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entries tagged with: Rabbi Joel Mosbacher

 

Reform Judaism in transition

Local synagogues ready to plan the future

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After 16 years as leader of the Reform movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie handed the reins to Rabbi Richard Jacobs at last weekend’s convention.

Local leaders of Reform congregations returned from the movement’s biennial convention in a Washington suburb floating on clouds, energized, and determined to meet the challenge — set by the movement’s leadership — of more than doubling synagogue participation by high school seniors by the end of this decade.

“We all came back so charged up,” said Rabbi Elyse Frishman, of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes. “It was a fantastic renewal opportunity.”

With more than 6,000 attendees, the biennial was the largest ever, the first to be sold out, and one of the largest indoor gatherings of American Jews ever.

“It was amazing,” said Irene Bolton, director of lifelong learning at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township.

“It is the most awesome experience to sit in a space with 6,000 other Jews and to participate in Shabbat services as a group, and to be awed by the feeling of spirituality that permeates a space like that,” she said.

“You have to walk out of the biennial saying, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s hope for the Jewish people,’” she said.

The president of the Union of Reform Judaism leads the denomination in a way unmatched by his Orthodox or Conservative counterparts. This is a function of the URJ’s centrality within the Reform movement’s constellation of organizations, as well as the fact that, unlike the parallel organizations, the presidency of the URJ is a full-time position. Both the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Orthodox Union are nominally headed by lay leaders who hold relatively short tenures.

Biennial pronouncements and initiatives by URJ leaders are subsequently quoted in a way reminiscent of how Chabad-Lubavitch followers quote the teachings of their late leader.

This year, the theme seemed to be reinventing Reform congregations to create “sustainable” communities that can retain the next generation.

The scope of the challenge was highlighted by the farewell sermon of Rabbi Eric Yoffie, whose 16 years at the URJ’s helm ended at the event. Yoffie noted that neither of his children belong to Reform synagogues.

Yoffie’s son, 28, is not a member of a synagogue, “but feels very much connected to his Jewish identity, and Israel and social justice are big passions for him,” said Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, of Congregation Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah.

“His daughter is married and attends a modern Orthodox synagogue, but still considers herself a Reform Jew. She reads Torah on Shabbat morning,” said Mosbacher.

“Things need to change in how we educate our kids and how we sustain our families. That’s the challenge of the movement, and the opportunity, if we think big and creatively,” said Mosbacher.

With its new “Campaign for Youth Engagement,” the URJ is focusing on the statistic that “80 percent of the children who become b’nei mitzvah will have no connection of any kind to their Jewish community by the time they reach 12th grade,” in the wording on the campaign’s web site.

“We can’t abide that,” said Mosbacher. “We can’t move forward as a movement with those demographics. We have to figure out ways to engage our youth and, by extension, the families that belong to the congregation in a different kind of way.”

“The goal of the campaign is that by 2020, we move that number from 20 percent to 50 percent who will stay involved through high school,” he said.

While the campaign defines a goal, it does not prescribe set programs to achieve it.

This reflects a bottom-up approach that attendees connect to the agenda of the new URJ president, Rabbi Richard Jacobs.

“We’re really moving away from that hierarchical corporate approach to how we do business, to a sense of looking outside of ourselves and saying, who needs us, how do we draw people in, how do we engage Jews in a meaningful way,” said Frishman.

“The youth engagement campaign is about helping the congregations ask intentional, challenging questions about themselves, about whether everything is as excellent as can be,” said Mosbacher. “If it’s not excellent, what are the other methods that are out there that can make the synagogue excellent?

“Rabbi Jacobs said we should not be talking about the unaffiliated; we should talk about uninspiring congregations. We need to look at what’s inspiring people.

“My educator and my cantor and my lay leadership have come back eager to ask hard questions of ourselves. If we ask those hard questions of ourselves, we will necessarily need to come up with new and creative alternatives,” he said.

The changes called for at the biennial are less a U-turn than an acceleration of changes Reform congregations are making to deal with a changing world.

Take the example of Hebrew school — clearly central to engaging teenagers.

