Report: Broward County Sheriff Criticized for Hiring Political Supporters


FILE PHOTO: Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks before the start of a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center, in Sunrise, Florida, U.S. February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Laughlin/Pool/File Photo

A new report is claiming that the sheriff of Broward County in Florida is being criticized for hiring of political supporters.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, Sheriff Scott Israel has hired 10 workers to “community outreach” roles since 2013 to gloat about the sheriff office’s success. The sum of their salaries add up to $634,479.

The report also states that Israel also hired “former colleagues from Fort Lauderdale Police Department” to key positions in the office.

Israel’s political opponents have argued that Israel’s community outreach hires amount to utilizing the office as part of his campaign and diverts money from essential law enforcement resources. They also argue that his hiring of former colleagues is a sign of favoritism that discourages employees that aren’t in his inner circle.

When confronted on these hires, Israel brushed off the criticism.

“What have I done differently than Don Shula or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Ghandi?” Israel told the Sun-Sentinel. “Men and women who assume leadership roles surround themselves with people who are loyal, who they can depend on and who they appreciate their skill set.”

Israel also claimed that people were only leveling criticism at him because of how successful his office has been.

“Lions don’t care about the opinions of sheep,” Israel snarked with the Games of Thrones reference.

The report comes amidst questions about the Broward County Sheriff’s office after the school resource officer at Majorie Stoneman Douglas, Scot Peterson, resigned from doing nothing at the shooting. It was also recently reported that the officer didn’t provide investigators with any information about the shooter when they approached him in 2016. Three other officers from the sheriff’s office were also on the campus during the shooting, but did nothing.

Additionally, police officers from neighboring Coral Springs were the first arrive to on the scene of the shooting, not the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, something that the office reportedly didn’t acknowledge:

Reason’s Robby Soave wrote, “Given the appalling failures that took place at Israel’s office, the “sheep” might like the “lion” some questions. Perhaps he could answer them in a less condescending and authoritarian fashion.”

School Resource Officer Resigns for Doing Nothing During Parkland Shooting


Sheriff Scott Israel addresses the news media outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Thom Baur

The school resource officer on Majory Stoneman Douglas’ campus has resigned for not doing anything during the Feb. 14 shooting.

The officer, Deputy Scot Peterson, was reportedly seen in video footage staying outside of a campus building for around four to six minutes as gunshots were blaring. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that Peterson “never went in.” Israel stated that Peterson should have entered the building and confronted the shooting.

“Devastated. Sick to my stomach,” Israel said. “There are no words. These families lost their children. We lost coaches. I’ve been to the funerals. I’ve been to the homes where they sit in shiva. I’ve been to the vigils.”

According to a local ABC affiliate, the first police officers who arrived at the shooting were officers from the neighboring city Coral Springs, not the officers from Israel’s office.

Peterson resigned once an investigation was launched into his conduct.

This is the latest instance of a failure by law enforcement in regards to the shooting. The shooter was reportedly able to escape from the scene for 10 minutes because law enforcement spent nearly a half hour watching what they thought was live footage of the shooting; the video feed was on a 20 minute delay.

It was also recently reported that the shooter’s first host family following the death of his mother alerted local police in November of the shooter’s violent behavior, which included putting a “gun to others heads in the past.”

Additionally, local law enforcement visited the shooter’s home 39 times prior to the shooting and the FBI was tipped off about him twice. Nothing was done.

Letter to God


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Rabbi Lori Shapiro, The Open Temple

Dear Ribbono Shel Olam, Sovereign of the Universe,

I am reaching out, as I am unsure that you are there. It’s a time when I feel that You are unknowable — that God is remote and distant, if at all. And when I see the faces of those created in your image forever frozen at 14, I feel compelled in the throes of my existential brokenness to ask You: How can you exist when parents must lose their children and endure eternal pain? When human imperfections manifest evil on this earth?

Am I supposed to close up shop, tell those with broken hearts flocking to Shabbat services that our experiment failed, that You are but a chimera, humanly created for lack of a better explanation for the Mysteries of the Universe?

I’m sorry, but I can’t.  However, I am unsure that I can continue with you so intimately right now. I think that I need to take a break in our relationship. I think that I need to focus on my neighbors right now. As exemplified in your relationships with Abraham and Moses, disagreements between God and humans have restorative potential. And so, I respectfully disagree with your absence right now, and will restore it from exile with the love and care I show my neighbors.

