Over the past week, the United States has been struggling in the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Parkland, FL. As affected students and families take to various media and government channels to share their grief and pain, and advocate for gun control policy changes, the Jewish community is grappling with what role we can and should play in responding to such events.
While the policy issues go right to the heart of cultural and political divides in this country, we want to make sure that the Jewish Federation remains focused on the essential and critical work we are responsible for in such moments – taking care of the vulnerable in our midst and building community – both of which are essential to helping individuals and families pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and try to move forward.
Let me say this -- none of this is easy. There is no written manual on what to do or how to respond. I am, however, proud that the Jewish Federation of Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale area) is playing a strong and visible role in the Parkland area, bringing resources to the community and city in multiple ways:
1. Coordinating actively with area clergy, as well as teen and youth workers. This has included being a supportive resource to synagogues, Chabad and youth groups through the placement of mental health professionals at vigils, services and throughout their daily operations.
2. Ensuring a Federation lay and professional leadership presence since the shooting, including at funerals, shiva calls, vigils and Shabbat services.
3. With support from the Israeli government, the Israel Trauma Coalition is bringing a team this week to work with the city, schools, and clergy in the area.
4. The Federation has supported the local Jewish Family Service to open a satellite office in the Parkland area. This was already planned, but was accelerated in response to the situation.
5. The Federation has also engaged a new professional outreach worker to be based in Parkland to focus in a broader way on building community in this under-resourced suburban area. This resource is focused now on providing ongoing support and training for advocacy activities, including providing a Jewish context.
6. Federation is organizing hundreds of volunteers to assemble and distribute Purim care packages.
The Jewish Federation of Broward County is leading in this moment without knowing where the funding will come from to finance these steps, but knowing that leadership and action is crucial. We encourage you to make a donation and support the Federation and these important initiatives.
We are mindful that the Parkland area, part of the Broward Federation’s catchment area, is adjacent to parts of the South Palm Beach Federation’s (Boca Raton area) catchment, and that the relationships and connections involved in this situation know no boundaries. The South Palm Beach Federation leadership has also been deeply involved this past week in supporting institutions and members of the community affected by the shooting.
On a local level, Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is a coalition partner with the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety. We are jointly committed to making Oregon safer by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous individuals. Last night, the State Legislature approved and Governor Brown will sign House Bill 4145, which closes a loophole in Oregon gun laws that allow convicted domestic abusers and stalkers to legally buy and own firearms if they are not married to or living with the victim and they do not have children together. This marked the first time since the deadly school shooting last week that a state legislature has passed any gun control measure.
On a national level, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (the umbrella group for Jewish Community Relations Councils) issued the following statement on the school shooting.
What role can you play? Learn from the students! Share your thoughts with our elected officials! Let them know where you stand! Make your voice heard!
One of the most important roles increasingly played by Federations in their communities is the focus on security and preventive measures that may mitigate such events. Our investment in the Secure Community Network, which I mentioned last week, is a critically important resource to all Jewish communities to focus on preparedness and training. It is not unusual for there to be copycat incidents, at least threats, after a highly visible event. SCN reports, according to open source reports, that threats to schools across the U.S. this week are tracking at five times the normal rate; organizations may see heightened concerns among families and children in your communities. We receive daily communications from SCN and will stay on top of what is happening.
Our community remains in close contact with the Jewish Federation of Broward County to support its efforts and offer available resources. We will keep you informed as events continue to unfold.
On a happier note, this is the final call for nominations for the 2018 Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Award. The award honors our esteemed colleague and friend Laurie Rogoway, a pillar of Jewish professional leadership for over 30 years in Portland. This award recognizes an early to mid-career Jewish professional currently working in a professional capacity at a Jewish communal organization in Greater Portland. The award will be presented at Federation’s Annual Meeting on June 14 and the recipient will receive up to $1800 to participate in a professional development experience. This is your opportunity to celebrate and recognize the excellence in Jewish professional leadership in our midst. Please fill out the form online here prior to March 2nd.
Shabbat shalom and have a wonderful Purim holiday starting next Wednesday night. There are plenty of Purim shpiels and celebrations around town, so go and enjoy the Megillah reading and wear your favorite costume. Plus, here is a fun videoexplaining the holiday.