“To say that ‘I hated Hebrew school and you my child will hate Hebrew school’ is not a sustainable model. But there are excellent models. We need to see how to use them,” said Mosbacher. “Drop-off Hebrew school is not the most excellent model we can offer,” he said.

Seven years ago, his congregation began a family school, where children and adults study Hebrew and Judaics together. Data show that participating families are more connected to the synagogue — “though whether that’s because they’re self-selected is for the professional demographers to figure out.”

The challenge now: how to make the family school the rule, not the exception.

At Barnert Temple, said Frishman, “we’re involved in an educational self-study looking at how we teach our youth and our adults. We’re looking to completely re-examine our methodology and our outreach, as a way of engaging people meaningfully.”

The study held its initial focus groups two weeks ago, and the plan is for the study to be completed in about a year.

“This work is as much about engaging people in the process, and having the process be determined by participants. By the time we have figured out what we’re doing, we’ll already be doing it. This is all the thinking that goes on behind community organizing, which is at the heart of the leadership that goes on at the URJ,” said Frishman.

The fact that the process is already underway, however, did not diminish the significance of the biennial. “When you’re with all these other synagogues and everybody is hearing this message, It’s a chance to say, ‘it’s not just us, this is the way it’s being done,’” she said.

Similarly, Temple Beth Or is in the initial stages of a major educational change. The congregation has just begun a new program for its post-bar mitzvah students — the focus of the youth engagement initiative — in the wake of the ending of the closure last year of the Bergen Academy of Reform Judaism.

“As a congregation, we picked up that piece after BARJ. We understood that there was a need to integrate students into Jewish life and learning. We were sad that BARJ was no longer in existence, but you know the expression that God closes a door and opens a window? We were able to open the window.”

“We found we had very few students attending BARJ. Today, we have 25 students in a post-bar mitzvah program who are learning together, who are having fun together, who are building community together, and who are here on the same night as the younger students.

“We can find ways to involve the teens in coming back and reading Torah again, or being present for a minyan if we have a shiva minyan, or helping us with our caring committee,” said Bolton.

Her work as an educator is not just focused on the “classroom environment, but I’m thinking about what kind of programs can we provide, what kind of mentors and role models can we provide, how are we going to work with them on an intergenerational basis so there will be a charismatic adult in their life,” she said.

This shift from classic textbook education to experiential education is something that Bolton said was evident in the way the biennial convention has changed over the years that she has attended.

“This biennial was much more about experiencing, feeling, and participating, whereas when I began in Jewish education over 30 years ago and went to my first biennial, it was much more about what class can we offer, what project can we do, what program will work. Today, it was much more about the big picture, about helping people internalize and find meaning.

“Teaching Torah is what this was all about. Building community, finding ways for us to link together, to connect, to become a more caring community that puts Torah at the center,” said Bolton.

The bottom line, said Frishman, “is understanding how living Jewishly as a Reform Jew is powerful. It gives you a voice in the work of the world. Our mission is not just to light a Chanukah menorah; it’s to light it and think ‘How can the light of Judaism inspire me to light the world and open my arms to everyone? ‘It’s the message of Reform Judaism, part and parcel of who we are as Reform Jews, to know that what I’ve learned as a Jew isn’t for me alone, but for the way I interact with the stranger and help the life of the stranger to improve.”

 
 

Rabbis split on gay marriage bill

Last-minute effort by ‘Values’ group fails to move legislators

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Rabbi Joel Mosbacher (left) speaks on behalf of same-sex marriage. To his left is Rabbi Mary Zamore of Temple B’nai Or in Morristown; Rabbi David Fine speaks on behalf of the same sex marriage bill as Rabbi David Greenstein (right) waits his turn.

In advance of the votes this week in Trenton to recognize same-sex marriages, rabbis testified both for and against — but the numbers were on the side of what is being referred to as “marriage equality.”

A last-minute effort by Orthodox opponents of gay marriage to rally opposition had no apparent effect, as the New Jersey State Senate passed the measure on Monday by a wider than expected 24-16 margin. A vote in the State Assembly was scheduled for Thursday, after this newspaper went to press. Gov. Chris Christie has promised a veto; the Democrats who sponsored the bill have until the end of the legislative session in 2014 to override that veto.

In the Senate, that would require gaining three more votes.

