High school students at the Hebrew Academy (RASG) in Miami Beach recently honored the victims of the shooting tragedy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland with a student-run solidarity program.
This program, a student-run initiative, took place at the Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox Jewish Day School, for 17 minutes to honor the 17 shooting victims. Ten students spoke, some of them read poems and 17 candles were lit in honor of the victims. Students also asked their peers and teachers to purchase “HA is Douglas Strong” long sleeve t-shirts. The proceeds of these shirts were donated to Chabad of Parkland.
Dara Lieber, the Hebrew Academy’s high school assistant principal who coordinated the program with the students, was impressed with their efforts.
“These are children and they spoke so eloquently and they wrote such beautiful things. They were so amazing.”
A few of the students spoke about their experience.
Maya Somek, a 12th grade student, said “It was so nice for us to all be unified and be together, especially in our small school.”
“Even though there’s about 120 kids in our high school, we all came together and it felt so powerful to be all together as a Jewish community, especially when several of the victims were Jewish. This shows that Jews stick together.”
Mark Alishayev, a 12th grade student, described what he felt were the most memorable moments from this recent program.
“Definitely seeing all the students from the school and eighth graders coming out, as well as all of us standing together, was a highlight. We had a moment of silence dedicated to those that were killed.”
During the program, Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack, a MSD student who was killed during the shooting, spoke to the Hebrew Academy students through FaceTime about the importance of speaking out and fighting for school safety.
Rena Kahn, a 12th grade student, thought Pollack’s message was amazing.
“A lot of us have been focusing on changing the gun laws and kind of regulating all those kinds of things, but what Andrew Pollack said on the FaceTime was that yes, it’s important to make change in that aspect, but also that one of the most important things every person can do every single day of their lives is to care for one another and make sure that the people you go to school with and you see every day are happy, are getting attention and are not having problems. Being there for one another is something that’s so important and something that’s so easy to overlook.”
Itai Beaudoin De Roca, a 12th student, thought it was beautiful that the students we were able to stand together, speak out and be unified.
“I’m really proud of our school community for standing together, making an effort to bring change and remembering those lives that were lost.”
Hebrew Academy students traveled to Parkland where they delivered the remaining 17 unsold “HA is Douglas Strong” shirts to MSD for the victims’ families and met with Rabbi Mendy Gutnick, education director of Chabad of Parkland. At press time, Gutnick is planning to use the proceeds from the shirts that were sold for projects such as giving MSD Jewish students mezuzahs for their bedrooms, or Shabbat candles for girls or Shabbat baskets for the Jewish families. He felt the students’ efforts were touching.
“It was a great tribute from these students who didn’t really know the Stoneman Douglas students, but they know that they are high school students like them and they wanted to do something to show kindness and support,” Gutinick noted.
Lieber felt the students’ efforts exemplified Jewish values like tikkun olam (repair the world).
“We need to make the world a better place and we need to make the world a safer place. These children are going to make this world a better and safer place for all of us in the future, so I think this goes hand in hand with Jewish values.”
Visit hebrewacademymiami.org for more information about the school or chabadofparkland.com for more information on the Chabad.