Without you here, my blessing is from one human heart to another: May our love and care for one another heal our brokenness.

Ribbono Shel Olam, can you hear my prayer?

Forget Pie-in-the-Sky. Try Real-World Proposals


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Ben Shapiro, author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire

The Parkland, Fla., mass shooting breaks the heart of any decent person. The morning after the shooting, as I got my daughter ready for school, she gave me a hug — and all I could think about was the fact that more than a dozen sets of parents will never be able to do that again for their children.

And yet in the aftermath of the shooting, the conversation has again devolved into accusations of callousness. Gun control advocates insisted that gun control opponents are uncaring monsters who simply don’t care when children are shot to death; they suggest that the members of the NRA, law-abiding citizens, are somehow responsible when an evil criminal massacres classmates. Meanwhile, gun control opponents on the right, reacting to the emotional blowback they’ve received from the left, turtle into intransigence.

None of this is helpful.

Here’s what would be helpful: some actual, real-world proposals with evidence to support them. Not pie-in-the-sky proposals like the revocation of the Second Amendment or full-scale gun confiscation — those aren’t going to happen. Realistic ways to prevent violence like this again. We should start with school security — if it’s good enough for your kid attending Jewish day school in Los Angeles, it should be available to kids attending public schools. We should move on to mental health checks — gun violence restraining orders, which allow relatives of those who are a danger to themselves and others to apply to courts to temporarily prevent threatening people from obtaining guns. We should discuss the lack of transparency in law enforcement — the FBI was given two specific warnings about the shooter in Parkland, and did nothing; in California, tens of thousands of people banned from owning guns have access to them. We should talk about media coverage — we at The Daily Wire already have decided not to run the photos or names of mass shooters in the future, so as not to provide them the attention they seek.

But it all starts with recognizing that we want the same thing: to stop the murder of innocent children. Any conversation that begins with the assumption that your political opponent doesn’t care about dead kids isn’t a conversation — it’s a counterproductive tactic designed to quash serious proposals in favor of posturing.

The Limits of Proposed Gun Laws


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Ohr HaTorah

Another tragedy has ripped open a national wound that will not heal. People cry out that we have to do something.

I want to offer a basic truth: The only gun control that would make a significant difference in mass shootings would be banning the sale of and confiscating all semi-automatic weapons.

I’m not talking about an “assault weapon” ban. That doesn’t go far enough, because many semi-automatic firearms don’t fall into this category. Even if the notorious AR-15 — the rifle used in the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla. — were made illegal, plenty of models just as deadly would still be available. Banning the AR-15 or its lookalikes would accomplish nothing.

The elimination of all semi-automatic rifles leaves handguns, the weapon used in the vast majority of gun homicides in the United States each year. A mass shooter without a rifle could use a handgun.

If the U.S. bans all semi-automatic long guns and handguns — those fed by magazines — only relatively slow-to-load bolt- and pump-action long guns, revolvers and the like would be legal to own. We’d probably have to repeal the Second Amendment.

Furthermore, a ban without confiscation means that some of the 300 million or so firearms already owned by Americans could find their way to an illegal market, where a measure such as background checks would make no difference.

Gun control laws are not bulletproof.

In November 2015, 130 people were murdered in a mass shooting in Paris, yet France has strict gun control. In 2011, 69 people were murdered in a mass shooting in Norway, a country that also has strict gun control. Mexico has gun control laws, yet that country’s interior ministry reported there were more than 29,000 homicides there last year. Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador and Uruguay all have gun control laws, but each has twice to several times the number of gun homicides as the U.S., per capita.

To address the issue of mass shootings and our atrocious homicide and suicide rate, we must confront the fact that we live in a violent society. In addition to laws banning and confiscating weapons, we will have to look at the inner lives of people who want to kill others or kill themselves.

What the Second Amendment Does Not Guarantee


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

David N. Myers, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA

Benjamin Franklin once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

In surveying the carnage from the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., it is hard to resist the view that the repetition of this drama reflects a twisted and self-defeating distortion. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, addressing the Revolutionary War-era presence of a “well regulated Militia,” states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” It does not state that Americans possess the inalienable right to own any and all firearms, including those capable of inflicting the massive loss of life that was perpetrated in Florida last week. At what cost to our collective well-being — to the lives of our precious kids — will we perpetuate this madness?