On Sunday night, before the vote, an Orthodox group calling itself Torah Values Defence placed what it said were 25,000 “robocalls,” urging New Jersey residents to call their state senator in opposition to the bill. Rabbi Nosson Leiter, of Monsey, an organizer of Torah Values Defence and spokesman for the Lakewood-based Garden State Parents for Moral Values, called the bill “very anti-Torah, anti-moral, anti-American.”

Leiter was one of two Orthodox rabbis who testified in opposition to gay marriage in committee hearings last month, along with Rabbi Moshe Bresler of Lakewood. Ten rabbis — from Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist congregations — testified in favor.

The two statewide Orthodox organizations which regularly lobby in Trenton — the Institute of Public Affairs of the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel — did not testify at last month’s hearings.

Instead, the Orthodox Union worked with the legislation’s lead sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Ray Lesniak, to include protections for the religious liberties of institutions opposed to same-sex marriage in the bill, which was formally titled the “Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act.”

In a statement, the OU repeated its opposition “to the redefinition of marriage” and the legislation, while expressing gratitude for the protection of their religious liberty.

“Disturbingly, in too many states, those acting on their religious beliefs have seen government benefits withheld, government funds, contracts and services denied, and privileges such as tax exemptions revoked. We are hopeful that New Jersey’s bill will be enacted and enforced in a manner that ensures that this will not happen here and that employers, social service providers, and houses of worship will be free to uphold their faith,” said the statement.

Leiter criticized other Orthodox groups for not making the definition of marriage a top priority, rather than “getting funding for their programs and yeshivahs.”

“We will put morality and Torah values over material concerns. We will not be bought off,” he said. “The misperception that Orthodox people are over-focused on getting their material needs addressed has to be destroyed. That’s one reason we made that robocall. We know the grass roots does the right thing, but they’re not told what’s the right thing.”

Leiter said he was appointed to head the battle for “marriage integrity” at a meeting of rabbis in Monsey several years ago. He said he helped arrange the rabbinic p’sak halachah (rabbinic ruling on a matter of law) last fall that urged Orthodox Jews to vote against David Weprin in a hotly contested Queens congressional race. The Democratic assemblyman, who is Orthodox, had supported same-sex marriage.

Among those testifying for gay marriage was Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah. He was part of a delegation of rabbis organized by Garden State Equality.

Mosbacher said he spoke “on behalf of members of my congregation whose love and care for each other can be recognized within the walls of my synagogue, but when they walk the streets and enter the schools of their children, and they enter the hospitals and nursing homes, and all the public places of New Jersey, their relationships aren’t recognized.”

“Government should embrace an inclusive definition of marriage,” he said. “I’m angry that the holdings of any one religion can determine the bounds of government-determined civil marriage.”

Rabbi David Greenstein of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, a Conservative congregation in Montclair, compared opponents of gay marriage to inhabitants of Sodom.

“What was the evil of the inhabitants of Sodom?” he said.

He cited the Talmud as delineating the sin of Sodom as “to be opposed to someone deriving a benefit where their derivation of benefit causes no harm.”

Talmudic explanations of the sin of Sodom often widely digress from the traditional understanding. For opposing giving same-sex couples the benefits of marriage, he said, “those who oppose this bill are in that way the true Sodomites.”

Rabbi David Fine, of Temple Israel of Ridgewood, a Conservative congregation, told the State Senate committee that “the celebration of marriages is a theological dispute, and I would ask the legislature not to establish one religious view over another, and permit me the right to such celebrations and solemnizations.”

Fine was a co-author of a 2006 responsum for the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), which argued that the traditional prohibition on homosexual activity no longer applied. The responsum was voted down as too radical even to be considered as an acceptable minority opinion. The CJLS instead approved two opposing responsa — one reaffirming its 1992 decision against all homosexual activity; the other permitting most (but not all) homosexual acts, the solemnization of same-sex relationships, and opening the doors of the Jewish Theological Seminary to outwardly gay rabbinical students.

Regardless of which side Conservative Jews come down on the 2006 decisions, Fine told The Jewish Standard, they should support same sex marriage rights.

