Students at Jewish day schools across the nation — including several in the Bay Area — offered prayers, lit candles and demanded change as part of a nationwide student walkout calling for gun reform in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Students around the country walked out of class for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. Wednesday to pressure Congress to approve gun control legislation and to honor the lives of the 17 victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The national walkouts come 10 days before the March for Our Lives, a protest organized by Parkland students in which their peers from around the country will descend on Washington, D.C., on March 24 to call for stricter gun control.
Locally, students from Brandeis Marin in San Rafael, Brandeis School of San Francisco, Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco, Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito, and Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City all participated in the walkout.
Students at S.F. Brandeis teamed up with peers from neighboring St. Thomas More Catholic School and KZV Armenian School for a walkout along Brotherhood Way, where all three schools are located.
— The Brandeis School (@sfbrandeis) March 14, 2018
Dan Glass, head of school, tweeted: “‘We are the new generation,’ the student leaders tell us at this interfaith three-school #nationalwalkoutday rally against gun violence, and we weep for the necessity of the statement, and pray that it may be so.”
At Brandeis Marin, kids held up signs like “Don’t be a bystander,” “We the Kids — gun control now” and “School is for learning, not burning.”
At Tehiyah, pupils as young as second-graders took part in the walk-out, which included delegates from the fifth through eighth grades making short speeches and reading poems.
“As a parent and an administrator, it was so moving to watch these children,” said Jenn Brysk, the school’s chief advancement officer. “These are our future leaders. It was amazing to see our values at work.”
— Brandeis Marin (@brandeismarin) March 14, 2018
Mira Kittner, an 18-year-old senior at JCHS, told J. yesterday, “We pay attention. Our knowledge of this issue has been bubbling under the surface for a long time. This [walkout] has been a way to insert our voices into the conversation, and be able to challenge authority.”
Because many JCHS students are away on annual school trips, their walkout will be held March 23, the day before the March for Our Lives.
Earlier this month, the heads of 139 Jewish day schools signed a letter calling for action on gun control in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The letter was organized by Prizmah, which represents some 300 Jewish day schools, and while it stopped short of endorsing today’s walkout or the March 24 student march, it stated the signatories’ belief that school safety is a Jewish issue.
Leaders of Brandeis Marin, Brandeis S.F., JCHS, Wornick, Gideon Hausner, Kehillah, Contra Costa Jewish Day School in Lafayette, South Peninsula Hebrew Day School in Sunnyvale, Oakland Hebrew Day School, Shalom School in Sacramento and Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos all signed the letter.
“Some schools will get behind the walkout, some schools will look the other way to express what they think is important, but at the end of the day everyone is standing for the same thing, which is we need to protect our students and the professionals that work in schools,” Paul Bernstein, Prizmah’s CEO, told JTA.