In the wake of senseless and devastating gun violence, we mourn, we come together, we offer words of condolence – and we ask how we can prevent these tragedies from happening again.
As Reform Jews, our task remains: to challenge America's conscience and to heed the biblical injunction that we must not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor. Here, we offer words, prayers, and concrete ways to take action to prevent gun violence. Of course, not all of these resources will be applicable in every situation, but we've gathered them all here to make them readily available following all manner of violent tragedies.
Resources for Parents and Educators
Here are a number of resources to guide parents and educators in speaking to their children about tragedy, especially those based in man-made violence. The following may help both children and parents to process these unthinkable occurrences:
- "After Terror: 5 Jewish Ways to Help Kids Deal": Jewish tradition provides wisdom on how to handle these moments – both as parents and as individuals. Michelle Shapiro Abraham, the Union for Reform Judaism’s director of learning and innovation for youth, shares insight.
- “Helping Children to Process Acts of Terrorism”: After acts of violence, children may have both practical and theological questions, such as: How can we be protected from terrorism? Where is God? Why would God allow such things to happen? Rabbi Edythe Mencher, also a clinical social worker, wrote this in-depth guide for talking to children of varying ages about acts of terrorism and violence.
- "How We Can Help Our Littlest Learners in the Wake of Tragedy": Tammy Kaiser, a Parkland-area neuroscientist, preschool director, mother, and shooting survivor, shares tips for restoring children’s sense of safety - and talks about her own experience comforting her son after the shooting.
- "Responding to Spiritual Questions and Emotional Needs after Tragedies": What do we tell our kids when tragedies like these make them doubt God's presence? This new piece from Rabbi Mencher addresses such questions as they impact both children and adults.
- “Parenting Thoughts: Helping Children Cope with Tragedy”: Margie Bogdanow, a parent and Jewish educator in the Boston area, offers four tips for parents to address tragedies with their children – and to take time to process it themselves, too.
- “Talking to Children about Death”: Rabbi Mencher also penned this Jewish perspective on 10 common questions parents ask when helping children to better deal with death, grief, and mourning.
- JECC’s Responding to Crisis: This site, a project of the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, is dedicated to helping Jewish educators work through times of crisis. The site includes: resources to help children respond to tragedy, created with the guidance of various professionals; several sections offering avenues for response (through the Jewish tradition, through the spoken word, through the arts, etc.); a collection of Jewish texts that may be appropriate in various crises; and a collection of resources that complement the curriculum guide.
Resources for Prayer
As we mourn the lives lost and those lives changed forever by terror, we pray for the victims and for the future of our country. Here are a few prayers (including transliteration) and poems to help us find the right words to speak to God about our grief.
- Mourner’s Kaddish: This ancient prayer has been on the lips of Jewish mourners around the world for centuries.
- "Song for Healing: Music to Listen to After Tragedy": Cantor Rosalie Boxt has compiled a playlist of songs, both Jewish and otherwise, that can be used in gatherings of healing and hope for all faiths who want to stand together against violence and hate.
- “Liturgical and Support Resources": The Reform Movement's rabbinical organization, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) shares a number of beautiful prayers of healing. Download the PDF to print in whole or in part, dependent on your needs.
- “A Kaddish after Gun Violence, for When Humanity Fails Itself”: Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA, wrote this powerful original prayer in the immediate wake of the shootings in Las Vegas.
- “A Liturgy after Terror Attacks”: This four-piece liturgy from Jerusalem-based writer Alden Solovy includes “After a Terror Attack,” “To Terror Survivors,” “To the Terrorists,” and “Let Tranquility Reign.”
- "Prayer After Hateful Violence Against Houses of Worship": This general-use prayer was also written by Alden Solovy. It includes a fill-in-the-blank line so it can be used in the immediate aftermath of an attack.
- "After a Deadly Anti-Semitic Attack": This prayer by Alden Solovy was adapted in response to various acts of anti-Semitic terror, tailored to each individual situation.
- “Havdalah with a Gun: A Poem after Violence”: Reform Jewish poet Stacey Zisook Robinson wrote this piece to help cope with the ongoing tragedies of mass shootings and acts of gun violence.
Resources for Action
Please join us in taking action to prevent gun violence.
- Take part in the Reform community’s efforts: Visit rac.org/gvp for resources from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, including action alerts, news updates, and the latest information about gun violence prevention through a Reform Jewish perspective.
- Join the teen movement to prevent gun violence: NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement offers resources created by teens, for teens, on the topic of gun violence prevention. Visit nfty.org/gvp for individual action items for teens and adults, as well as ways your synagogue youth group can get involved in this vital work. Here, you can also sign up to stay informed of breaking news about NFTY's latest efforts to prevent gun violence in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
- Follow the work of our partners: To find additional ways to get involved and to learn more about gun violence prevention efforts nationwide, visit Everytown for Gun Safety, The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Metro-IAF's Do Not Stand Idly By Campaign.