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Newtown rabbi speaks at Great Neck Synagogue

Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel in

Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel in Newtown shares a personal reflection on the tragedy in his community during an event at Great Neck Synagogue Tuesday evening. (Dec. 25, 2012) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A Newtown rabbi, speaking before a Great Neck audience, called for broad gun control, anti-bullying measures and better parental control over violent video games to help prevent tragedies like the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"If the death of their loved ones sparks major improvements across the country, I've got to believe that will be a source of comfort to them," Rabbi Shaul Praver said of the families of the victims in his talk at the Great Neck Synagogue, attended by about 200 people Tuesday night.

Praver of Congregation Adath Israel of Newtown had presided over the funeral of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, who was killed in the Dec. 14 attack on the school along with 19 other children and six adults.

He also sung a Hebrew prayer at an interfaith vigil in which President Barack Obama spoke, shortly after the attack.

Before his talk Tuesday night, Praver -- a native of Great Neck who once attended the synagogue -- described his efforts at creating a lasting memorial museum dedicated to the victims, as well as a "prescription for change" to keep such attacks from happening again.

"It's like a little, localized 9/11," Praver said when describing the effect of the attack on his town. "The love between people is what is enabling people literally not to die of cardiac arrest."

Praver said he hopes to unite the victims' families through an advocacy group called "Newtown United," and said the museum he envisions would have rooms dedicated to each victim and a space dedicated to the "spiritual lessons we learned."

He also said there needs to be efforts at gun control as well as bullying prevention to keep people with "psychotic reasoning" from other such attacks.

The event also included speakers who addressed the spiritual questions relating to the tragedy, as well as security issues and other concerns.

Dale Polakoff, senior rabbi of the Great Neck Synagogue, said the event was held to find a way to respond to the unimaginable.

"We come [together] to let them know their pain is shared by all of us, whether we knew them or didn't know them, whether they are of the same faith or not -- we share their pain and pray for them and their families," he said.

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