By Rachel E., Sydnee O., and Shayna S.
In early February, Rabbi Stacy Rigler asked us to stay back after a Keneseth Israel youth group (KIFTY) board meeting to talk about an idea she had to honor the anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, FL. She knew we would be a good match to plan this event because we are all so passionate about the topic of gun violence prevention. We sat down and expressed idea after idea: maybe a student from Stoneman Douglas, maybe a Congressperson, maybe an audience of 50-100 people, if we’re lucky. We looked at each other, thinking this was a nearly impossible task, yet we were full of determination and excitement to begin planning.
Later that night, we created a flyer, sent emails to local synagogues, and made lots of phone calls. We took a few ideas and ran with them. We called the event “Taking Action: One Year Later.” The next week, we got the news that Samara Barrack, a sophomore from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, would be attending. One week after that, Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District Representative, Madeleine Dean, was on board to come and speak as well. A sign-up sheet was created so we could get an estimate on how many people would be attending and day after day, the numbers went up, reaching around 350 people.
When February 19th arrived, we walked into KI, smiles on our faces, ready to make change. As people started to enter, we realized soon this event was going to have well over 350 people. People of all ages poured through the doors, not knowing what they were about to hear. As the event began, Samara shared her eye-opening and heartbreaking experience of being a student at Stoneman Douglas the day of the shooting last year. Following Samara, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean powerfully spoke about her perspective on gun reform and shared her point of view as a mother, grandmother, and congresswomen. As the evening came to a close, we stood together as a community to honor and remember those lost in the tragedy and make a call for action. The words Congresswoman Dean said to us will stay with us forever: “It is teens like you who will make this difference. Your voices must be heard.”
Seeing the turnout at this event truly made us realize that every voice can be heard as long as you set your mind to it. Camp has taught us to fight for what we believe in and to act upon the injustices we see in the world. We are all so grateful for Camp Harlam and KI for bringing us together and giving us a platform to to make change for our generation and generations to come.