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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


February 23, 2018  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Honoring the victims: Amid grief, calls to act

JTA news service and Jewish Press staff report

A makeshift memorial erected in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. 
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images A makeshift memorial erected in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images They volunteered. They played soccer. They went to camp. They were sweet, mature and easygoing. They were just beginning their lives, or helping others on their way.

And one died so that others could live.

Jewish students and staff were among the 17 people killed when a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, and began shooting. The Jewish victims were freshmen Jaime Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff and Alex Schachter, senior Meadow Pollack and Scott Beigel, a geography teacher who is credited with saving students’ lives. Nikolas Cruz, 19, who had been expelled from the school, is accused of using an automatic rifle during the killing spree.

Jaime Guttenberg

Jaime Guttenberg, 14, and her brother Jesse were both students at the school. While her brother managed to escape the school, Jaime was killed.

Jaime Guttenberg Jaime Guttenberg Jaime and Jesse were volunteers at The Friendship Initiative, a program that pairs neurotypical students like them with special needs kids. Another volunteer at the center, Gina Montalto, also was killed in the shooting. Jeb Niewood, president of The Friendship Initiative, remembered Guttenberg as a genuine person who loved helping others.

In her free time, Guttenberg also loved to dance, and she was involved with a local dance studio, according to Facebook posts.

Of all the Jewish victims of the shootings, Jaime’s family has perhaps been the most outspoken about the need for legislation to prevent another school massacre.

Jaime’s father, Fred, spoke at a CNN town hall in Sunrise on Feb. 21 and told Sen. Marco Rubio that his comments since the shooting and the need for gun control are “pathetically weak.”

Alyssa Alhadeff Alyssa Alhadeff “My daughter was hunted last week … She was massacred. … I am enraged,” he told Rubio. “Look at me and tell me that guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week.”

Rubio responded that guns were a factor but said the issue of gun control is a complicated one, and when pushed by a student, refused to say he would not stop accepting contributions from the NRA.

The Feb. 18 funerals for Jamie and another victim, Alex Schacther were moved to a Fort Lauderdale hotel to accommodate more than a thousand mourners.

Alyssa Alhadeff

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, was a mature, laid-back girl who loved soccer and made friends easily. She played midfield for the school soccer team, earning newspaper coverage for her achievements on the field.

Meadow Pollack Meadow Pollack “She’s the sweetest, Alhadeff’s grand mother, Vicky Alhadeff, told Miami’s Channel 7 News. “She’s a big soccer player, very smart, she’s in track. She’s very popular, a very beautiful girl. Oh my God, she’s my life. How could I not love her? She’s my granddaughter.”

“Honor her legacy with positive actions and be her voice,” Rabbi Shuey Biston of the Chabad of Parkland told those who came to remember he son, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Mourners spilled onto the sidewalk of Star of David Memorial Gardens Cemetery and Funeral Chapel in North Lauderdale on Feb. 16. They included fellow students who remembered Alyssa as an excellent student and athlete who spoke of attending law school, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Alex Schachter Alex Schachter Her mother, Lori Alhadeff, who in an interview with CNN, begged President Donald Trump to take action to prevent future mass shootings. At the CNN town hall a few days later, she expressed anger and frustration. “I am tired of people doing nothing,” she said. “This horrific incident has to be the catalyst that finally puts things in action.

Alyssa had attended Camp Coleman in Georgia, a Reform Jewish camp, for one summer, and was planning on returning this year. Staff there remembered her as being “like an angel,” always happy to help out and quick to adjust to a new environment.

A soccer scholarship has been set up in her memory through GoFundMe.

Meadow Pollack

Meadow Pollack, 18, a senior, had planned to go to Lynn University in nearby Boca Raton next year.

Scott Beigel Scott Beigel Her father, Andrew Pollack, attended a listening session with President Trump at the White House on Feb. 21 and told Trump that it must be the last school shooting.

“My daughter is in King David Cemetery,” Pollack said. “Never, ever will I see my kid, it’s an eternity.”

Pollack, surrounded by his three sons, asked the president, “How many schools, how many children have to get shot?”

Pollack called for increased security at schools, noting that the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 triggered immediate enhanced protections for airliners, while despite a succession of school shootings these facilities remain vulnerable. He advised against litigating gun laws for now, saying the issue was too divisive.

“It’s not about gun laws right now – that’s another fight, another battle,” Pollack said.

At Meadow’s funeral Feb. 16 at Temple K’ol Tikvah, her dad talked about the thoughts that haunt him.

“You killed my kid. ‘My kid is dead’ goes through my head all day and all night. I keep hearing it over and over,” he said, according to a Sun-Sentinel report. “I have always been able to protect my family. Our kids should be safe but my princess wasn’t safe.”

Rabbi Bradd Boxman called on those who were present to do an act of kindness in Meadow’s memory. “We must carry Meadow’s love forward and not let it die in a pine wood box,” Rabbi Boxman said, according to the Associated Press.

Alex Schachter

Alex Schachter, 14, was a member of the school’s marching band and orchestra, playing baritone and trombone.

“I felt he really had a bright future on the trombone,” Alexander Kaminsky, director of bands at the Parkland high school, told the Sun-Sentinel.

The Miami Herald reported that remembrances at the Feb. 18 funeral focused on his love for movies, his humor and his passion for the high school’s marching band as well as the secret ingredients in his special smoothie.

A Go Fund Me page was set up by Alex’s family for a scholarship.

“In an effort to continue his memory, this scholarship is being created to help other students experience the joys of music as well as fund increased security at schools. Please help keep Alex’s spirit alive,” the page said. “The money raised will be sent to the Stoneman Douglas Marching Eagles.”

Alex’s father read a poem at the CNN town hall meeting that his son had written that likened life to a rollercoaster ride, with the rider never knowing when it would stop.

Scott Beigel

Scott Beigel, 35, was a geography teacher and cross country coach at the school. He was also a longtime counselor at Camp Starlight, a predominantly Jewish camp in Pennslyvania.

Beigel is credited with sacrificing his own life to save students by opening his classroom door to students looking for a place to hide. He was shot while closing the door behind them.

One of the students, Kelsey Friend, recounted how Beigel let her and other students into his classroom and then attempted to lock the door. Friend said she would likely not be alive had Beigel not opened the door for her and called Beigel “a really amazing teacher.”

Linda Shulman, Beigel’s mother confronted the NRA’s Dana Loesch at the CNN town hall, demanding to know: “Why are my son’s unalienable rights not protected as fiercely as the right to bear arms?”

Hundreds of family, friends, students and colleagues attended the Beigel’s funeral on Sunday, Feb. 18, at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton.

His fiancé, Gwen Gossler, who he met at Camp Starlight, recounted a chilling conversation when they were watching coverage of another school shooting. If he ever was the victim of a school shooting, Beigel said he didn’t want Gossler to talk about the “hero stuff,” Gossler related at the funeral

Nevertheless that was the word being used to describe Beigel.

In a Facebook post, Camp Starlight, called him a “beloved friend and hero.”

“I am not at all surprised to hear that he endangered his own life to save others,” wrote Liza Luxenberg, a friend from the camp. “He has always been a hero to me as a friend and now unfortunately the rest of the world gets to learn of his heroism in this tragedy.”

A Scott Beigel Memorial Fund has been set up to fund scholarships to the camp.

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