By Zach Zabib, International President
Awed. Inspired. Empowered. Hopeful. These are some of the words that came to mind after spending this last Shabbat with USY at March for Our Lives.
I am in awe that I stood with a group of almost two hundred USYers in a crowd of over 800,000 people on Pennsylvania Avenue.
I am inspired by the fact that hundreds more USYers participated in marches across the country.
I am empowered by the fact that when I looked around at March, I saw more people younger than me than older.
I am hopeful, because I know that the March was only the beginning and our generation has the capability to change the world.
When I first heard that this March was being organized, I knew that USY had to get involved. In USY, we constantly learn about social action and tikun olam (repairing the world). We learn of our responsibility as Jews to constantly pursue justice.
When this singular opportunity was presented, an opportunity for our generation to take the lead on this important issue, I knew USY would find itself at the forefront.
Yet, our March experience was different than the other 800,000 people that found their way to DC.
It was Shabbat, and so we had to find a way to juxtapose our values of sanctifying Shabbat with our values of social activism. This tension between being involved and keeping Shabbat completely enhanced our experience.
Our March did not start on Pennsylvania Avenue, rather it started two and a half miles away, right after services at the Adas Israel Congregation in D.C. In the interest of keeping Shabbat, a group of us wanted to walk to the March.
As we walked to the March site we were praised by drivers honking at us and waving their hands. It felt not only as if the older generations were proud of us, but that they were now trusting us to lead the charge.
When we got to the march site on Pennsylvania Avenue we couldn’t take any pictures. Instead, we made memories that would be more impactful than a picture.
We marched behind our banner, singing songs like Ozi V’Zimrat Ya, praising the strength of God, and Oseh Shalom, praying for a day when we would not have to march to ensure the freedom and security of our brothers and sisters in communities across the country.
This past Shabbat was not only special because of the March, but also because it was Shabbat HaGadol, “The Great Shabbat,” the Shabbat before Passover–and these events were not mutually exclusive. On Passover, we are charged with telling the story of the exodus from Egypt.
On this Shabbat, I felt as if our generation was leading the exodus from a world in which the youth had no say, to a safer world we will create. When I was standing in the center of that crowd, I jumped up and saw a sea of people in front of me and behind me. I felt as if we were the chosen people crossing through the Red Sea.
This struggle will not end tomorrow. People in our community and in so many others have been directly affected by gun violence. That is why we continue to fight.
Change may not come tomorrow, next week, or even in November. Like the Children of Israel, who had to endure 40 years in the wilderness before they reached the Promised Land, we have a long journey ahead of us as we fight towards our promised land, a safer America.
So what can you do now? Register to vote, if you are old enough, take a stand, and make your voice heard.