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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 © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


March 9, 2018  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Funds sought to send local teens to DC gun march

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Brooke Shapiro, a member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek, is one of the organizers of the Tampa March for Our Lives. Brooke Shapiro, a member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek, is one of the organizers of the Tampa March for Our Lives. An effort is under way to raise $20,000 and send at least 30 local Jewish teens and adult chaperones from the Tampa Bay area to the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on Saturday, March 24.

The march to end gun violence was organized by high school students following the Feb. 14 slaying of 17 teens and faculty members at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

As of Friday, March 9, $9,900 had been raised through donations to local temples and a GoFundMe website, said Dani Gamson, director of education and youth at Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater. Gamson started the GoFundMe effort after members of her youth group said they wanted to participate in the national march.

Gamson said that as of March 8 a total of 22 teens and eight adult from her temple,

Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg and Congregation Beth-Am in Tampa – all Reform congregations – were planning to fly to Washington for the march. She said that included four from Beth Am and the rest split pretty evenly between her temple and Beth-El.

The next day Rabbi Gary Klein at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor, just back from an AIPAC conference, learned of the plans and said he wanted members of his temple youth group to go. Although he and the temple youth director have prior commitments and can’t accompany teens from the temple, Rabbi Klein said Gamson graciously agreed that any teens from Ahavat Shalom could join the others for the trip, provided sufficient funding is secured.

Gamson said the original deadline for signing up to go to the march was March 2 and that while she wants as many local Jewish teens as possible to make the trip, she is currently looking at a deficit just to send the initial group of 30. The hope was to keep the personal cost to each teen at $300, but Gamson said the financial commitment for any additional participants may be higher, unless significantly more funds are raised.

“Adding more people means more hotel rooms, more buses, but we are trying to make all of this work out,” she said, noting that the original goal of $10,000 had to be doubled due to the higher estimated costs including continual rising airfares.

“I am going to empty my discretionary fund and I already this morning got a $500 commitment from our Social Action Committee to help send our kids to Washington and I plan to make an appeal for funds during services tonight and to send an email to our congregants to help our kids get to the march,” Rabbi Klein said.

He also plans to encourage those who could not attend the Washington march to join local March for Our Lives events in Tampa or St. Petersburg.

“I cannot go to Washington with our kids, but I will be at one or the other of the local marches,” the rabbi said.

The local marches

The Tampa March for Our Lives will be at Kiley Garden/Curtis Hixon Park, 400 N. Ashley Drive, in downtown Tampa at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 24, and the one in St. Petersburg will be at the same time in front of the Pinellas County Courthouse at Sixth Street North and Mirror Lake Drive.

“Hopefully with our teens behind this effort, we will see progress made in creating a safer society through the reduction in the number and type of guns that are allowed to be owned,” Rabbi Klein said.

At Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa the youth group decided rather than try to get to Washington, they would go to the Tampa March for Our Lives event. Rabbi Richard Birnholz at Schaarai Zedek said he expects between 25 to 50 members of the youth group to attend the Tampa march and other members would be going to Parkland for a March for Our Lives there.

“We will try to draw our own legislators’ attention here,” Rabbi Birnholz said, adding that the idea was that the teens could make more of a show of support for gun violence prevention at less of a cost.

One of the Tampa march organizers, Brooke Shapiro, is a member of Schaarai Zedek.

“When the shooting occurred in Parkland, I felt a personal connection because I was born in Coral Springs and if I had not moved to Tampa, I would have been districted to Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” said Shapiro, a senior at Plant High. “My childhood friends were at the school that day and thankfully were unharmed. I identified with the victims – they could have been my sister, my friends, my teachers, or me. … I couldn’t just return to school the next day and pretend nothing had happened.”

When the Stoneman Douglas students began organizing the national march and called for sister marches, Shapiro saw that as her cue to organize a march in Tampa. “The march is necessary because we need to keep the momentum and the conversation going. We are scared to sit in our classrooms. Students want a future and we want to have a say in that future.”

Shapiro said she is hoping to have a student from Stoneman Douglas speak at the Tampa march during a rally at 10 a.m. before the march in downtown Tampa beginning at 11 a.m.

For more information about either local march, visit their Facebook page.

Other inspiration to march

The impetus for sending teens to the national march was a trip that 50 Reform Jewish teens from the Tampa Bay area made to Washington last month – as part of the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken Social Justice program. On Feb. 12 – two days before the Parkland shootings – the teens lobbied Congressional representatives and staff members to support legislation that was important to them: immigration reform, LGBTQ+ equality, climate change, women’s reproductive rights and gun violence prevention.

Gamson said some of those same teens came to her after the shootings and after hearing about the national march, saying they wanted to return to Washington.

The Parkland slayings deeply impacted many local teens because they knew teens from Parkland through NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) activities or shared experiences at Camp Coleman, a Reform movement Jewish summer camp in north Georgia, said Lisa Cohen, youth director at Beth Am.

Rachel Buksbaum of Beth Am met and quickly became friends with Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the slain teens, at Camp Coleman.

How to donate

Donations to send the Bay Area teens to Washington can be made by going to and searching for “March for Our Lives Tampa Bay.” In addition, tax deductible donations (with a clear note designating the donation is for the march) can be made to: Temple B’nai Israel, c/o March for Our Lives Donation, 1685 S. Belcher Road, Clearwater, FL 33764, or by calling the temple at (727) 531-5829. In Tampa donations can be made to Congregation Beth Am, c/o March for our Lives Donation, 2030 W. Fletcher Ave., Tampa, FL 33612, or by calling (813) 968-8511.

Temple Beth-El has not formally set up a donation system, but Gamson said those who want to donate through that synagogue should contact Rabbi Michael Torop at (727) 347-6136.

The effort to raise funds to support the Temple Ahavat Shalom teens did not materialize until March 9, so those wishing to support those teens should contact that temple at (727) 785-8811.

Calls were made to several local Conservative congregations in the area to see if their youth groups had formally organized to make the trip to Washington. One indicated no plans and two were not available for comment. Dana Shepard at Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater said the national United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism supports the national march and is raising funds to help house and feed kids going to the march. She added that that at least one Conservative synagogue in Washington will allow people going to the march to sleep there. (A major Reform synagogue in Washington has made a similar offer.) Shepard said she recently sent an email to her youth group members to gauge their interest in the march but had not received responses yet.

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