By Lainey Komerofsky & Alexa Conrad, NFTY Texas Oklahoma
The recent shooting that occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas has our nation in a state of shock and vulnerability. How could something like this happen in our country and in our world? How could something as horrific and heartbreaking as this happen 30 miles away from my home? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and this is causing me to feel frustrated because the shooter should not have had access to a gun, he targeted a place of worship, and he killed twenty six innocent people.
I was coming home from a NFTY weekend filled with memories, friends, bonding, love, and learning when the attack occurred. As I sat on the bus next to my best friend traveling back home to San Antonio, he turned to me and showed me a news article. My heart dropped, and the feeling of joy and wholeness that so many of us experience at NFTY events completely drained from my body.
At NFTY-TOR’s Na’aseh V’nishma we learned about anti-Semitism and the Pyramid of Hate from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). This Pyramid of Hate teaches us how violent acts come to occur in our world. The higher up the act is on the pyramid, the more extreme and violent that act is. The pyramid starts with bias on level one, then develops into individual acts of prejudice on level two. After that, the issue becomes discrimination on level three, then bias-motivated violence on level four, and it ends with genocide on level five. Somehow, the perpetrator at Sutherland Springs made a leap up to the 4th layer of the 5 layer pyramid all at once.
We cannot let things like this happen in our community, but how do we know to veer away from them? How can we detect crimes like mass shootings and prevent them from taking place? I feel that the congregants of the First Baptist Church deserve answers to these pressing questions.
It is clear that serious action to address regulation surrounding the purchase of guns in Texas and across America must occur. Devin Kelley, the shooter, was discharged from the Air Force on account of his history of domestic abuse. His discharge and history should’ve raised red flags, and the fact that they didn’t is an issue. Because he received a bad conduct discharge and not a dishonorable discharge, his background check was clean when he went to purchase the weapon. Had his offenses been issued following the correct procedure and in the correct database, he would’ve been unable to purchase a weapon, possibly preventing this heinous act of violence from occurring. This man should not have been able to purchase a firearm. Even his record says so. Nonetheless, he was able obtain a weapon. Governor Greg Abbott asked the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), “How did this happen?” I wonder the same thing.
It is up to us to decide how we will respond to this attack in the coming weeks. It is up to us to take action against gun violence and seek justice for the people who lost their lives this Sunday in Sutherland Springs, and for all past victims of gun violence across the country.
The main lesson I took away from the training session at Na’aseh V’nishma highlighted the fact that religious groups are common targets and victims of hateful acts and crimes. This tragedy occurred in a place of faith and worship, and as an American, a Texan, and a Jew, I am filled with fear and frustration that motivates me to make a change.
One of the things I love most about NFTY is how quickly and seamlessly we come together to support each other. This event has shaken our community and diminished our sense of hope. I now ask that we stand together, as we always have, to address and combat the issues that our society is currently facing.
In the coming weeks, NFTY-TOR will be promoting a GoFundMe page focused on raising money to help pay for the medical bills that have piled up because of this mass shooting. All donations are tax deductible and will be sent directly to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Make a donation >
Additionally, we encourage everyone to contact their Congressional representatives and elected officials and demand that they support thorough background checks, as well as endorse legislation centered on gun violence prevention. Learn more about gun safety issues in America. Through this link you can contact your district representatives and express your desire for change. Together, we have a strong and powerful voice. Let us use it to bring peace to the Sutherland Springs community after this tragic event and stop something like this from occurring again.
My heart goes out to the congregants of the First Baptist Church and the families of the victims of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
זיכרונו לברכה, may their memories be a blessing.