There is an alternative path. We can learn from others. Another society with a robust “live and let live” attitude stepped back from the brink and imposed restrictions on unrestrained gun ownership. In 1996, two weeks after a mass shooting that killed 35 people in Tasmania, the conservative Australian prime minister introduced the National Firearms Agreement, which imposed tight control on automatic and semi-automatic weapons, insisted on a waiting period before purchase, and prompted a national buy-back that collected 700,000 weapons. Since that time, there have been no mass shootings in Australia.

Is it not time for Americans to learn from this example? Should we not recall the Mishnaic principle that destroying a single life — especially of a child — is to destroy the whole world?

The Consequences of Anger


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Orli Peter, clinical and neuropsychologist

The public is seizing on the wrong explanation for these violent events. Uncontrolled anger, not mental illness, underlies most types of violence. The non-politicized, academic research is clear: Of all the factors that increase the risk of violence, mental illness barely registers. Even when one narrows the scope from mental illness to serious mental illness, less than 3 percent of all violence is done by the seriously mentally ill, and when substance abuse is removed, there is no association.

People who do not control their anger — whether they are mentally ill or not — are the common features of those who engage in violence, whether it’s mass murders, domestic violence or workplace violence.

And supremacist ideologies — whether white supremacy or Islamic extremism — can inspire the anger to explode onto each of their preferred ideological targets. That’s why these ideologies try to keep people in a perpetual state of anger.

All Are Responsible


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance

“Yadeinu Lo Shafchu et Hadam Hazeh.” — “Our hands did not spill this blood.” (Deuteronomy 21: 7)

The Torah teaches us that leaders of a nearby city made this declaration after the discovery of an unknown corpse. The obvious question is ‘Why?’ They weren’t involved in the murder.

Commentator Sforno explains that the city leaders must declare they didn’t knowingly let a killer roam the land. The Maharal of Prague declares that they didn’t know the stranger, otherwise they could have warned him of pending dangers.

Once again, Americans grieve over innocent students and teachers gunned down in their schools. Who can declare, “Our hands did not spill this blood”? Not the National Rifle Association, which bristles at any suggestion of removing weapons like the AR-15; not the doctors who see patients whom they know should be barred from ever having access to any weapon; not the peers who won’t “snitch” on a former classmate; not YouTube that allows the racist and anti-Semitic Republic of Florida militia to post a “Gas the Jews” video; not the media, which guarantees instant stardom to the murderers!

As we grieve for the 17, among them five Jewish victims, let us each look in the mirror and ask, “Can I declare my hands are clean?”

From Indignation to Transformation


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR, senior fellow at Auburn Seminary

I’m indignant for the parents who spent hours Wednesday afternoon waiting on a street corner to see if their kids were among the living or the dead, and for those right now nervously pacing hospital corridors. I’m angry that across the country, students are afraid to go to school because they know that sometimes — just about three times a week in the United States — a guy walks into a classroom with a gun, the school goes into lockdown, and not everyone makes it out alive.

I’m indignant witnessing the soul-decay of our nation. Our nation, the most powerful in the world, which teaches its citizens that we are completely powerless to act against the man-made disasters that are destroying us. Our nation, in which we’re again forced to sit through the predictable parade of politicians with A+ ratings from the NRA offering condolences and laying blame anywhere but on the AR-15 and magazine clips used to murder those kids and their teachers.

How can we not be outraged? Another young man with white supremacist leanings and a history of mental illness who reportedly abused his girlfriend and posted pictures of himself with firearms on social media was able to legally purchase deadly weapons. I’m angry that lawmakers are using this tragedy as another opportunity to stigmatize those who struggle with mental illness, while both cutting funding for their care and making it easier for them to purchase guns. I’m angry that this week we had to add another American town to our national map of shame, piled high with stuffed animals and flowers and broken hearts and homes.

I’m a rabbi, in the hope and love business, and here I am, full of fury. But today I’m not afraid of indignation. Anger can disease the soul, or it can liberate it. Anger that’s driven by hope and love can be a tool of transformation. Let us use our anger now to end this insanity.

In America, Life Should Come Before Total Liberty


Students from Western High School carrying placards, take part in a protest in support of the gun control, following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Davie, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

“I get through every day by focusing totally on my work, to the point of distraction. And especially when milestones come up — Dylan’s birthday, 12/14; when school gets out, when school starts; seeing buses. I push all my emotion down and distract myself with work. I’ve been doing that for five years now, and it’s not healthy.”

