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Standing Up For Our Lives

JWA's Rising Voices Fellowship helps female-identified teens develop authentic voices, strengthen their leadership through writing, and begin to influence the important conversations of the Jewish community. Of course, these rock stars are already shaking things up in their communities today. This is part of Rising Voices in Action, a month-long annual series that demonstrates the many different ways in which you can challenge the status quo, no matter your gender or age.

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, many of our Rising Voices Fellows sprung into action. From writing their own reflections and calling for change, to organizing their communities to act, these young women are taking part in a teen-led movement that’s sweeping the nation.

2017-2018 Rising Voices Fellow Emma Mair
Emma Mair

On February 14th, 2018, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shook the nation, but not in the same way previous mass shootings have. This time, “thoughts and prayers” weren’t going to cut it. The survivors started a nationwide movement, made up of primarily high school-aged students, to fight for real change. It took me a month of late nights, emails, Facebook notifications, school committee meetings, and continuous encouragement from my family, to put together my school’s walkout; and I’m incredibly proud of myself, my friends, and my school, for taking a stand. For too long, the status quo in the United States has been complacency. Not anymore. I can’t count the number of parents who told me what I was doing was wrong. How many parents told me not to turn death into politics. How many people told me to just honor and mourn the victims of this senseless tragedy. But the way I see it, if nothing changes, if we continue without gun reform, then those seventeen people will have died for nothing. So yeah, if you want to be complacent with murder, be my guest. But if you’re an adult attacking a seventeen-year-old girl on social media, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’re only fueling my fire.

2017-2018 Rising Voices Fellow Kara Sherman
Kara Sherman

Your first sit-in can be kind of intense. The student organizers of the Phoenix branch of March For Our Lives planned a day of action on March 14th, during our spring break. This was the same day the rest of the country walked out of school to demand better gun control, and to remember the 17 people in Parkland, Florida who were killed. Our day at the state capitol included meeting with state representatives, painting statistics and slogans on white shirts to wear into the building, and watching the legislative session as democratic representatives shared our names, ages, schools, and why we were there. The day was supposed to end with a press conference and our leaders hand-delivering a letter we had all signed to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, asking for common sense gun reform in our state. Governor Ducey was “unavailable to meet us,” but all 50 of us sat down and asked to see the governor. We all started chanting: “Ducey, where you at? The youth are here.” We were forced to leave before we got what we wanted. But we made sure our expectation of a meeting with Ducey before the national March for our Lives was known—and we’ll be back.

2017-2018 Rising Voices Fellow Tamar Cohen
Tamar Cohen

There is a definite reason why my throat hurts today, and frankly, I don’t mind it. It’s a reminder, albeit a somewhat painful one, of the hours yesterday when the quiet, voiceless observer I often am at school took a leave of absence. “The students, united, will never be divided,” we yelled, walking steadily away from school, toward the park. It was a new children’s war, and our voices were our weapons. At first, we were timid. Few people wanted to be the only one yelling, and hesitated before joining each chant to be sure they weren’t chanting alone. But after a while, I didn’t care anymore. Even when I was the only one screaming in the back half of the line, I didn’t care. “Protect students, not guns!” was my mantra, and I was sticking to it. And when I stood on a park bench in front of the group, speaking with the immense power of the Rising Voices ladies behind me, I was no longer quiet. And maybe today I will retreat back into the safety of the small girl writing quietly in a journal in the corner. But I know how I introduced myself at that rally, and that will stay with me always: I said, “My name is Tamar, and my thing is, I write for change.”

Inspired by these reflections? You can check out RVF’s other blog posts. If you love the series and want to hear more about what these budding revolutionaries are doing, sign up for our blog mailing list.

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Rising Voices and Havdallah Candle (Winter 2018)
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RVF fellows lighting the Havdallah Cande at the RVF Winter Retreat (2018).
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How to cite this page

Klebe, Larisa. "Standing Up For Our Lives." 9 April 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 25, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/standing-up-for-our-lives>.

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