Few Louisvillians took the news about last week’s shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, harder than Dr. Judith Danovitc, and for good reason.
A professor of psychology at the University of Louisville and a religious schoolteacher at Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad (LBSY), Danovitch is a 1996 graduate of that high school.
“This is where I went and my sister went,” Danovitch told Community. “It’s a wonderful public, non-magnet school, the kind of school people move to the area for. My parents still live a short walk away.”
So when she learned of the news Wednesday, February 14, within hours Danovitch and other alumni were organizing a closed Facebook group that has since signed up more than 11,000 alumni, parents and teachers and others connected to Stoneman Douglas. It’s purpose is to help the high school community connect, help and perhaps act.
“It’s just become larger than anything I could have imagined,” she said.
Since then, the members have organized meet-ups and vigils around the country, drawing scores, even hundreds, of people.
“This community is an empowered community, and this school has some very successful graduates,” Danovitch said. “I’m not surprised that there’s 60 people getting together in Denver, and there [were] 500 signed up for a program in New York. It’s just amazing.”
Not everyone who joins the Facebook group wants to take political action. There are healthy debates at the page, Danovitch said, and some alumni prefer to organize blood drives or fundraisers, whatever addresses the Parkland community’s needs.
Many others, though, including Danovitch, all frustrated by the rash of gun violence, are taking political action.
“I research children,” she said. “It would be hypocritical of me to say that I care about child development and not care about the safety of the children in our schools.”
She hasn’t always been active.
“I became an activist last Wednesday,” Danovitch said. “I always supported people fighting against gun violence in this country, but I can’t say I was active until this [past] week.”
Since the shootings, Danovitch also has offered herself for interviews and speeches about her high school and about gun violence. She has given interviews to two local TV stations. She spoke at a recent vigil for the victims at the First Unitarian Church of Louisville. She’s even given an interview to an English language radio program in Seoul, South Korea.
“This has been a surreal 48 hours for me,” she said at the church vigil. “I’ve watched the videos and seen the photos, and I still can’t quite comprehend what I am seeing. The children and teachers who we are remembering here tonight are my family’s friends and neighbors. I am devastated.
“But I also think this an opportunity,” she continued. “There are over 10,000 Stoneman Douglas alumni and all of them are under age 45. My classmates and I are mobilizing, and we are joining with other organizations to take action against gun violence. We have the momentum and the power to effect a real change.”
She isn’t the only Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumnus in Louisville. Seth Krinsky, a 2005 graduate who moved here last summer with his wife and baby girl, connected with Danovitch through the Facebook group. He has an #MSDStrong hashtag on his profile.
Describing himself as a “frustrated human being,” Krinsky, a software administrator, said he is looking for ways to “find comfort and make change.”
“The group shows there are more people, equally and unequally impacted, with the common factor of going to this school, that want change,” Krinsky said in an instant message to Community.
He said the alumni are looking for ways to memorialize those who were affected by the shootings while keeping an eye on the “greater issues.”
“The group (for most part) is a way for us who feel helpless to unify, find grief and help.”