Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable

I’ve always been an idealistic but organized activist. I began in my college years in the 1960s as a civil rights supporter and opponent of the Vietnam War, especially while serving as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania’s Daily Pennsylvanian (“DP”) newspaper. In our first DP editorial, we adopted an old Kansas newspaper editor’s motto that our job was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” So we reported civil rights and anti-war protests on campus and in Philadelphia, sent a reporter in March 1965 to cover the famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and in Jan. 1966 editorialized against escalation of the Vietnam War by President Johnson and called on the UN to intervene in Vietnam.

Later, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher in the Fiji Islands; as leader of DC’s “Group 83,” an Amnesty International “Prisoner of Conscience Adoption Group;” and then served as chair of the Committees on International Human Rights of the American and Federal Bar Associations.

But from February 1988 on I was primarily focused on my work as an attorney at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and on supporting my growing family. My main extracurricular work at the time was as an adjunct professor of media law and later First Amendment law at the Institute for Communications Law Studies at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, where I taught between 1985-2013.

As luck would have it, it was just a few days after I retired from the FCC in February 2016, that Barbara Kraft, then chair of the Temple’s Social Action Committee, called me. It was a call that reactivated me to fight for gun violence prevention (GVP), a great departure and far more satisfying activity than the typical political and economic battles at the FCC. In the process it also helped me to re-engage with Temple Sinai and with its many wonderful and talented clergy and congregants.

My family and I had been members since 1994 when our younger son Jeremy started in the Temple Sinai Nursery School. He and his older brother Zachary both went on to become B’nei Mitzvah and then confirmands at the temple. But except for my brief service on the TS Library and Social Action Committees and my wife Justine’s service as co-president of the Sisterhood in 2009-2010, I did not feel very connected with the temple and actually debated leaving the congregation.

Barbara’s call was to invite me to a demonstration at the Realco Gun Store in District Heights, MD. This store had been identified by the organizers of the protest as the seller of nearly a third of the guns recovered from DC crime scenes.

Following that first GVP encounter, Barbara encouraged me to form the GVP Working Group. The group now has over 75 members. Join us. It has been a truly satisfying endeavor for me and engaged me as never before in the life of the temple. For a listing of GVP activities please see the temple website or contact me directly at


-Steve Klitzman