Watching with Pride and Sadness as a New Generation Takes up the Fight

(From left to right) Ruth Zakarin, a community organizer with the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and Ruth's daughter at a recent rally for gun violence prevention in Boston. Photo courtesy of Ruth Zakarin. 

On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, nineteen children and two adults were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The shooting occurred just ten days after a white supremacist shot and killed ten people, most of them Black, in a supermarket in Buffalo.

By the next day, young people were organizing rallies and marches across the country, coordinating a collective outcry for change. A few days after that, I heard from one of the lead organizers of the local March for Our Lives (MFOL) chapter. So did my daughter.

To explain: My daughter and I are both deeply involved in gun violence prevention. I am the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, a state-wide group with over 120 member organizations working to address gun violence in all its forms. My daughter just finished her term as Political Affairs Director for her college’s MFOL chapter. The lead organizer contacted me to see if the Coalition would support the rally in Boston (of course we would) and my daughter to see if she would jump in as a lead organizer of the rally (of course she did).

So began a whirlwind two weeks for the youth organizers and the adults supporting them, hammering out everything from the venue and speaking program to AV equipment and stage setup. I had a bird’s-eye view of the immense amount of work that went into making the rally happen, both as the executive director of the Coalition and as a mom. That dual role defined the experience for me and resulted in several sweet, fun, and, at times, mildly ridiculous moments.

The speakers, most of whom I work with closely in my role at the Coalition, got a kick out of the fact that it was my daughter coordinating the speaking program. In one particularly amusing interaction, I responded to a reporter that had left a message requesting an interview, only to hear that she was all set and no longer needed a quote from me. Why? Because she had reached one of the organizers of the rally, and it was—of course—my daughter. I can tell you that I’ve never been bumped from a news interview by my own kid before, and I was both thrilled and proud when it happened.

The rally itself was powerful, with great attendance, a terrific speaking program, and lots of media coverage. Our young people made quite an impact on the greater Boston community. I was incredibly proud of my daughter and her fellow organizers, including the Coalition’s community organizer, who jumped whole-heartedly into working with the youth leaders.

But this is what I’ve been reflecting on ever since: Even as I’m uplifted with pride, my heart is heavy with sadness. Throughout my entire adult life, for the decades I worked with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and now in gun violence prevention, I have always said that I am in the business of putting myself out of business. Clearly this has not happened. Now I am watching my own children step up, take on the work, and demand change. Yes, I am incredibly proud of them, but every fiber of my being wishes they did not have to.

Fast-forward to Friday, June 24. I am in the thick of responding to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Bruen case, which overturned a key part of gun safety legislation in the state of New York, and its potential impact on our gun laws in Massachusetts, when my daughter gives me the catastrophic news about Roe being overturned. The news landed like a gut punch. I have been marching for abortion rights since I was in high school and volunteered escorting people to abortion clinics, and then coordinating escorts, for many years. I was horrified when someone with hate in his heart and a gun in his hand shot and killed two people at a Planned Parenthood in Massachusetts in 1994.

I got involved in the reproductive justice movement to protect abortion rights then and for generations to come. But instead, my kids’ generation will have even fewer rights than mine. Instead, I worry about guns being used to threaten or harm people seeking abortions, and those who try to help them.

That evening, as my daughter and I headed to the State House to join others protesting the Roe decision, we heard from her twin brother. My son, quite the advocate himself, is in Washington, DC for an internship and was on his way to the Supreme Court to protest the decision. I had another moment of pride tinged with deep sadness. My kids would both be standing up and speaking out, and as a parent I was happy that they both felt compelled to take action. Neither of them would be standing on the sidelines, passive bystanders to profound harm and injustice. As we see the impact of Roe being overturned in states across the country, all while we also continue to see yet more mass shootings—the ones in Highland Park and Boston over the July 4 weekend only the most recent examples—the need for action has never been so urgent.

Standing with my daughter and the other protestors at the State House, I thought of my grandfather, Sidney Zakarin. I learned to daven from him, and I can still hear his voice singing his favorite part of the Shabbat service, the end of kedushah. L’dor vador—from generation to generation—he would sing. He loved the idea of passing things on to the next generation, namely me, as he helped me practice my davening skills. That evening with my daughter, I had a l’dor vador moment too, but in a profoundly different way. I love my children more than I can describe, and I love who they have become in the world, but I lament what we have handed them and the rest of their generation. May their activism be for a blessing.

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How to cite this page

Zakarin, Ruth. "Watching with Pride and Sadness as a New Generation Takes up the Fight." 11 July 2022. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 7, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/watching-pride-and-sadness-new-generation-takes-fight>.

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