With the problem of gun violence affecting so many throughout the nation and close to home, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer served as moderator during the 5th Annual Hadassah Dine & Discuss event addressing the topic: “If Not Now, When? A Conversation About Gun Violence in American Schools.”

“As parents and grandparents, we all need to be hyper-vigilant and aware of the various signs that our children and/or our children’s friends may display when they are struggling at home or at school,” says Stacey Dorenfeld, of Agoura Hills, a member of the Dine & Discuss committee who serves as Advocacy Chair on the Board of Hadassah Southern California.

“Also important is the unification of the community stakeholders working together—school administrators, mental health professionals, parents, law enforcement and neighbors,” says Dorenfeld, who also spoke at the event about her personal experience as the mother of a survivor of the tragic Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks.

Some 165 people attended the February event, chaired by Oak Park resident Cheryl Stark and Jean Blumin from Woodland Hills and held at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.

“This is a topic that, because of the onslaught and increase of mass shootings in our country, our committee felt a human responsibility to address this difficult issue. In addition, a number of our members have been personally impacted by gun violence, and Hadassah as an organization, has been a supporter of common-sense gun legislation for decades,” emphasizes Blumin, who is personally the victim of an armed home invasion.

“This important evening addressed the epidemic of gun violence in our nation’s schools by bringing together community leaders who are working to create a more secure campus environment,” Stark explains.

The conversation was moderated by Feuer, who has made gun violence prevention one of his priorities during his tenure. He spoke about the Los Angeles Blue Ribbon Panel on School Safety and shared some of the panel’s recommendations to improve the safety of students in schools.

The panelists included Sergeant Joseph Camello, Los Angeles School Police; Dr. Marleen Wong, Director of Field Education at the USC School of Social Work, who is described as the “architect of school safety programs” by The Wall Street Journal; and Joshua Stepakoff, Gun Violence Survivor and Women Against Gun Violence Board Member. These individuals addressed several important topics, including access to mental health services, anti-bullying initiatives, general school safety measures, restorative justice programs, gun violence prevention, the impact of childhood trauma, general fears and concerns of parents and grandparents, and safe gun storage by parents.

The ultimate goal of this event was to raise awareness and to inspire action, Blumin and Stark said. “In fact, we had two call-to-actions that evening where we gave our attendees the opportunity to send support letters to their legislators in Washington, DC in support of H.R. 8, which is the Bi-Partisan Background Checks Act of 2019, and H.R. 674, which is the Gun Violence Prevention Research Act of 2019.” 

Hadassah is the largest Jewish women’s organization in the United States. With 330,000 members, associates and supporters across the country, Hadassah brings Jewish women together to effect change and advocate on critical issues, such as medical care and research, the safety and security of women and children, civil rights and human rights, and the security of Israel. Through the Hadassah Medical Organization’s hospitals, the world‐renowned trauma center and the leading research facility in Jerusalem, Hadassah supports the delivery of exemplary patient care to over a million people every year. The Hadassah Medical Organization serves without regard to race, religion or nationality and earned a Nobel Peace Prize Nomination in 2005 for building “bridges to peace” through equality in medical treatment.

For more information about Hadassah, visit Hadassah.org. To get involved in Hadassah locally call 818.887.1912 or email northernhsc@hadassah.org.