Let's Pray with Our Feet - June 1, 2022

At Alexander JFS we strive everyday to build strong children, adults, families and communities so that they will be better able to weather life’s inevitable storms.

June 3, 2022
Book open with lights pouring out of it

Let's Pray with Our Feet - June 1, 2022

At Alexander JFS we strive everyday to build strong children, adults, families and communities so that they will be better able to weather life’s inevitable storms.

June 3, 2022

Let’s Pray with Our Feet

Alexander JFS Friends – 

During the height of the Civil Rights era, Dr. Martin Luther King led a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. One of the people who participated in that march was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. When Rabbi Heschel returned from Selma, he was asked by someone, "Did you find much time to pray, when you were in Selma?" Rabbi Heschel responded, "I prayed with my feet."

I have been thinking a lot about this story as I listen to people offering “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and the families of those impacted by the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. As a person of faith, prayer is an important part of my life and I believe a valuable tool, but when lives are being lost, prayer is not enough.

Mother Theresa said, “Prayer without action is no prayer at all. You have to do your work as if everything depends on you. Then leave the rest to God.”

In this spirit, I am challenging us as a community to begin to pray – not only with our hearts and souls – but also with our feet. It is time for action. I don’t know what the right answer is, and I suppose in the end there will be no one single action that ends this epidemic of violence, but rather a series of many things that each help in their own way. Whatever the case, it is important that we not let the search for one, single, perfect solution stop us from implementing whatever we can, as fast as we can. Even if something only helps a little bit we need to begin to march in the right direction.

People much smarter than me have debated what the right answers to this epidemic of violence are. I am not sure that I know for certain what the answers are, but I will share with you some things that make sense to me. Whether my list agrees with yours or not, I hope that you will become an active advocate for the solutions that you feel are best.

Many believe that our schools need to be armed with officers, safe rooms, and other equipment. Let’s also arm every school with social workers and other mental health professionals so that we can identify children at risk and embrace them with care.

Many believe that we need to lock the doors of schools to keep those with bad intentions out. Let’s also make sure that those who find themselves locked in also feel like they belong. Let’s have comprehensive programs that address bullying in all of its forms and create school communities where students feel a sense of inclusion, safety, and belonging.

Let’s recognize gun violence as a critical and preventable public health problem and arm ourselves with all of the tools at our disposal. Let’s fund research into the causes and solutions to gun violence. Let’s fund the development of treatment approaches just as we did during COVID. Let’s ensure that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others have the resources to study the issues and provide science-based guidance.

Joan and Stanford Alexander Jewish Family Service remains committed to responding to community needs, especially in times of crisis, but we feel that we are equally obligated to promote prevention. We want to go beyond reactive interventions when a disaster occurs to investigating root causes and trying to prevent the next crisis from occurring.

By focusing too much on preparing for the next disaster, we run the risk of losing sight of the fact that these incidents are preventable and should not be occurring at all. The cost of being good at “responding” is too high. We need to, instead, focus on being good at prevention.

I pray that each of us will find the strength and courage to use our sphere of influence to take action. I pray that we will not allow the magnitude of the task ahead to deter us from doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. In Leviticus, we are admonished not to stand idly by while the blood of our neighbor is shed. Friends, our neighbors our bleeding. It is our time to act. Let’s not let our different views of the solution stop us from acting now, in whatever ways we each feel are best, to prevent the next tragedy from happening.

Take care of each other,

Carl Josehart's signature

Carl E. Josehart, MSW (he/him/his)


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