“The position of the Conservative movement since 1990 is to oppose any civil discrimination against gays and lesbians,” he said. “It seems to me that what we’re talking about is a civil issue. We wouldn’t want anyone to have any less protection under the law, whether or not their marriage is acceptable under Jewish law or Christian canon. It should not be a contested issue.

 
 

Never question your effectiveness. Just go

Local leaders make emergency trip to Israel before cease-fire

One simple principle made Rabbi Joel Mosbacher leave Mahwah to travel to areas of Israel under fire from Gaza: “You go see your family when they need you, not only in the good times,” he said.

Mosbacher, the spiritual leader of the Reform congregation Beth Haverim-Shir Shalom, elaborated. “I wanted to see the situation for myself so I could understand it on the ground and at large as much as possible, to find out more about ways in which American Jewry can connect with Israelis now,” he said.

Mosbacher was the sole New Jerseyan in a delegation of 12 lay and professional leaders from the Jewish Federations of North America who made a two-day emergency solidarity mission to Israel’s south during Operation Pillar of Defense and made a $5 million commitment to the Israel Terror Relief Fund.

A delegation from the Rabbinical Council of America, led by its president, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Englewood, followed close behind JFNA. And a separate Englewood group, inspired by congregational rabbis Goldin (of Congregation Ahavath Torah) and Zev Reichman (of the East Hill Synagogue), gave up Thanksgiving at home to be with Israelis on the front lines. Ahavath Torah’s assistant rabbi, Mordechai Gershon, also was part of the group.

“I was very torn initially,” Ahavath Torah member Scott Herschmann said. “I knew that practically speaking I wasn’t going to contribute much, but as I watched rockets being fired on cities in the south from the comfort of my couch, I had to get up and do something to help — whether by buying products from stores in the affected cities, or bringing supplies and words of appreciation to soldiers. I left my wife and four kids at home to be in the middle of a war because I felt that joining my brothers and sisters in Israel shows ‘am Yisrael chai’” — the nation of Israel lives.

Speaking to the Jewish Standard en route to Tel Aviv from Ashkelon, Mosbacher recounted that his group had met with a trauma specialist in Sderot, the border city that has absorbed thousands of rockets from Gaza over the past dozen years.

“I did some chaplaincy work with first responders after Sandy,” last month’s destructive superstorm, “so to watch Israeli first responders struggling with their own emotions and needs and obligations has been impactful for me,” Mosbacher said.

The JFNA group spent time with a family whose home was struck by a missile, with elderly citizens of a southern Israeli moshav, or cooperative village, and in one of 60 Ashkelon bomb shelters.

“I spoke with a 9-year-old girl who was painting a tribute to the Israeli army on the wall of the shelter,” Mosbacher said. “That resonated with me, because my son is 9. I asked her how she is doing and she said, ‘Down here we can’t hear anything.’ To see Israeli strength and vulnerability has been very emotional.”

The RCA group, 20 strong, had a packed schedule from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday night, mainly arranged on the fly. “The things we’ve done have been unbelievable,” Goldin said.

“We said Tehillim [Psalms] in an apartment in Kiryat Malachi where three people were killed, and we made a shiva call to one of the families of the victims,” he said. “We’ve had military lectures explaining the situation to us as it was developing. We went to an Iron Dome installation near Beersheva, and we visited four injured soldiers at Beersheva’s Soroka Medical Center. People kept thanking us for coming, and I kept turning it around to say, ‘We thank you for being here and defending the country, and thus defending world Jewry.’”

On the day before Thanksgiving, the RCA and Englewood groups traveled together and experienced the panic of a “red alert” signaling 90 seconds in which to find cover from incoming missiles.

East Hill Synagogue member Brian Haimm watched the Iron Dome missile interception system at work. “While we were there, an alarm went off and in seconds you heard a popping in the sky,” he said, noting that the Hebrew for “Iron Dome” is Kippat Barzel. The word “kippah” is more often used to mean “skullcap.” “Wearing a kippah is to acknowledge that God above is protecting all of us,” said Haimm, who also helped deliver 2,500 pre-Chanukah jelly doughnuts to soldiers massed on the border with Gaza.

David Wisotsky, a pediatrician and member of Ahavath Torah, was especially moved by his visit to the Jewish National Fund’s 21,000-square-foot sheltered play space in Sderot.

