Since my recent guest editorial in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in support of observing Pride Month, people have wondered if I’m gay, and perhaps that’s why I care. After all, they reason, she recently spoke at a “Don’t Say Gay” rally in downtown Sarasota. She talks about this stuff all the time. Maybe she’s gay and just hasn’t admitted it yet.
For the record – not that it’s anyone’s business – I’m not gay. But I’m writing this on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub murders, when 49 gay men were shot to death in Orlando. I also am not Black, or a fourth grader, or an abused wife. But people who fit all of those descriptions have been murdered by guns in the past few weeks. And I care.
And again for the record – not that it matters – I have never been a victim of gun violence, nor has anyone in my immediate circle of friends and family.
Another fact for the record: I’ve never cooked meth, never known anyone who cooked meth, would have no clue how to cook meth, but I can’t buy Sudafed off the shelf because the government is afraid that I might suddenly decide to do so. The government isn’t worried however that I might buy a semiautomatic weapon tomorrow and go shoot up a bunch of people. This is something that I will never understand.
I’m just a rabbi leading a small congregation that is tucked away in sleepy Sarasota Florida, inconspicuously leading our lives and worrying about Covid and gas prices and posting proud photos of our graduating children and grandchildren on Facebook. My congregants are the folks you see at the airport dutifully wearing masks and carrying bags of gifts, because they’re off to visit family this summer, not tourist attractions.
I’m just one person. No one special. Not gay, not Black, not a cute 11-year-old or a beloved schoolteacher. I’m just like so many others who lead quiet lives but worry about the state of our nation. Who vote and send money to charities that serve the community.
My largest charitable commitments are to the local All Faiths Food Bank, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation, in that order. I care about hunger in my home community, I care about gun violence in our nation, and I care about helping my fellow Jews at home and around the world.
But there is one thing that I stand for more than anything else, and that is following the laws of the Hebrew Bible that teach me, and anyone else willing to listen, that we are all one human community and we must care for one another.
One of the most important sections of the Five Books of Moses is called the Holiness Code, and it teaches this: lo ta’amode al dam rayecha, “you shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,“ (Leviticus 19:16).
These are my neighbors. Gay people. Black people. Children. Jews and Christians and Muslims and Atheists and immigrants and Asians and everyone else. Everyone.
They all matter. And I care.