When I entered elementary school in the 1950s, I practiced hiding under my wooden desk in case a Soviet bomb was dropped on my school. By the time I took early retirement as a teacher in 2003, I was leaving a middle school with a locked-door policy; the principal told us if we ever heard over the loudspeaker that “Mr. Lock” had entered the building, we should immediately lock our classroom doors and gather our students on the floor, away from the windows.I have seen America change. It has become a nation dominated by constant gun violence, often with assault rifles whose only purpose is to kill as many people as quickly as possible. It is a country living in fear of when—not if—the next massacre will occur.
Since May 24 of this year, I have watched the news obsessively. My brain tells me that nineteen children and two educators died at the hands of an eighteen-year-old boy who easily purchased an AR-15, but my heart struggles to accept the painful reality of this horrific tragedy. I still cannot comprehend that twenty children and six educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook a decade ago. I cannot fathom that the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in our nation’s history occurred in my own neighborhood on October 27, 2018, or that ten weekend shoppers lost their lives in Buffalo two weeks ago.
Every year at the Passover Seder—the traditional meal celebrating the Israelites’ liberation from the rule of the Egyptian Pharaoh and people—we raise our voices to sing “Dayenu.” The Hebrew word “day” means “enough,” and “enu” refers to the first-person plural suffix “to/for us.” The song expresses the appreciation still felt centuries later that even one gift from God—releasing the people from slavery, giving them the Torah, setting aside the Sabbath as a day of prayer and reflection—would have been enough to satisfy us; an overabundance of gifts was not needed.
I now take the term “dayenu” and assign it a slightly different meaning: one mass shooting would have been—should have been—enough for us to insist that lawmakers eliminate private ownership of assault rifles, enforce stricter background checks, and create red-flag laws that take away firearms from people who pose a risk to themselves or others.
Dayenu. Enough gun violence is enough. It must be stopped before our country drowns in a sea of the blood of innocent victims.
Ronna L. Edelstein