An Open Letter to Our Readers

Dear Readers,

We are upset. We are mad. We are scared. The news of another mass shooting, this time at an elementary school in Texas, is emotionally tolling. Whatever feelings you’re having about this horrific event are valid. There is no right way to respond or grieve in these situations.

We are the HereNow Teen Leadership Board and we are writing this to remind you that you are not alone. Every school district, parent, and student will have a different reaction and way of acknowledging the situation. Some school districts may increase safety precautions, while others may focus on direct outreach programs available to students. We all have different means of coping. The actions of your school district or community may not meet your emotional needs. You may experience anxiety, fear, or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that others are not experiencing. Your feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. You deserve the help you need to feel better. If you need immediate support, text 741741.

At HereNow, we embrace neurodiversity. The media sometimes likes to blame violence on individuals struggling with mental illnesses. In reality, people with mental illnesses are no more likely to commit a violent crime than anyone else. While we believe our country is not doing enough to support those with mental health challenges, this is not the cause of violent acts performed by individuals. Every country in the world has seen a rise in mental health challenges, especially during the pandemic, but the US is the only country with this much gun violence and mass murder. We are working to destigmatize topics around mental health, and to avoid the false conflation of mental illness and gun violence.

Everyone deserves to feel safe. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable at school, at home, at work, in the grocery store, etc. Sometimes enacting change feels impossible, and as Jewish teens, we can offer thoughts and prayers, but also have the responsibility and opportunity to be changemakers. Some of us just turned 18 (or are really close!) and are looking forward to voting in our first elections for candidates who prioritize our safety. Those of us who are not yet 18 are not powerless. We can march. We can call or write our elected officials. We can share factual and important information. In fact, one of our generation’s superpowers is the ability to spread ideas and build a movement through social media!

In moments like these, words can feel impossible. Take the time you need to process and reflect. Your feelings are valid and important. Then press onward in your pursuit of social justice and reform. You might do this by getting involved in Not My Generation, created and led by young adults, or the Religious Action Center’s Gun Violence Prevention campaign. Together we will amplify our voices toward healing, growth, and meaningful change.


The HereNow Teen Leadership Board

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