Those are the words of Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in 2012 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., when he was 6 years old. He died in the arms of his special-education teacher, Anne Marie Murphy, who also was killed. Hockley spoke those words to two teens from Parkland, Fla., when they met last week in front of CBS cameras. Hockley’s face was etched with grief; the visible wound of endless emptiness, of persistent and permanent loss.

The reason we must tell and retell the stories of murdered children is because we must be reminded what is at stake in the gun control debate. It is not American liberty; it is American life. It is your child, your sibling, your teacher, your neighbor, your fellow citizen. And the lives at stake are not just the victims of gun violence — those who succumb to their wounds and never see another day — but the bereft survivors they leave behind.

We can argue endlessly about the means and measures necessary to protect and preserve American life, but we must at least start with a shared premise: Preservation of American life is paramount. This is the most fundamental expression of our decency and humanity as a society.

This shouldn’t be a radical idea. As Americans, we are promised much more. The Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But too many of us don’t appreciate what that means.

Almost 25 years ago, philosopher Isaiah Berlin delivered a prophetic commencement address at the University of Toronto, in which he distilled a lifetime of wisdom into “A Message to the 21st Century.” He began with the premise that, although human history has been riddled with violence and tragedy, the horrors of the 20th century carried out by Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot were “unparalleled.”

“Compromises, trade-offs, arrangements have to be made if the worst is not to happen.” — Isaiah Berlin

“They were not natural disasters,” Berlin said, “but preventable human crimes [and] they could have been averted.”

The calamities of history, Berlin said, are products of a belief in absolute ideals, even the noblest ones. Once a society commits entirely to any ideal — let’s say the Second Amendment or even democracy itself — it will do almost anything to preserve that ideal, even if it means resorting to coercion or violence. Everything is justified by the goal of attaining the ideal.

What Berlin understood is this: “The central values by which most men have lived are not always harmonious with each other. … Men have always craved for liberty, security, equality, happiness, justice, knowledge, and so on. But complete liberty is not compatible with complete equality — if men were wholly free, the wolves would be free to eat the sheep.”

Instead, Berlin counsels, we must compromise.

“Compromises, trade-offs, arrangements have to be made if the worst is not to happen. So much liberty for so much equality, so much individual self-expression for so much security, so much justice for so much compassion … [because] values clash.”

All Americans are entitled to liberty, but the preservation of the “total liberty” that the National Rifle Association preaches comes at the cost of others’ lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. If we want to live in a decent society, individual liberties must sometimes be moderated to make room for additional cherished values — like the value of life itself.

Does Nicole Hockley have any less right to the pursuit of happiness than another American? The tragic reality is that the effort to preserve someone else’s total liberty denied Hockley her right to happiness and her son Dylan’s right to live.

Israeli Security Expert Talks About Tactics To Protect Our Schools


One week after the Parkland, Fla., slaughter of 17 students and teachers, Israeli security expert Oded Raz may have a solution for eliminating or reducing gun-driven high school campus massacres across America. No one must be allowed on campus without permission, he says. Security guards should be on every campus, and they should be locals. Security must be alert to recognize suspicious persons.

Raz is vice president of security for Shafran Consulting in Israel. Previously, he served as deputy head of the protection and security division for the Israeli Security Agency. He advises clients on strategic tactics for security preparedness.

Jewish Journal: How can America make high school campuses safer and halt the rash of mass shootings?

Oded Raz: Four things: concept, procedures, technology and manpower. We do it in Israel. It is not so expensive. Once you decide on the correct security concept, your plan must be tailor-made — separately — for each school.

JJ: What is the starting point?

OR: Because every campus is different, you must make a survey of the grounds. Determine what is going on in each area. Just as Los Angeles and New Orleans are not the same, no two high school campuses are.

The issue is culture. In Israel, we believe we must recruit the local population. Then the school must believe in the new concept and adopt it. When the community believes in this concept, the next step is how to protect the school.

“Once you decide on the correct security concept, your plan must be tailor-made — separately — for each school.”

JJ: Can you give us an example?

OR: First, you must decide that nobody — nobody — enters the school without permission. Second, you must locate security guards. It can be the local police or parents who volunteer.

JJ: Are you envisioning armed guards?