“The children in Sderot haven’t been able to play outside for the 10 or 12 years that Sderot has been under rocket fire,” he said. “Soldiers were playing games with them instead of nannies, but that was normal for them.”

Wisotsky’s son Adam, 34, a social worker from Passaic, recalled that on a NORPAC lobbying mission to Washington several years ago, he used the political action committee’s talking points to encourage lawmakers’ support for “a certain mode of security for Israel. I did not know much about it, but later I heard it had passed.” That was, of course, the economic assistance package to build the Iron Dome.

“About two days ago, I was standing there looking at rockets pouring over Sderot, and Iron Dome shooting them down, saving countless lives,” Wisotsky continued. “Because of that little bit of involvement that I didn’t even understand at the time, thousands of lives have been saved. In the same way, we may not fully understand the benefits of our presence here, but people really do care that we came, and you never know how it impacts each person.”

Goldin added that many of the group had debated whether their presence would matter. “Every time we’ve come as a community during times like this, uniformly everyone we met thanked us for coming and thought it was just wonderful that we came,” said Goldin, who led a congregational mission in 1999 to bring toys, shoes, and medicine to children in a Macedonian refugee camp during the war in Kosovo. “When they see people dropped everything to come, that is a message you can’t give any other way.

“You should never question your effectiveness. Just go.”

 
 

Doing something about gun violence

Joanne PalmerLocal
Published: 11 January 2013

Feeling moral indignation about gun violence is an important first step, and prayer is an activity that he values tremendously, Rabbi Joel Mosbacher said.

But those things, as fundamental as they are, simply are not enough.

Gun violence has become an epidemic in this country, he feels, and it must end.

Mosbacher is the rabbi of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, a congregation whose principles lead it to a great deal of social activism. This week, he convened a group of local clergypeople to figure out strategies that could lead to real-world change.

Twenty clergy members — 17 from northern New Jersey and three from Rockland County — have joined the group; 15 of them came to the first meeting. The group includes Reform and Conservative rabbis and representatives from Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Dutch Reformed churches and the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson.

“The purpose of the gathering is to explore some initial steps toward making an impact on gun legislation from a moral, ethical, and religious perspective,” Mosbacher said. “We feel that we could have a powerful voice because we come from religious traditions that speak powerfully about saving lives, and about our obligation not to stand idly by the blood of our neighbors.

“The impetus for me, and I think for everyone there, was that we’ve all been at vigils,” he said. “Not only for Newtown” — the Connecticut village where 20 young children and six adults were killed by a gunman, fresh from murdering his mother, using his mother’s guns — “but for Aurora” — where a body-armored gunman opened fire in a movie theater, killing 12 and grievously wounding dozens — “and for Tucson” — where another crazed shooter killed six people and severely wounded others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — “and for Columbine” — where two high school students shot up their school and killed 13 students, injuring two dozen more.

They have prayed, Mosbacher said, “and maybe it is an occupational hazard but I believe that prayer is important.

“But the question is what are we praying for? Can we act? Yes, prayer is an act, and expressing moral indignation is an act, but can we do more to effect change?”

Clearly, he believes that the answer to that last rhetorical question is yes.

“Our general goals are to work for the kinds of legislation that protect children and innocent citizens while respecting hunters and sportsmen who use guns in a responsible way for sporting purposes,” he said.

He stressed that the group is not trying to test the boundaries of the Second Amendment, much less work for its repeal. “I have congregants in my own congregation who are worried about legislative slips, who worry that banning 80-round clips will lead to banning all guns,” he said. “That is not my goal.” Nor would it be a realistic goal anyway, he added.

“We want to focus on change that would be real and meaningful, not on fruitless debates with diehard gun advocates. The battle is not with the NRA” — the National Rifle Association. “For now, we want to focus on closing the gun show loophole, limiting the number of guns people could buy in a month to one, passing legislation that would limit the number of bullets in a clip, let’s say to 10, and demanding universal background checks on gun buyers.” (The gun show loophole allows unlicensed vendors to sell guns without background checks.)

