The student-driven response to gun violence after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., is moving from the 17-minute National Student Walkout on Wednesday, March 14, to an international series of marches Saturday, March 24.
Like Atlanta Jewish Academy, the Weber School supported a student-led demonstration during the national walkout. Faculty members joined students in gathering outside the Sandy Springs school for 17 minutes in memory of the 14 students and three educators slain at Stoneman Douglas one month earlier.
The Weber demonstration included 17 empty desks and chairs as a backdrop while the student organizers — 11th-graders Aliza Abusch-Magder and Cydney Wolchock, 12th-grader Micah Cohn, 10th-grader Hannah Rosenberg and ninth-grader Tali Cohn — paid their respects to the dead and discussed the power of students to effect change.
Public school systems had policies ranging from support to opposition to the walkout. In Cobb County, where high schools had a scheduled early dismissal about 90 minutes after the 10 a.m. walkout, unspecified threats of punishment limited participation to about 1,000 students, several of whom complained to the Board of Education the next night about efforts to suppress the demonstrations, East Cobb News reported.
(Update March 22: East Cobb News is tracking the punishments issued by individual Cobb County schools. One day of in-school suspension seems to be the norm.)
Congregation Etz Chaim Rabbi Daniel Dorsch heard rumors that Walton High School students who walked out would be forced to attend school on a Saturday, and he made a public offer to write letters so Jewish demonstrators wouldn’t have to go to school on Shabbat. But he said Monday, March 19, that no one had requested such an excuse letter.
Rabbi Spike Anderson led a forum on gun violence for middle-schoolers and adults Sunday, March 18, at Temple Emanu-El.
Participants included Judy Draisin Wolman, a family therapist in Sandy Springs, and Andrea Teichner, who heads the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. After the forum, Emanu-El middle-schoolers prepared posters for the March for Our Lives, scheduled for Saturday morning, March 24, in Washington, D.C., and sites around the world, including downtown Atlanta.
Teens from Emanu-El and other Atlanta-area Reform congregations will participate in the march through the Reform youth group NFTY. The Conservative movement’s youth group, USY, also is facilitating march participation locally and at the main location in Washington.
The Atlanta march is sponsored by the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice.
Ahavath Achim Synagogue’s rabbis, who have called gun violence in America a spiritual problem, acknowledged in a letter to congregants that some will join the march rather than attend synagogue services March 24, but they urged everyone to incorporate some kind of spiritual activism reflective of the marches’ purpose, whether a discussion over a Shabbat meal, the recitation of a special prayer for gun victims, or the study of one or more related texts on a sheet prepared by the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.
Ahavath Achim (600 Peachtree Battle Ave., Buckhead), which is forming a group to address the issue of gun violence, also is holding a special prayer and study session that Saturday night, with Mincha at 6:15, a meal and text study at 6:45, and Ma’ariv and Havdalah at 7:55 p.m.