OR: No. I am not sure they would be necessary. If [a potential killer] wants to do something, the correct information can stop him. We want to catch him before he acts. When he collects information, he must be around his target. This is why, if we put security guards [who will comb the grounds] around the school before the day starts and before students go home in the afternoon, and make sure the area is clear, the students will be safe. Lunatics who kill innocent people just wait for a convenient time to shoot.

JJ: Is there a common “convenient time” or are there common patterns the killers use?

OR: Yes. Mostly they prefer crowded areas. When the school is closed, a terrorist cannot penetrate the area. Before the pupils enter the school, they are outside. So it is convenient for the terrorist to shoot them. It is similar to what happened at the airport in Istanbul [in 2016]. They started the security procedure at the airport’s front gate. Lots of people were waiting outside. The area was not protected enough. That is why the terrorist was able to kill many people.

JJ: What is the most critical skill for security guards?

OR: Procedures for how to search for suspicious people around the school. If everything is clear, you can let the students and teachers go inside. You do it a few hours before the school day begins.

JJ: How far in advance must the grounds be surveyed and declared safe?

OR: It depends on the habits of the people. As I mentioned before, security on each campus must be tailor-made to that school. When the guards know the atmosphere around the school, if somebody looks abnormal or is new to the area, they can point to him.

JJ: It looks as if no technology is needed — just a matter of following common-sense procedures. Yes?

OR: No, it is not just common sense. From time to time, students will bring weapons into the school. But we don’t want to “interfere” with the normal atmosphere of the school or normal habits of some students. There is lots of technology that can be used to identify weapons.

JJ: Is your employer doing any business in America?

OR: Shafran has been hired to survey [schools] in Colorado and Philadelphia in the next few weeks and develop a concept of how to protect their schools.

Sitting Shivah in Parkland


Women react during a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

I never imagined that my Shabbat sermon in Los Angeles would lead me straight to Parkland to make shivah calls with grieving families. Here’s how it happened and what I learned.

In my Shabbat sermon, I spoke about the purpose of God’s hiddenness in the Megilah. From there I reflected on the horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., where 17 innocent people were brutally murdered. After my sermon, the chairman of Yeshivat Yavneh, where I am Dean of School, approached me and suggested we go beyond the lecture: Why not take some eighth-graders to visit the families sitting shivah in Parkland?

This was unexpected, but he was right. Judaism is not just a religion of ideas, it’s also a religion of action. We decided to take Estee Einhorn, our daughter, and Benjamin Rubin, David and Gitel Rubin’s son. They both lived with a shivah this year as my wife recently sat shivah for her mother, and David sat shivah for his father. Perhaps a little of what they experienced would help them process what they would witness in Florida.

We took the red eye to Fort Lauderdale on the night of Feb. 18 and hit the ground running at 6 a.m. Feb. 19. We got off the plane and started our experience with a visit to the school. It was beginning to get real. The memorials, wreaths, press and candles laid out in front of a giant school immediately drew us in to the scene of the crime. We carefully read the testimonies and letters of love laid out in front of a picture of each child killed. At that moment, our heart was officially in Parkland.

Next we went to the Chabad of Parkland to pray. It seemed like the appropriate way to start our morning. Rumor had it some family members were going to be there. They never showed. The Chabad rabbi said, “Last night was just a very difficult night; nobody was going to join this morning.”

And then it was time. We made our way from shivah to shivah. The pain, the suffering, the anger and resilience all filled the air. We did what we needed to do. We were there to support, experience and become the sounding board for their pain.

The best response in the face of unspeakable tragedy is exactly that — to unspeak.

There is so much to say and describe about these individuals, the lives they led, and the world they leave behind. But I will simply share a few impressions we walked away with:

1. Diversity. It was unexpected to see how the grieving process varied among people who suffered the same tragedy. Some were in a state of shock, some were in activist mode, others were in a state of deep reflection.

2. There’s a chance that we may have witnessed history. More specifically, we may have been witnessing how law and policy really start to change. Our history teachers may educate us on the three causes of the Civil War, but often there are less-noticed triggering events that set off the actual sea changes. I witnessed family members actively engaging lobbyists and lawyers, instructing to use the emotional moment to create significant change in our gun control laws.

3. Our children learned how sometimes the best response in the face of unspeakable tragedy is exactly that — to unspeak. Silence, comfort and a hug.

4. Evil is possible in the middle of paradise. Parkland and the greater Broward Country is just stunning. The blue sky and deep white clouds almost look too good to be real. Many of the houses are gorgeous, with surrounding lakes and everglades and Roman fountains. In the middle of this paradise, the worst kind of evil entered and darkened the heart of a community.

