Responding to Parkland –
Supporting our Students
through Grief and Activism

By David Bryfman, Ph.D.

As Jewish educators and leaders, we passionately believe that our tradition, values and heritage can equip our children to thrive as Jews and in the world today. On the Fast of Esther, we recall the bravery of a great woman who stood up to bring about change when tragedy was imminent.

In that spirit, The Jewish Education Project – in partnership with a growing list of organizational sponsors – invites Jewish teen and youth educators to an urgent webinar this Wednesday, February 28th beginning at 1:00pm EST.

Responding to Parkland-Supporting our Students through Grief and Activism” features a panel of experts who will help you talk to teens about these recent tragic events, while also supporting their mobilization to bring about change in this world.

The Jewish Education Project aims to equip educational leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to allow children and families to flourish in this world. It is in that context that we advocate that all professionals who work with our youth be trained to deal with the very real issues of mental health, self-esteem, and resilience that our world requires. We also aim to provide our educators with the capacity to be able to deal with tragedy and trauma when our children need it most.

Implicit in our vision is the foundational belief that our children must feel safe, secure and free in this world. And whatever your position on gun ownership or Second Amendment rights, the fatal mass shooting in Parkland, Fl. resulted in a community of students- Jewish and otherwise – whose inalienable right to pursue life, liberty and happiness was either compromised or permanently stolen.

But the tragedy in Florida wasn’t the end of the story: In the days and weeks after the shooting, survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School initiated a student-led grassroots activism movement that continues to gain momentum.

Today’s social and political climate demands an additional commitment from Jewish education: to provide educational leaders with the skills and capacity to empower our youth, to be the change that they want to see in this world. We are witnessing right now an unprecedented mobilization of American teens committed to changing the status quo. We pledge to continue to provide our youth with the resources that they need to fix the world that they are inheriting.

Often maligned for their alleged narcissism, today’s teenagers are committed to bringing about more social and political change than perhaps any other generation in history. And with the aid of technology, and the support of adults who actively engage in tzimtum (literally withdrawal, but colloquially, getting out of their way) we believe that this generation can heal this world.

In the words of Janusz Korczak, director of the Jewish orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto:
“Children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today. They are entitled to be taken seriously. They have a right to be treated by adults with tenderness and respect, as equals. They should be allowed to grow into whoever they were meant to be – The unknown person inside each of them is the hope for the future.”

David Bryfman, Ph.D., is Chief Innovation Officer of The Jewish Education Project. Register for the webinar.

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