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Vigil for Newtown victims urges stricter gun laws

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hundreds gathered at a Washington vigil on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings to call for tighter gun registration laws.

Victims, relatives and friends of those killed by guns, along with religious leaders and gun-control advocates, attended the vigil at the Washington National Cathedral.

The event began with a three-minute tolling of the cathedral’s Bourdon Bell, representing the many thousands who have lost their lives to guns since 20 children and six adults were killed last year at the school in Newtown, Conn.

“Today is a day of sorrow,” declared Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, as he began the 90-minute ceremony on Dec. 12 with a call to prayer. “Three hundred sixty five days and although there has been no appreciable legislative progress on the national level, there has been much honor with action seen all over the country.

“The Bible commands us not to stand idly by when faced with the blood of a neighbor,” he said, and while Judaism asks us to remember, “We know that memory alone is never enough.”

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke of the need for persistence, reminding those gathered that it took 150 years for women to gain the right to vote. “I am not counseling patience, my friends, but I am counseling persistence.”

“We shall never forget the names, the smiles, the promises, the touch, the laughter, the vacations, the presents, the hopes of our fallen loved ones,” said the Rev. Sam Saylor, pastor of a church in Hartford, Conn., and father of a 20-year-old son who was murdered.

Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Congregation Chaverim in Tucson, Ariz., mixed Hebrew and English, speaking and singing, as she called on people to listen to God’s small voice within and to have the courage to hear all the stories and stop the violence.

The event was organized by the non-profit Newtown Foundation and the cathedral.

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