By Rabbi Corinne Copnick

Like so many viewers across the country, I listened transfixed to deeply saddened but articulate young people tell personal stories about the traumatic school massacre at the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that has impacted their lives. They spoke about their firm resolve to prevent such an event from occurring ever again in America. Their slogan “#Never Again” resonates, of course, with the remembered horror of WWII’s Holocaust. What occurred at the MSD High School in America was a Holocaust of a different kind in a different era in a different country, but it was similarly the outgrowth of a hatred, callousness, and cruelty that has been allowed to surface and grow in this country. A divided house cannot stand. Our country is crying out for a unified vision of putting love, not hate, into practice — a country where misguided people do not have the opportunity to bear arms against their fellow citizens. It’s time to stand up and speak out for the values we cherish in the interest of effecting legislative change. Perhaps my generation – the grandma and grandpa generation with adult grandkids – is getting too old, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it when he marched alongside Martin Luther King – to “pray with our feet,” but we can still function in a supportive role.

In the mid-1970s, with a professional background in Theatre Arts, I returned (some 20 years after my first degree) to McGill University to write my Master’s thesis about role-playing, sociodramatic simulations that were taking place in the Montreal area. At the time, a simulation game called “Guns or Butter” was often enacted (in person, not on video screens as they are today) in educational circles. During the play-out, participants had to make intelligent choices as to how their money would be used in a way that benefited society rather than their own personal greed. In another popular simulation game, “Starpower,” the economic elite would invariably develop a fortress mentality; the lower classes could only rise in society when an educated middle class gave them leadership. Later, together with my team, I created and directed my own large-scale, role-playing simulation “game,” “Future Directions,” supporting the unity of Canada at a time when talk of Quebec’s separation was rampant. Again people had to make choices that were larger than their own personal interest. Sociodramatic simulations have to be used with great caution, however, because they seem so “real” and evoke such deep emotions in the participants.

What is happening now in America is not a dramatic simulation. It is real. The emotions are real. The life-changing memories will remain. I am so proud of the teenagers of Parkland for the way in which they are conducting themselves in the face of real horror, real choices to make for the future. Our combined future.

I am also very proud of my own granddaughter, Samantha, just turned eighteen, and a senior in high school. She was attending a conference in Sacramento, California through the program called “Youth and Government” the same weekend the shooting at Parkland, Florida took place. Four thousand young people attended with the goal of learning how government works, how legislation works, how the courts work. She has been participating throughout the year in a local chapter of this group, which is sponsored by the YMCA. (Incidentally, she won the mock legal case she presented as a “lawyer” in front of a real judge.)

The day after my grand-daughter returned from Sacramento to L.A., her school went into lockdown because a credible threat had been received in the area. Like the students in Parkland, she texted her mother from her classroom in disbelief.

Yes, there are lots of ways to murder people in all kinds of venues – knives, bombs, ramming cars into crowds, chemical attacks – and for all kinds of demented reasons. Somehow our society has lost its way. As a country that professes to revere God, even on our currency  – “in God we trust” — too many of us have forgotten to remember the biblical commandment, “You shall not murder (the Hebrew word is “murder,” not “kill”—so that, for example, you can “kill” someone in self-defense). It’s time to tie a string around the finger of our collective memory.

Not so incidentally, Jews are not supposed to hunt. In metaphorical recognition that human beings have been carnivores since Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden and had to forage for a living, we can eat domestic animals. Even then, every single time that we do, we sanctify the animal first in order to remind ourselves that we are taking a life. But we do not eat animals that eat other animals, or those that are scavengers – or consume their blood. Those injunctions are intended in part to prevent us from cultivating our own blood lust. The kosher laws exist within a moral framework we do well to honor.

May God bless our nation and bring healing, togetherness, and the spirit of goodwill back to our society.

©️Corinne Copnick, Los Angeles, 2018. All rights reserved.