5. In times of darkness, it’s OK to break the rules. When we landed, we found out that the shivah times we were given were wrong. The shivahs would only be open to the public after we would be on our way back to Los Angeles. That didn’t stop us. If they don’t want to see us, they can tell us to leave, and that’s fine. But no one did. We were welcomed at every shivah call.

Our experience taught us that, when people are in pain, sometimes the biggest mitzvah is just to show up.


Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is Dean of School at Yeshivat Yavneh.

WHEN WILL IT END? Community reactions to the Florida tragedy


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, a young man armed with an assault rifle intruded onto the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had been expelled, and began spraying bullets into a crowd of terrified students and teachers.

By the end of the six-minute massacre, 17 people were killed and another 15 injured. The suspected shooter was later identified as Nikolas Cruz, a disturbed young man with an alleged history of mental illness. In the days that followed, as anger, grief and calls for gun control legislation reverberated throughout the nation, we asked members of the Jewish community — among them rabbis, politicians, activists and psychologists — to respond to the plague of gun violence.

From Indignation to Transformation
by Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR, senior fellow at Auburn Seminary

All Are Responsible
by Rabbi Marvin Hier, Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance

Shot and Scarred at 6 Years Old
by Joshua Stepakoff, gun violence survivor

Yes to Gun Ownership. No to the NRA.
by Joshua Greer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and gun owner

Gun Violence is a Public Health Issue
by Mike Feuer, Los Angeles city attorney and co-founder of the national coalition Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

The Consequences of Anger
by Orli Peter, clinical and neuropsychologist

What the Second Amendment Does Not Guarantee
by David N. Myers, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA

The Limits of Proposed Gun Laws
by Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Ohr HaTorah

A Culture That Glorifies Violence
by Dara Barlin, founder Dynamic Action Research Education Consulting

What If Government Can’t Solve This Problem?
by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, B’nai David Judea

The Stain on the American Soul
by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, author and leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., 30 minutes from Parkland

Don’t Punish Law-Abiding Citizens
Elan S. Carr, criminal prosecutor, military officer and Iraq War veteran

Forget Pie-in-the-Sky. Try Real-World Proposals
Ben Shapiro, author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire

Gun Control: The Most Dangerous Conversation
by Rabbi Amy Bernstein, Kehillat Israel

Proposed Gun Control Doesn’t Go Far Enough
by Joseph Sanberg, founder CalEITC4Me

Letter to God
by Rabbi Lori Shapiro, The Open Temple

Acting Through Our Anger


I was on the phone discussing a provocative story about the Jewish holiday of Purim when news of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre first broke. At the time, it was just “a shooting.” No one knew yet the extent of the tragedy. My phone conversation was barely interrupted.

Within a few hours, everything had changed. As news of the casualties kept dribbling out, my mind raced. This was the afternoon of Feb. 14. Our paper had gone to print a day earlier with a cover story on the looming crisis in Syria. What a shame, I thought, that we couldn’t have a story on Parkland while it was on everyone’s mind. That is the foible of print — you’re at the mercy of fate and the printer’s deadline. Well, if we couldn’t be topical, I said to myself, at least we could go deeper into the story for the next print edition.

In the meantime, there’s always online.

We quickly posted the story on our website and started planning the next print edition. Because our cover is glossy and needs to go to print earlier, we had to decide pretty quickly on a cover design. I recalled this haunting visual from our cartoonist Steve Greenberg showing a map of America delineated by guns. We went with that image, and a line that seemed to capture the mood of the moment — “When will it end?”

The issue of gun violence in America is so fraught with emotion and complexity we decided to get community reactions from a variety of voices. Senior reporter Danielle Berrin and I drew up a preliminary list to get diverse views. I also called our political editor in Israel, Shmuel Rosner, to see if he could connect us with an Israeli security expert who could share the Israeli perspective. He connected us to Oded Raz, whom we interviewed for our back-page Q-and-A. It’s worth reading what he has to say, especially about strategies to protect American schools from shootings.

On Friday afternoon, we got a lead on the Chabad rabbi in Parkland whose office is minutes from the shooting and who jumped into the chaos of the tragedy. We interviewed him on Saturday night and posted the story online the following morning. On Feb. 19, I heard that a Los Angeles rabbi, Shlomo Einhorn, had flown to Parkland with a few students to make shivah calls, and I asked him to write about it. You can read about his experience in the “columnist” section. All along, we had to juggle how to fit everything in with our regular coverage.

