How Jewish Teens Joined with the RAC to Advocate for Gun Violence Prevention

November 15, 2019Melissa Bendell

It’s no secret that teens and young adults have become the leading advocates for gun violence prevention. After the tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Santa Fe High School, and particularly at Stoneman Douglas High School, teens and young adults have rallied together to address the lack of gun safety regulations in the United States.

Young adults across North America have created a broad movement, thanks in part to the March for Our Lives, to show adults that their voices, safety, and futures can’t be ignored.

After seeing the power teens and young adults can harness to make change, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, introduced the Gun Violence Prevention Fellowship for high school students. The fellowship is designed to educate high school students about gun violence prevention and give them concrete skills in community organizing to help them address gun violence.

The students were tasked with creating and implementing a gun violence prevention project in their own congregation and/or community.

One student, Cameron Samuels from Temple Sinai in Houston, decided to broaden the audience for his project by creating a website so people could look up their congressional representatives and view information on their positions regarding gun violence, including their voting records on gun violence prevention legislation and if they had accepted any gun lobbying funds.

“I wanted to create a website… because people often do not know who their representative is, nor how to contact them, and finding GVP-related information about them is often difficult,” Samuels said. “I wanted people to easily get this information all in one place because people need to be urging their representatives to end gun violence.”

Other teen Fellows sought to activate peers in their local communities.

Rachael Kisver and Avery Miller led a gun violence prevention program with their confirmation class at Congregation Beth Or in Ambler, Pennsylvania. They hung posters with questions such as, “When and where are guns appropriate to use?” and “How big of an issue do you believe gun violence is in our society?” After each student wrote their answers, they facilitated a discussion about the students’ opinions that brought different viewpoints into the conversation.

Another student, Madeline Denker from Beth Chaim Reform Congregation in Malvern, Pennsylvania, created a gun violence prevention night at her synagogue. She invited Shira Goodman from CeaseFirePA to speak about gun violence in Pennsylvania and held a postcard writing workshop so that people could ask their senators to oppose the NRA's Sue the City Bill.

“If I continue to make my voice heard someone will eventually start listening to the power of youth voices,” one student Fellow said.

Gun violence doesn’t just impact a community or a family. It reverberates around the country and the world. Young people are standing on the front lines in the fight for gun violence prevention, and their determination will play a role in pushing for much needed legislation. The RAC is proud to support these young organizers as they live their Jewish values.

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