By Gordon Joseloff
Westport’s Temple Israel, no stranger to gun violence, has declared itself a “Gun Safe Congregation.”
Rabbi Michael Friedman: time do do something. Temple Israel photo
In a note to congregation members in the temple’s latest Chronicle news bulletin, Michael S. Friedman, senior rabbi, said, “Senseless gun violence has claimed far too many lives.
“As your rabbi, I can no longer stand in front of our congregation in good conscience and bemoan these tragedies as I have so many times.”
Friedman said it is time to “do something about it” and thus he was launching an initiative to make Temple Israel a “Gun Safe Congregation.”
He said Temple Israel –- where two protesters disrupted a luncheon in May 2015, prompting an erroneous report one carried a gun (see WestportNow Oct. 13, 2015) — would be “the very first congregation – Jewish, Christian, or Muslim – to brand itself in this manner.”
While shooting rampages cannot be stopped elsewhere, “We can save lives here in Westport and Weston,” the rabbi said.
Friedman said the initiative would include banning guns at Temple Israel. “Simply put, no one should feel the need to being a firearm into Temple Israel,” he said.
He added: “We have a trained security team here. We have an excellent relationship with the Westport Police Department. We review our security stance on a regular basis. Our congregation is safe.”
Other aspects of a Gun Safe Congregation, he said, include lock and key storage if there are firearms at home, gun safety training, and asking neighbors where a child visits if there is a gun in the house and whether it is safely secured.
“I know this may feel nosy or embarrassing, but we have to ask the question,” Friedman said. “And we have to keep asking the question until it is a part of the culture of our entire community.”
The rabbi said the temple would lobby for “sensible state and federal legislation to make our community safer” and encourage introduction of smart gun technology into the marketplace.
He concluded: “By becoming a Gun Safe Congregation we act to preserve the sanctity of human life and we increase peace in the world. May it be so.”
In 1996, Temple Israel was the site of a murder- suicide of a synagogue employee by her estranged husband.
Harriette Hunter, 48, of Bridgeport, an administrative assistant at Temple Israel’s religious school, was shot and killed by Stuart Hunter, 56, in the synagogue’s religious school offices.
Stuart Hunter then shot and killed himself.