The leader of Students Demand Action Bergen County will speak at Temple Israel & Jewish Community Center in Ridgewood next Shabbat. It will be the congregation’s sixth annual National Gun Violence Prevention Shabbat.
The student leader, a sophomore at Ridgewood High School, is a familiar face in the congregation. He is Laurence Fine, a son of the synagogue’s Rabbi David Fine.
Laurence had been politically active even before he got to high school. A couple of years ago, we wrote about his political blog.
In March, as students across the country discussed walkouts as a response to the shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staff members, Laurence took a lead role at Ridgewood High in organizing the protest, and then in countywide activism on gun violence.
“There has been a national consciousness among students that we’re not safe at school,” he said. “It’s so easy for anyone to take a gun, bring it to school, and cause a school shooting.”
Laurence said the government could prevent this “in so many ways, like background checks and taking guns away from people convicted of domestic violence.
But “it isn’t happening.”
Students Demand Action helped organize a march against gun violence in Hackensack that drew thousands of people, including members of congress. “All the gun violence prevention groups are working together,” Laurence said. “We worked closely with Moms Demand Action Bergen County, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign, and other groups.”
In the summer and fall, Students Demand Action focused on political activism. It ran voter registration drives in high schools. “Part of our message is to empower students to have a say in our democracy, and have their voices be heard on issues like gun violence,” Laurence said. “Their vote is a powerful way to make a difference.”
Students Demand Action Bergen County brings together students from two dozen high schools “from Mahwah to Lyndhurst.”
With the midterm elections behind them, “we’re hoping to see what kind of gun legislation we can get passed. We’re going back to reminding our politicians that our lives matter. Ninety six Americans die from guns every single day. We need action in Congress, and Congress isn’t doing enough.”
Laurence volunteered for the congressional re-election campaign of Josh Gottheimer, whom he considers an ally on the issue and who spoke at the Hackensack rally.
“He’s working with his bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus to break the gridlock in Washington,” Laurence said. “The kind of solutions we’re trying to push through should not be controversial at all. Issues like background checks that 97 percent of Americans support.”
Laurence is also the vice president for religious education in the Fair Lawn/Paramus/Ridgewood chapter of United Synagogue Youth.
What would he like the readers of the Jewish Standard to do about gun violence?
“It’s important that people are aware of how important it is to get involved and make a difference,” he said.
Who: Laurence Fine of Students Demand Action Bergen County
What: Talk on gun violence prevention during kiddush lunch
When: Shabbat morning, December 15, around noon
Where: Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center, 475 Grove St., Ridgewood