On Feb. 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire. Within six minutes Cruz killed 17 students and staff members and injured 17 others.
Soon after that, Zoe Terner — who is the social action vice president of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the Reform Jewish youth movement — was deluged with text message notifications.
“I didn’t realize what was going on at first,” said Terner, who is a freshman at the University of Florida in Gainsville, but is originally from Lake Worth, Florida, a mere 40 minutes from Parkland.
But soon she found out, as did the rest of the country, about the latest mass shooting.
“It was a pretty scary day,” Terner said. “I have and had friends who went to Douglas. I was texting friends and not hearing back. There were a couple really scary hours there, not knowing who was affected.”
Galvanized to act, Terner immediately sprang into action, which isn’t surprising given her role with NFTY.
“I went to [Congregation] Kol Tikvah in Parkland,” she said. “We got a bunch of students to travel to Tallahassee along with students from Douglas. We started lobbying and got to work.”
Soon the eyes of the nation were on the Parkland students and their youthful allies, some of whom were not old enough to vote. Terner later participated in the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24, 2018 and spoke at a Union for Reform Judaism event held the day before.
What can you do?
On March 15, Terner will be the keynote speaker at the annual Metropolitan Council of Reform Congregations Shabbat service, which will be held at Congregation Sinai of Fox Point.
For the last 20 years, Reform congregations in southeastern Wisconsin have held MCRC shabbat services, each year focusing on a different topic.
This year is unique in that teens from area Reform congregations, as well as members of BBYO and NFTY, are organizing the event. About 100 teens are expected to attend.
“This year the teens will be working together to plan and lead a service and oneg around the theme ‘What Can You Do?’”, said Brian Avner, director of education at Congregation Sinai. “Throughout the service teens will share facts and information about how young people can make a difference.”
No more “bystanderism”
Echoing the passion displayed by the thousands of teens and young adults who participated in the March for Our Lives rally, Mara Kleinerman, a senior at Homestead High School and member of BBYO-Wisconsin Region who is helping plan the MCRC event, said that being a passive bystander at a time when hate is proliferating is “unconscionable.”
“With our words, voices, votes and actions, we all have the power to create change,” she said. “If and how you choose to exercise this power is up to you.”
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At a glance
What: Annual Metropolitan Council of Reform Congregations Shabbat service
Where: Congregation Sinai, 8223 N. Port Washington Road, Fox Point
When: Friday, March 15. Free dinner for community teens at 6:30 p.m. followed by services at 7:30 p.m. Teens can register at bit.ly/mcrcshabbat.