Jun. 30, 2006
Initiative to educate community about issues of gun control, safety measures and awareness.
Community Contact Information:
Monmouth Reform Temple
Tinton Falls, NJ
- Educating the congregation and community-at-large about gun control and safety.
- Engaging members of the congregation in public advocacy.
Overview: A.S.K. Asking Saves Kids is based on the Talmud’s teaching that to save a life is to save the world. This program began when the congregation presented a gun safety and awareness forum featuring the founders of PAX (Real Solutions to Gun Violence), U.S. Senator Jon Corzine, and a family in the congregation whose child was shot at a neighbor’s house. As a result of the overwhelming response to this forum, the Social Action Committee decided to train over fifty volunteers in advocacy techniques. The congregation creatively partnered with a national not-for-profit alliance, PAX, to start this grassroots advocacy effort.
Identify an issue of public safety that affects the community and the congregation. Organize a training session for members of the congregation and the community-at-large about advocacy techniques relating to the chosen topic. Invite local legislators, public officials, and public advocates from advocacy networks related to your field of interest to participate in and speak to members of the training. After the training, create a network of educators who can speak to local groups about the importance of public safety.
In order to facilitate community involvement, the congregation sought people to speak at Parent-Teacher Associations. Three middle school students became early spokespersons, introducing the A.S.K. campaign to parent-teacher groups at four local schools. Since these initial presentations, members of the congregation have given similar talks at a nursery school, a drug and alcohol alliance, and another Jewish congregation. The volunteers continued to spread their message by giving workshops at two URJ Regional Biennials, where they distributed information and offered to coach other groups seeking to start their own A.S.K. community action programs. Further, committee members volunteered at A.S.K. events in the community and urge parents to make informed decisions about where their children play.
In order to decrease the visibility of guns of any kind in their neighborhood, the temple organized a toy exchange where children exchanged their toy guns for nonviolent toys. Congregants made a sculpture, using the collected toy guns, spelling out the words “Please Ask!” which has been an effective publicity tool for their efforts. The congregation has also supported PAX through fund-raising, so that other communities can have the materials necessary to become involved in this cause.
Overall, this program encourages educators to speak at local public forums, such as schools and neighboring congregations about gun control.
This multi-year effort has already educated over 1,000 people on the importance of open and honest communication about guns in order to ensure the safety of children. It presented the issue of gun violence from a nonpartisan, public health standpoint. Because of this, the congregation and larger community is better informed about public safety concerns and better able to engage in advocacy work which positively impacts the local community. The congregation’s admirable diligence in this campaign serves as a role model for congregations that hope to educate others on issues of public concern.