Letter to Jewish Congressman who receive NRA money

Dear Congressman Lee Zeldin & Congressman David Kustoff,

I recently took note that you’ve received $14,850 from the NRA since 2015. As a rabbi and citizen of the State of New York I find this reprehensible as the NRA is largely responsible for impeding common sense gun legislation that could potentially save thousands of American lives. Rep. David Kustoff you received $2,000 in your first year in Congress. Every dollar you take is stained with the blood of the 93 Americans who die every day in this country by guns. How many more innocent people need to die from gun violence before you and your colleagues decide to act and fulfill your responsibilities as elected officials?

Nearly 5 years ago I stood on the streets of Newtown, CT watching an endless flow of funeral processions for children who were murdered at school. With each passing hearse I offered a prayer that this tragedy not be in vain, imploring God to influence the hearts and souls of Congress to prevent further gun massacres. What a joke you’ve made of my prayers. Do you really not hear the cries of those children from the ground?

As a Jew — we’re tasked to answer Cain’s infamous question of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” with an emphatic “yes”.  Remaining indifferent to the plight of others is completely antithetical to Judaism and makes a mockery of what God demands of us. I actively protest gun violence and demand reform, not just as a civic responsibility but as a religious imperative. Judaism’s most sacred value is pikuach nefesh, saving a life. Whether one rescues a person drowning at sea or nourishes a starving soul, the obligation of protecting life is our most treasured religious duty.

In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead a line of children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 after a shooting at the school. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)  NEWTOWN BEE, SHANNON HICKS

I’m done praying and lowering the flag. The time demands action. After the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh which left 11 fellow Jews dead —  I hope you will now seriously reconsider taking future money from the NRA and work towards building a safer America. Do we not share the same dream of the prophet Isaiah where swords transform into plows and spears into pruning knives?


Rabbi Jonathan Leener

About the Author
Jonathan Leener is the rabbi of the Prospect Heights Shul in Brooklyn and is pursuing a master's degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Yeshiva University
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