By Gracie Silverstein, NFTY-PAR participant and Camp Harlam camper
My name is Gracie Silverstein. I am High School Senior at Methacton, located outside of Philadelphia, and I am very active in my communities. I say communities, because I have many: my school; the places I work and volunteer; my synagogue, Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen, PA; my URJ summer camp, Camp Harlam; and variety of other clubs and causes that are important to me.
I have friends and connections that span the country and beyond. I have a friend who goes to Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Florida, which has helped shaped my perspective on gun violence. I have traveled to Israel and have friends there who have helped me understand Israeli life, beyond what you see on the news. I also know many who live in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, which deeply impacted how I feel about the state of public discourse in the United States today. While this may seem like a lot for a 17-year-old to be thinking about, I have a habit of channeling those thoughts and energy into action. I get busy doing rather than feeling helpless.
What I would love to do is vote! But being underage I had to find another way to make my voice heard, to make my opinions matter, to make an impact and help drive change. I wanted other people to share my level of passion, outrage, frustration and even some sadness. I wanted to influence those that can vote to get out there and do it. I wanted my high school-aged peers to do the same.
One day after the tragedy, with my mind racing, ideas started to come together. Converging was my love of arts, crafts, and jewelry with a network of close friends. I knew I could count on them to help get out the word that love and unity is so much stronger than hate. Laptop on lap, iPhone in hand, I developed a concept for a necklace that would spell out “Stronger than Hate” in Hebrew. I found a jewelry maker on Etsy who could make it for me. I figured I could get ten friends to each buy one and donate some money to HIAS and show my support to the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting. My energy quickly turned into action!
Less than one week after posting my plan on Facebook, I now know that I am not alone in how I feel. Hundreds of likes, reposts, texts and emails later; I now have orders for more than 1,000 necklaces, and the list is growing by the hour. I have at least one order from 49 different states and several from outside the country. I have been on the evening news in Philadelphia and written about in the local paper. The recognition has been amazing, but what I really want is for others to share my passion, get involved, and take action.
My initial plan to buy ten necklaces and make a donation to HIAS has morphed into so much more. If you are reading this then I can add you to the list of people I have touched. I can’t vote but I am doing what I can to raise awareness, engage my communities, and effect change. Please join me. Get involved. Do what you can. Do it today! And if you are old enough, be sure to get out and vote.
I believe that we are Stronger than Hate. If you do, too, and want to wear a necklace like the ones my friends and my communities are wearing, I hope you’ll order one and join me in channeling passion into action.