It wasn’t until Sunday, when I saw a heart-rending image of two mothers crying in Parkland, that it hit me — my heart had deadened since the news broke. I had become numb. Instead of feeling the unspeakable pain that had been unleashed on a community, I was thinking of how best to cover the story. I felt an odd, quiet shame: How could I be so callous? I reflected on the cold-bloodedness of a profession that leaves little room for emotion when a major story strikes.

Violence that destroys human lives triggers deep emotions, and anger is one of our deepest. When that violence keeps repeating — as with terror attacks in Israel or mass shootings in America — our anger becomes an emotional reflex.

And then I thought: Am I the only one? Was my absence of grieving only due to my profession?

I wasn’t a journalist when a terrorist plane struck the first of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. As this mass of glass and steel crumbled to earth, I thought: Maybe now the world will better understand what Israel is facing. What a narrow-minded reaction: Couldn’t I find one minute to grieve for the victims? But I was enraged at the terrorists — that was my primary reaction.

Maybe this is human nature and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Violence that destroys human lives triggers deep emotions, and anger is one of our deepest. When that violence keeps repeating — as with terror attacks in Israel or mass shootings in America — our anger becomes an emotional reflex. This anger only grows as the story unfolds: How could we allow an unstable person to buy a semi-automatic rifle? How could the FBI and local authorities fail to act on the obvious threats? How could a school fail to protect its students? How could we live in a country with 300 million guns?

Ultimately, when faced with horrific tragedies, we have a visceral need to act, to do something, and so much of our action is fueled by anger. As David Brooks wrote in The New York Times, in the wake of the Parkland massacre, “The anger inevitably gets directed at the N.R.A., those who support gun rights, and the politicians who refuse to do anything while children die.”

However, Brooks continued, this kind of anger “may end up doing more harm than good. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it is that guns have become a cultural flash point in a nation that is unequal and divided. The people who defend gun rights believe that snobbish elites look down on their morals and want to destroy their culture. If we end up telling such people that they and their guns are despicable, they will just despise us back and dig in their heels.”

He concludes that if we want to stop school shootings, “it’s not enough just to vent and march.”

There’s certainly room for venting and marching, but let’s also leave room for calm, methodical, strategic voices such as that of Israeli security expert Oded Raz.

In retrospect, I’m glad I withheld my emotions long enough to find his voice.

Week of Feb. 23, 2018


Florida Shooter Spewed Racist, Anti-Semitic Invectives


Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool

Messages from an Instagram group chat obtained by CNN reveal that the Florida shooter issued messages containing anti-Semitic and racist content.

The CNN report described Nikolaus Cruz’s posts in the chat as “hundreds of racist messages, racist memes and racist Instagram videos”; one of his messages actually stated that he hates “jews, n*****, immigrants.” The chat also reportedly featured Cruz ranting about how Jews are conspiring to “destroy the world” and how he wanted to murder Mexicans, blacks and gays.

Another one of Cruz’s messages read, “My real mom was a Jew. I am glad I never met her.”

Despite the messages, there is no evidence that Cruz was ever affiliated with a white supremacist organization, as earlier reports had stated.

Cruz confessed to the shooting, where he murdered 17 people and injured 14 others. Five of the murdered students were Jewish.

The FBI was reportedly notified twice about the shooter being a potential threat, and yet they did nothing about it. The first instance involved a YouTube video blogger notifying the FBI in September that a user with Cruz’s name commented on one of his videos, “Im going to be a professional school shooter”; the second involved the FBI being tipped to Cruz’s “erratic behavior and disturbing social-media posts.” The FBI didn’t follow up on either instance and didn’t inform local officials about it.

So, What The Hell Do We Do Now?


Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images

In the aftermath of another horrible and heartbreaking mass shooting at an American school, the same political game took place that always takes place. That game breaks down into three stages: before the facts come in, once the facts are in, and the actual political debate.

Before The Facts Come In. Before the facts come in, proponents of gun control point at foreign countries and the lack of mass shootings in those countries and suggest that Congress ought to do something — anything, really — to make it more difficult for evil people to obtain guns. They do not specify what that something is. But it must be a law, and it must restrict law-abiding citizens’ access to guns. Furthermore, any Congressperson who opposes such unspecified laws is the tool of the “gun industry.”

