We are the Jewish future.
We are the people who need to fight to make a difference.
We are the ones who can change the world.
The Torah warns us “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16). We cannot sit here and watch as the world comes to bits around us.
Tomorrow, we will march not only in honor of those lost in the Parkland shooting, but we will march to strive to create an impact and make our voices heard.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel told us that while “some are guilty, all are responsible.” No, gun violence is not our fault; no, what happens to innocent people everyday is not because of the actions we do. We do have say in the actions we take because of it, and we are responsible for taking those actions.
Heschel also declared that “a Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than a leap of faith.” As Jewish people, we cannot trust in God to fix our problems.
As Jewish people, we are required to fix our own problems. As Jewish people, we must change the hate we see in the world. And that requires action.
Hillel says “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:14).
In advocacy, it is so important to take care of ourselves, but it is equally as important to take care of those around us. And with taking care of people comes honoring and respecting them.
Rabbi Eliezer said, “Other people’s dignity should be as precious to you as your own.” (Pirkei Avot 2:10). We must value the importance of a human life. Each and every being has so much worth. We must always keep this factor in mind.
It is taught that “anyone who destroys a human life is considered as if he had destroyed an entire world, and anyone who saves a human life is considered to have saved an entire world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).
When advocating, we must value the individual. But we must also treat them as if they were an entire world, value each and every one of their aspects and identities. The Torah teaches that “God created man b’tzelem elohim, in God’s image.” (Genesis 1:27).
Each and every person was created this way, and we must stand up for them because of that. Therefore, every person must say, “For my sake the world was created.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).
But not just for my sake. But for your sake. And for his sake and her sake and their sake. For all of our sakes, the world was created.
When we march tomorrow morning, we must keep all of these ideas in mind. We will remember the lives lost to gun violence, and we will honor their memories with the Jewish values we have been taught, valuing their lives as if they were our own.
Stay strong. Fight to make a difference. Change the world. Together.
USY International Religion Education Vice President 2018