The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Note: This post includes a non-graphic discussion of suicide. If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
I am indescribably proud to have marched with the Reform Jewish Movement at the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC. The songs we sang in the morning, and the powerful speeches that the teens leading our work made about their experiences struck a chord in me. I was inspired by the message that my fellow Jewish students sent – that we will not stand idly by as our country suffers from an epidemic of gun violence. But more profoundly, I reflected on the impact of the violence that affects many of us in our schools and communities in one form or another. I was struck by how deeply these tragedies can mark us, forcing us to grow up in a matter of minutes or days, dramatically shifting our worldviews and understandings of identity.
March 20, just days before the March for Our Lives, was the fourth anniversary of when my own community was devastated by the news that my classmate and old friend had died by suicide. As my high school principal told us all what had happened over the PA system, the life of every single young person in our community was irreparably changed. We were devastated – some alone, some together. Three months later, I graduated from high school, knowing that my old friend would have walked across the same stage that day. And today, as I reflect on the fact that in a few short months, I and many of my high school classmates will graduate from college, I carry the knowledge that although we are all attending different universities and embarking on different paths, we will carry our community's memory of that day with us forever. It has changed us, informed our life decisions, and altered our understandings of the world.
On Saturday morning, I stood alongside thousands of other Reform Jews for the Mourner's Kaddish and realized I was not only saying it for the victims of the Parkland school shooting on February 14, 2018, but also for my old friend and every person who has lost their life to the many different forms of violence that plague our communities. From domestic abuse and gender-based violence, to suicides and school shootings, students across the United States grapple with tragedies that are rooted in structural inequalities and systems of injustice that privilege some lives over others.
The speakers at the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC highlighted the diverse ways gun violence impacts the lives of students and young people. They emphasized that just as we must push our legislators to enact common sense legislation (enforcing universal background checks, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and more), we must also focus on anti-violence programs, prevention research, and providing resources to those affected by gun violence in all forms. As we work together, forming coalitions to call our country to action, we must continue to underscore that gun violence disproportionately affects communities of color, women, LGBTQ folks, and people with physical disabilities and mental illness. The issue of gun violence is deeply connected to our country's history of anti-Black racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism.
The Reform Jewish Movement's profound commitment to this issue is informed by our community's understanding of the ways violence and injustice are rooted in historic inequality. As students across the country continue to propel these conversations forward, I am filled with hope because of this strong focus by our student leaders on an intersectional and systemic approach to gun violence prevention.
Many of our lives have been touched by violence in our communities. My fellow students have had to grow up fast, realizing that their voices have power that must be used – power to not only demand action in response to their own experiences with gun violence, but also to uplift the voices of other young people who have been affected in ways they may not completely understand. As we in the Reform Movement continue to fight for accountability and action, we must incorporate our student leaders' emphasis on allyship. We must continue to demand action to prevent gun violence in the communities that look like ours and in those that don't. We will not stand idly by as blood is shed around us. We will repair the world in all of its complexity. We will march proudly for justice.
Here's how to stay engaged in the fight to end gun violence: