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Marching for Our Lives with Beth Am’s Confirmation Class

March 30, 2018
Posted by: Noah and Samantha, Beth Am congregants

Two teenage congregants from Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, who attended the March for Our Lives event in San Francisco on March 24, agreed to share with Frontlines readers their reflections on what this event means for them and what the future might hold for us all. (For context, see also, "Jewish teens ‘pray with their feet’ at S.F. March for Our Lives" from J. The Jewish News of Northern California.)


Noah

Like most other Americans in my generation, I have grown up accepting school shootings as a part of life, a risk that could be mitigated but not eliminated. While my school district has scheduled annual “safety drills” since Columbine, it wasn’t until after Sandy Hook that our school really started implementing school shooting protocols. I vividly remember my 5th and 6th grade teachers giving us specific, and graphic, advice to follow:

  • “Hold a textbook against the back of your barricade to absorb the force of the bullet.”
  • “If you’re in PE or lunch, run away in a zig-zag so that it’s harder for the gunman to shoot you.”
  • “You might see your classmates fall but don’t stop running.”

Something changed after Parkland. The Paly newspaper called it “the last straw,” and my mom said it was because the survivors were informed and well spoken. Millions watched Emma Gonzlález’s impassioned speech and millions more tuned in for the CNN Parkland town hall. We saw survivors who had stopped accepting school shootings as an inevitable fact of life and instead demanded change. Their strategy was to harness the national coverage to immediately draw attention to gun control. They initiated a national walkout and used it to keep the issue in the spotlight for more than a month. Online they tweeted nonstop, often directly addressing high-profile politicians. And it worked. In a matter of days they had created a movement.

I am honored to stand with Cameron Kasky, Emma Gonzlález, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg and the tens of thousands of other young activists across the country in the movement to end mass shootings. On March 15, I led more than 400 students and staff members of my school in observing the National School Walkout. During the event we signed a banner to send to Parkland, read speeches and observed a moment of silence for the thousands of individuals who die annually from gun violence. Less than two weeks later my Beth Am confirmation class bused members of the Beth Am community to San Francisco to join the March for Our Lives protest. In an incongruous combination of loud protest and reverent memorial we heard speeches from politicians, activists and survivors.

Armed with hope, teens like me across America are fighting, voting and advocating for a better tomorrow. To paraphrase Angela Davis, we are no longer accepting things we cannot change, but rather changing the things we cannot accept.

Noah is a 10th grader at Nueva High School and a member of Congregation Beth Am’s confirmation class.


Samantha

The Parkland shooting lit a fire under our feet that will not stop until our politicians do something to ensure our safety from gun violence. We teens tend to be pushed to the side when it comes to planning the future, but the youth are the future. If politicians continue to ignore us, then in four years, sooner in many cases, they will find themselves facing an electorate ready to take them down.

I went to the San Francisco March for Our Lives rally with Congregation Beth Am, my synogogue. I felt empowered seeing people of all ages there, not only young people. It was inspirational. As a Jewish teen I feel the push to go out and stand for what’s right because that what I was taught, so when my confirmation offered to take us to the rally my hand shot up. I take pride in what I believe, and I believe that mass shootings should be a thing of the past. Even though Parkland is across the country, 3,000 miles away, I heard the shots. I urge teens to speak up now and, most of all, to pre-register or register to vote. Making a difference in this case can be as easy as checking a box.

Samantha is 10th grader at Woodside High School and a member of Beth Am's confirmation class