The goal “is to create a broad coalition on this issue,” he continued. “We don’t want it to be just of liberal progressive folks, but of people across the range of political and religious perspectives who think it is time to act.”

The group that met, as diverse as it was, was interestingly united in its understanding of the problem of gun violence, Mosbacher said. An entirely unscientific poll on the four issues the group wants to address drew unanimous agreement.

The meeting ended with a plan.

The New Jersey participants came from many legislative districts. “We’ve already done some research, and we know that five members of the New Jersey delegation to Washington historically have not been supportive of gun control legislation, so we’re trying to get meetings with them,” Mosbacher said “We’ve already asked for a meeting with [Rep. Scott] Garrett [R-Dist. 5]. A number of people there were from [Rep. Rodney] Freylinghausen’s [R-Dist. 11] district and will ask for a meeting with him. We would like to ask about their plans on how to limit gun violence in this county.

“The intention is to do that in private, with groups of clergy, across lines of race and faith and class and geography.

“That’s Step 1.

“Step 2 — we’re hoping to put together a public gathering in the next few weeks, where we would report back on those meetings, share stories from our members about how gun violence has affected us. In the ideal world, we’d have these legislators with us at the meetings, and we would ask them publicly the same questions we’d asked them privately.

“The public meeting is for everybody,” Mosbacher continued. “We would share stories about why this matters. We hope the legislators, if they could come, would be willing to support some of those things, and we’d publicly celebrate them. Or if not they could come and debate with us.”

This, Mosbacher said, is the group’s northern New Jersey strategy.

On the statewide level, “in the beginning of February, we are going to put together a clergy gathering, with the idea of trying to meet with all the members of the New Jersey delegation who historically have not been supportive of gun control legislation.”

The plan is to be bipartisan. Although Democrats are in favor of gun control legislation in New Jersey while Republicans tend to be against it, Mosbacher said, that pattern does not hold across the country. Many Democrats support the NRA. The issue of gun control ideally should not be bound by partisan politics, Mosbacher believes.

On the most ambitious level — the national stage — Mosbacher dreams of organizing a march on Washington “that might bring together an unlikely, diverse group of people – clergy, police officers, doctors, other health care workers. The goal is not just to bring the usual progressive coalition.

“If it’s just northeast progressives, we’ll feel good about it, but it won’t be as effective,” he said. “We want everyone there, in the same space.”

It is important to act now, he added, “because there is a limited window of time.” Why? Because people forget.

“They already are forgetting. The horror that we all felt after Newtown will fade, and soon the president and vice president will propose whatever legislation they propose, and heels will begin to dig in in Washington, as they always do.”

Mosbacher knows gun control isn’t the only issue. “We feel we can make a significant impact, but it will not completely resolve the problem of gun violence. Do we have to have a conversation about access to mental health care? Yes. Do we have to have a conversation about violence in the media? Yes.

“Right now, we’re trying to highlight or identify a few concrete, potentially winnable steps that could make an impact right away.”

Mosbacher is propelled into this work both by an abstract belief in its importance and a more personal understanding of the misery a gun can cause. “Fourteen years ago, my father was murdered,” he said. “He was a victim of gun violence – although the sad truth is that no legislation is likely to have saved him.”

Mosbacher’s father owned a small business on Chicago’s South Side. “He was held up, and it turned into a murder,” Mosbacher said.

“I’ve always known that nothing good could come out of his murder. He will never come back.

“We know the names of the victims of Newtown and the people who were at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the victims of Aurora and Columbine. And we should know them. But there are 30,000 victims of gun violence every year. Nobody knows their names.”

He was not the only person at the meeting to have been affected personally by gun violence, Mosbacher said. “It was amazing how many people have connections to it. We think that it’s an urban problem – that it doesn’t affect Jews, or people who live in the suburbs. We’re wrong.

“There are 300 million guns in private hands. I have to be clear. We are in no way saying that it is our goal to take back those guns.” Instead, he hopes for legislation that controls how they are bought, sold, and used.

Mosbacher knows that the problem is huge and seemingly intractable, but he is not daunted.

“This is a community organizational model,” he said. “People of faith who have organized money and organized people can be powerful. We hope that out of this gathering of people of faith will grow powerful efforts on a wide range of issues.

 
 
 
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