No, I won’t sign

By Rabbi Elisa Koppel

I lost count of how many requests I’ve received to sign the Sandy Hook Elementary School National Sympathy Card.  I have to admit that I find myself bothered every time I see it.  Most of the time, since it’s from a petition site, it comes with a message that my signature will make a difference.  And really, signing that particular statement is not how I want to use the power of my name.  I’ve ignored the request every time.

It’s not that I think it’s a bad statement–it isn’t.  It’s not that I don’t care–I certainly do. But, at the same time, the message doesn’t really say anything and it’s almost too easy to feel good myself about having “done something” in response to the shooting.  There are many other ways that I’d rather respond to this tragedy.  Ways that I feel can make more of a difference than digitally signing onto a card.

I did a funeral for a man yesterday who happened to have been a survivor of the Holocaust.  One of the things I learned about him in meeting with his family was that he was a many who loved love and hated hate.  He was so full of love, in fact, that when asked once by one of his daughters if he hated Adolf Hitler, he responded that he did not hate Hitler, but instead he pitied him–he had a terrible mother and a terrible life.  For a survivor of the Shoah to make that statement is a powerful testament to me to the power of love.  This lesson from this man’s legacy has very much informed my thought process of how I’m responding to what happened.

Here are some ways to act:

#26acts of kindness: Ann Curry has used the power of social media to encourage people to do 26 random acts of kindness to others, to honor the memory of the innocent lives lost in Newtown.  Do 26 things for others–join with 25 friends and each do a kidness.  But let’s bring more kindness to the world.

Make a snowflake: The Connecticut PTSA is doing a snowflake drive to decorate the halls of the new school that the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School will return to.  What a powerful way to show these kids and their families that they have tons and tons of people–unique individuals–on their side–mourning with them and supporting them.

Make Your Voice Heard: This incident has shown us that there are inherent problems in society that we need to do something about.  Gun violence is one of them.  I know I have my own opinions about how to create a system in which fewer innocent lives are lost to gun violence.  I’m sure you have your own views. Whatever those views are, write to your Members of Congress, call the White House.   Tell them what you think.

In addition, access to mental health care is important; we need to create workable systems through which care and treatment can be attained for mental illness.  We also need to stop stigmatizing mental illness, and help others to recognize that illness is illness–whether in the brain or in other parts of the body.  Share with others your ideas about how to make mental health care a priority.

Make your voice heard.

Donate: The Connecticut PTSA is also collecting money to help the community.  The classrooms that the kids will go to will need supplies.  The community needs so much to recover from this devastation.  A little money can go a long way.  Please consider giving.

Some day, I hope that we don’t have to worry about how to respond to tragedy.  I hope pray that such a day will come soon.  In the meantime, I believe that the more kindness–the more love–we bring into this world, the closer we’ll move towards that time.

Rabbi Elisa Koppel is the Acting Associate Rabbi at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, TX.  She blogs here:  She’s doing what she can to be mindful of bringing more kindness into the world and hopes you’ll help.


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