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Reform urge gun control activism

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 20 (JTA) — Reform movement congregations are throwing their full weight behind gun control with what they hope will be action, and not just rhetoric.

A resolution, titled “Ending gun violence,” passed overwhelmingly and without debate at the convention of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The vote occurred Sunday, the final day of the UAHC’s five-day gathering.

The resolution calls on every Reform Jew to contact his or her representative and senator “demanding that effective gun control be enacted during the next congressional session.”

The resolution grew out of the Sabbath sermon delivered by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the UAHC, in which he called the National Rifle Association “the criminals’ lobby.”

“There exists in the United States a powerful lobby that supports the right of any crook or any wife beater to buy almost any weapon at almost any time, no questions asked,” he said of the NRA in his speech.

Noting that 12 children die from gunfire in America every day, Yoffie said, “Our only hope to save children’s lives is a take-no-prisoners, give-no-quarter campaign against the NRA.”

The resolution passed by the 4,500 Reform Jews attending the convention also calls upon its constituents to: invite elected officials to appear in the movement’s synagogues to explain their position on gun control and become involved in broader anti-violence coalitions in their local communities that press for effective gun control at all levels.

This isn’t the first time the movement has taken a stance in support of gun control.

This time, however, the UAHC called for particular action because several gun control bills are expected to be taken up by Congress when it reconvenes in January.

Several spiritually oriented resolutions emerged from Yoffie’s Shabbat sermon, including one endorsing Jewish child-oriented family programs that he suggested, and one calling on Reform congregations to put into motion the worship initiatives he is advocating.

Other politically related resolutions passed by delegates at the conference included one condemning the criminal justice system for disparities in the way it treats white and black defendants

The resolution reiterated the movement’s position, in place since 1959, opposing the death penalty, and called for increased recruitment of minority police officers, support of legislation prohibiting discriminatory racial profiling, and support of legislation to repeal state and federal laws requiring mandatory imprisonment for first-time drug offenders.

Another resolution, one calling for the United States to lift its embargo of Cuba, was deferred for later consideration, according to a spokeswoman for the UAHC, because delegates from Miami and other communities in South Florida with a significant Cuban presence wanted to debate the issue and time for discussing the proposals had run out.

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