The confirmation class of Temple Emanuel in Kensington walked the halls of the Capitol on Friday, each
carrying a copy of their yearbook. The six students are nowhere to be seen on the book’s pages. Instead, the pages are filled with the names and faces of the 28 students murdered in school shootings in 2018, including those at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“This is the only yearbook that they are going to have,” said Jacob Dicin, a Temple Emanuel class member. The students call it “Yearbook of the Fallen.” In the days leading up to their Capitol visit, they mailed 1,000 copies to senators, Congress members and their staffs, according to Rabbi Warren Stone.
Wearing orange ribbons, the class spent Friday advocating for gun reform to politicians or their staffs. With each meeting, they asked if the yearbook — which offers solutions to gun violence including funding more gun-violence research, banning high-capacity magazines and disarming domestic abusers — had been received.
As high school students themselves, the confirmation class said they know what it’s like to go to school knowing that there is a risk of dying by gunfire.
“When I get to a new class, I scan the classroom and think about it beforehand: I would hide here, I would hide here. I would use this to defend myself,” said Eva Stavisky. “And I think that’s a really awful mindset for us to be put in.”
The packed day began with prayer, songs and speeches outside the Capitol. Then, Eva, Jacob, Eden Shane, Ethan Shroff, Callie Newberg and Miriam Saletan went inside. They met with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and with the staffs of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
Stone, who was there to chaperone, found himself barred from entering McConnell’s office when the gatekeeper couldn’t find him on the visitor list.
“They asked some great questions,” Ethan said of McConnell’s staff as the group jogged over to their next appointment. “We brought up some good points. They brought up some good points. They were very respectful, very nice. They were very intelligent on the subject. I think we made some great strides.”
The 36-page yearbook also includes statistics relating firearm-related deaths. The yearbook also included letters from gun reform supporters, including Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg,
one of the victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
For the class, the yearbook was a way of putting a face to the names of the victims and, in some cases, briefly describe them. On the page they dedicated to Jaelynn Willey, of Great Mills, Md., they included a transcript of a 911 call made about the shooting.
It was something that was important to them, Stone said. “It’s a way learning about Judaism through social justice and translating it to tangible actions, something that could have an impact.”
The students say they aren’t just pushing for gun safety for the benefit of others. They have grown up in
public schools, where lockdown drills are common place and routinely hear about shootings on television and over the internet.
And they’re scared that it could happen to them. They talked about how loud sounds in school scared them and how unprepared the schools actually are.
“I was in chemistry class and I heard a banging sound in the hallway,” Eva said. “I’ve never heard [gunshots] in real life and I thought it could be, and for the rest of the period I was terrified for my life.
“We think it’s a really prominent issue that needs to be solved,” Eva added. “We really wanted to do something to commemorate and honor the students. We all agreed and decided it was a great way to get our message across and really touch people’s hearts.”
I am very impressed with these students and the project which they initiated! Great advocacy work!