Meanwhile, those who oppose gun control urge caution until we know the facts; often they offer thoughts and prayers. Proponents of gun control then mock those thoughts and prayers in order to imply that gun control opponents don’t care about dead children, and merely want to avoid responsibility by throwing the problem at God.

The Facts Come In. As the facts come in, proponents of gun control maintain their staunch advocacy for their position, but are often forced to acknowledge that their preferred measures wouldn’t have done anything to stop the shootings at issue. That doesn’t stop them from clubbing about the ears gun control opponents, who maintain that gun control measures must be tailored toward stopping actual events.

Meanwhile, opponents of gun control usually suggest two measures: mental health screening that would take dangerous people off the streets and into treatment, and security in schools. These are rejected out of hand by gun control proponents, who say they don’t want those who are mentally ill avoiding treatment in order to avoid the consequences of such treatment, and add that placing security in schools would somehow “militarize” the school environment.

The Political Debate. Congress usually proposes some measure of gun control. That measure of gun control is usually far more unpopular in specifics than it was in theory; it usually restricts rights most Americans care about, and fails to properly target the underlying problem at issue. Such measures almost universally fail. When they do pass, they show little evidence of impact on mass shootings.

So, where does all of this leave us?

Here’s what we know. The shooter used an AR-15, the most common rifle in the United States. The shooter was on the radar of school authorities, and he was reportedly in frequent contact with the police; he was reported to the FBI as well, but follow-up was apparently insufficient. People warned authorities about him, and they didn’t do anything or couldn’t do anything. That’s probably the best place to start looking for answers.

The shooter’s gun was obtained legally. He had never been arrested; it’s difficult to think of a way to prevent the sale of a gun to a person with a clean record without a mass gun ban or confiscation. He also had a gas mask and grenades — and it’s unclear where he obtained the grenades. We could look at stronger prosecution of straw buyers, as Jim Geraghty of National Review suggests, but that wouldn’t have helped in this case.

So, where do we go from here? Obviously, I think that we ought to consider security in schools as a first step — I went to a Jewish high school in Los Angeles that received bomb threats at least twice a year; the building next door was scoped out by mass shooter Buford Furrow, but he left thanks to security there. It’s not too much to ask that we place armed security at our schools, as Israel does.

But this much is clear: snap Twitter excoriations focused on casting aspersions at the character of our political opposition tears our country apart right when we need to come together in comfort. We have an unfortunate tendency to roll our eyes when people say they’re waiting for the facts, whether we’re discussing mass shootings or terrorist attacks; I’ve done it, too. But waiting for facts is the responsible thing to do. And as the facts come in, perhaps better solutions will make themselves clearer.

This column was originally posted at The Daily Wire.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

UPDATE: No Link Between Suspected FL Shooter and White Supremacist Group


Nikolas Cruz appears in a police booking photo after being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder following a Parkland school shooting, at Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. Broward County Sheriff/Handout via REUTERS.

UPDATE 1: Law enforcement officials have stated that they have yet to find any connections between suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz and white supremacist group Republic of Florida, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

UPDATE 2: Jordan Jereb, who leads the Republic of Florida (ROF) white supremacist group, is now walking back his claim that Cruz was involved with ROF.

Original Story:

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect behind the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, was reportedly involved with a white supremacist organization.

Jordan Jereb, who leads a white nationalist group called Republic of Florida (ROF), told the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that Cruz had been to at least one of the group’s training sessions. Jereb claimed that ROF had nothing to do with the shooting itself.

Jereb told the same thing to the Associated Press (AP), but added that Cruz’s shooting was likely done on Valentine’s Day because he was dealing with “trouble with a girl.” Jereb also told the AP that “he didn’t know Cruz personally.”

ROF, which is based in Tallahassee, advocates for the creation of a “white ethnostate” in Florida. They engage their members in paramilitary training; their website states they will “fight to the death” to accomplish their goal. Below is one of their training videos:

Jereb himself was arrested in 2016 after allegedly threatening a staffer to Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Prior reports indicated that Cruz had made derogatory comments about Islam and once wore a Donald Trump hat. People who knew him described him as a loner who had previously threatened students. Cruz was expelled from the school.

CNN’s Jake Tapper noted that there were Cruz had multiple red flags that weren’t really acted upon:

At least six of the murdered students and a security guard were Jewish. Overall, 17 people were murdered and another 14 were injured.

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