HARRISBURG — Speaking before hundreds of people in the Pennsylvania Capitol Building, Rabbi David Straus of Main Line Reform Temple called gun violence the “moral issue of our time.”
He was among a number of Philadelphia-area rabbis and other Jews who made up a sizable portion of the crowd at a Jan. 23 rally to prevent gun violence and push for new gun-control legislation.
Several area synagogues sent buses or caravans of cars to the event, which was sponsored by CeaseFirePa, Heeding God’s Call and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
After the rally, activists attended a prayer vigil and met with lawmakers to lobby for new measures.
Among the 400-500 people crammed into the East Capitol Building, many wearing kipot, Rabbi Yitzhak Nates stood out. The religious leader of the Narberth Havurah wore a bright blue tallit with a large red heart painted on it. For years, Nates said, he has lamented that more Jews didn’t get involved with the issue of gun control. “Maybe this could be a turning point,” he said.
Among the measures activists were calling for: background checks on all guns or ammunition bought in the state; a requirement that gun owners report stolen or missing guns; a requirement that Pennsylvania send relevant data to the National Criminal Background Check; and the elimination of a loophole that lets people from other states carry a concealed weapon when it is not permissible here.
With several gun enthusiasts scattered in the crowd, trying to make their own case, State Sen. Daylin Leach said in a speech that it is a myth that advocates want to disarm every citizen.