Normally we choose to celebrate anniversaries. In Judaism, celebrations are referred to as "simchas," the Hebrew word for "gladness" or "joy."
December 14, 2012 was definitely not a "simcha" but a date which we must never forget.
It is a day when most of us can recall exactly where we were when learning 20 first graders and seven adults were brutally shot. I will never forget watching cable news that morning trying to follow exactly what was happening in Newtown, Connecticut. I immediately flashed back to April 1999 as I listened to similar news trying to make sense of the Columbine High School shooting massacre.
I will never forget calling my husband at his work on December 14th last year telling him the newscasters finally confirmed exactly who and how many were killed. I could barely talk because I was near hysterical. I was once a mother of a first grader and in that instant, I was again.
In Judaism, we commemorate the anniversary of a loved one's death which in Hebrew is referred to as a "yahrzeit." A Yahrzeit memorial candle is lit at sundown on the date of that person's death and burns undisturbed for 24 hours. In Jewish tradition the candle flame represents the human soul, according to the Book of Proverbs: "The soul of man is the candle of G-d."
On December 14, 2013 I will be lighting a yahrzeit candle for the Newtown victims with a heavy heart because they belong to all to us. They are our families, our children. We must all take responsibility and ensure their tragic deaths are not replicated in some other town, some other city. Particularly your town or your state.
This week I will be joining gun violence survivors, Newtown residents, other elected officials and Carole King at the National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. The National Cathedral was designated by Congress as our "National House of Prayer" during World War II and has seen numerous memorial services for former presidents, first ladies and other dignitaries. It is fitting that our nation's spiritual heart, the National Cathedral, is where we will grieve and remember America's innocent children and their teachers.
This is a heavy week of remembrance. Thirty-three years ago John Lennon was shot and killed. Twenty years ago Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy's husband was killed and her son critically wounded during the Long Island Railroad shooting massacre. A total of six died and 19 were injured. Six years ago 8 holiday shoppers were shot and killed and 4 injured at an Omaha shopping mall. Two years ago a gunman opened fire at the Clackamas Town Center mall near Portland, Oregon killing two and then himself. And that's not counting every other single gun violence victim across the country who senselessly were murdered during this same week.
I will join hand in hand with victims' families and activists from almost every state on December 14th who mourn these nonsensical losses. I will question via my faith why these innocent lives were tragically taken. I will cry many tears, curse and feel hopeless against America's ugly tide of violence.
But I will also renew my vow that I made 14 years ago to never forget, to never stop trying to end the violence and to never stop believing that America is better than this. I will continue my unwavering commitment, along with numerous other state legislators and members of Congress, to pass laws such as universal background checks for firearms which 90 percent of Americans want.
The Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns new ad released last week proclaims, "On December 14th, we'll have a moment of silence for Newtown. But with 26 more school shootings since that day, ask yourself -- is silence what America needs right now?"
Join with me, please. No more yahrzeits. No more silence.