succeed. Deranged and angry people, such as Johnson, can murder trained law enforcement officers from a distance.

“Curious children accidentally shoot themselves, their friends, or their parents. Domestic abusers kill family members before tempers cool or authorities arrive. Police officers see or fear guns in the cars they pull over, and their adrenaline starts pumping.”

Columnist Eugene Robinson wrote that the solution is not more guns. The solution, he said, is to end the undervaluing of lives, both black and blue.

But that’s what haters do. They undervalue the lives of others who are different. And if they have the means to harm, to destroy, to murder, some of them will do it. Our Torah commands: You shall not hate another in your heart. But if we cannot force the hatred out of peoples’ hearts, we can at least make it harder for them to act on it.

Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our own. As we say together: Amen.

©2016 Audrey R. Korotkin