This Thursday, Student Activities Director Rabbi Ney and a delegation of six Hebrew Academy student representatives travelled an hour north to visit the Chabad of Parkland and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a show of solidarity and support.
The group, comprised of Itai Beaudoin De Roca (12th), David Gilinski (12th), Noah Rotenberg (11th), Raquel Zohar (11th), Yael Bister (10th), and Harel Twito (9th), departed school after lunch on Thursday and made their first visit to the Chabad of Parkland. There, the group handed off all proceeds raised from the “Douglas Strong” t-shirt campaign, which was headed by sophomores Kayla Abramowitz and Kayla Wolfson, to the Chabad chapter’s Rabbi Gutnick. Rabbi Gutnick spoke to the students, commending them for their efforts and discussing the way Jews have banded together in the aftermath of such tragedy that took five of their own.
“You guys are doing tremendous, tremendous work bringing about not just awareness to a tragedy that’s befallen this community and the broader community, but also to begin the process and a path of healing, and for many, many people, that path of healing is unknown,” said Rabbi Gutnick. “But you have shown, which comes from the light of Torah, that there is a way through doing goodness and positive acts and bringing about a new energy of light and goodness into the world that overwhelms and overcomes whatever bad has happened.”
Upon departing from the Chabad, the group headed for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where security were stationed at every entrance and many were paying their respects as visitors to the memorial established adjacent to the school’s main entrance. Hopes of being allowed to personally deliver the 17 “Douglas Strong” t-shirts to the main office were unfortunately left unfulfilled, as the highest levels of security were being maintained. Security guards assured the delegation that the shirts would be delivered, and suggested that they park at a public park down the road and walk back up to pay their respects at the memorial. On their way out, the group met two parents of Stoneman Douglas students who thanked them for coming and asked about the t-shirt campaign and the relation their actions had to mitzvot.
“The response to this tragedy, in a very meaningful way, has empowered the youth of America, as we see in our school, to take a stand, and to take action, and to recognize how important and how vital their voices are in the future policies of this country, and I think that they’ve begun to understand just how powerful they can be,” Rabbi Ney said. “I think that the Parkland community has showed tremendous resolve in the face of absolute tragedy and they made us feel very warmly welcomed and our kids left that experience with something that they’ll probably never forget.”
The group parked the car and walked back to the memorial, a line of 17 crosses with piles of flowers, mementos, and posters open to the public to commemorate those killed.
“We saw all the flowers and all the gifts people left and Rabbi Ney said a perek of Tehillim and we just stood there in silence and solidarity,” Bister said. “You usually see all these things in pictures and you see it on videos, but it doesn’t really hit home until you actually go there, and I have friends there. It was a culture shock and very impactful to be there.”
Student representatives said they were heavily impacted by their visit to Parkland. Some even found a shred of prideful hope for the future.
“The drive to parkland reminded me how close to home this tragedy was, but walking along the sidewalk in front of Stoneman Douglas reminded me how horrific this tragedy was,” said Beaudoin De Roca. “Despite this, seeing how much the community came together in support was truly inspiring and gave me a sense of pride that as a generation, we can prevent this kind of thing from happening ever again.”
By: Raquel Zohar (11th Grade)