Jules Oringel recalls receiving panicked texts from two of her friends in Parkland, Fla. as an active shooter roamed the halls of their high school. She felt helpless as she watched the news from her home in Charlotte, texting her friends constantly to give them updates on what she saw on television.
Abigail Adams remembers feeling fearful of publicly expressing her Jewish identity after hearing the news of an anti-Semitic mass shooting at the Chabad of Poway in San Diego, Calif. She spoke with a friend in another state who felt the same way.
Mass shootings in communities outside of Charlotte inspired these high school seniors to help others.
Return Home Supplies
Oringel, a senior at Providence High School, became involved in the gun violence prevention movement immediately after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Though both of the friends texting her throughout the shooting made it out alive, a member of Oringel’s sleepaway camp community was murdered in her English class.
Though she marched on Washington against gun violence, registered voters, campaigned for the 2018 midterm election and led a school walkout despite instructions from her school’s administration not to, Oringel felt like there was still more she could do for the gun violence prevention movement.
In June 2018, Oringel started Return Home Supplies, a nonprofit she runs from her bedroom. She said the organization is founded upon the belief that every student and teacher deserves to return home safely from school.
Oringel sells school supplies, including pencils and water bottles, with messages intended to spark educational conversations about gun violence. All of the profits go to gun violence prevention organizations like March For Our Lives and Moms Demand Action. Oringel also travels around the country with these organizations, where she sells Return Home Supplies and delivers speeches to people at rallies and meetings.
“I think the most important element of my advocacy is that I speak to people who disagree with me,” Oringel said. “I’ve spoken to countless National Rifle Association members and I find that we can always find at least some sort of common ground… Even if we just agree that we don’t want to see our students getting shot in schools, or even if it’s some sort of legislative agreement like disarming domestic abusers or requiring background checks for online purchases. It all matters and it’s helping depolarize this issue in American politics, which is also really meaningful.”
Networking and staying in touch with other activists and organizations has helped Oringel spread the message and mission of Return Home Supplies.
She does this all while balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Oringel said because she is dual-enrolled in college courses, she is able to leave high school early and work on projects for Return Home Supplies before going to her evening college classes.
“It can definitely be difficult to manage my classwork and Return Home Supplies responsibilities in addition to other extracurricular activities, but because I’m managing this myself, I have more control over my schedule and when I work on our website, product design, legal paperwork and all of those things,” Oringel said.
As she prepares to go to college in less than a year, Oringel knows there will be some difficulties running a nonprofit.
“I would love to continue running Return Home Supplies from my dorm room because all the incredible people I get to meet on this journey inspire me to keep fighting for what I believe in,” Oringel said. “However, my room is exploding with our school supplies and I don’t know if that will fit in a tiny dorm room. So I think in college, when I’m actually at the university, my advocacy will be focused more on speaking and rallying versus bringing school supplies to an event and selling them.”
Creating change starts with education, according to Oringel. She hopes to inspire others to lead programs to educate their communities about gun violence. She said Return Home Supplies offers an “activism in a box” kit for teens hoping to lead programs for their schools, organizations and other groups.
Moving forward, Oringel hopes to continue connecting with gun violence survivors, advocates and concerned Americans to spread her message.
“Until we start finding power and finding motivation beyond this movement, we won’t be seeing legislative changes in Congress,” Oringel said.
Visit www.returnhome supplies.com for more information.
Why I Wear My Star
After hearing the news of many anti-Semetic shootings, Adams, a senior at Charlotte Latin School, and one of her Jewish friends wanted to figure out a way to promote Jewish pride.
“We talked about how it was a matter of what would happen next and how it’s so scary, especially today, to be a Jewish person and to be a Jewish young person with this rise in anti-Semitism and these shootings,” Adams said. “We wanted to find a way to help people feel proud of their identity and feel comfortable with their identity instead of having to be scared all the time because of anti-Semitism.”
The two created the Instagram account called
@whyiwearmystar, where they share stories and experiences of Jewish people from around the world. Since creating the account, they also have a Facebook page. Adams said the account has shared between 50 and 60 stories from people in more than 25 countries.
“We share stories of Jewish pride and persistence in the midst of hate,” Adams said.
The Instagram account has more than 1,400 followers. Adams said she and the co-creator of the account, Sammy Gabbai, flooded their respective Instagram accounts with posts from @whyiwearmystar and followed their friends to gain followers at first.
When StandWithUs heard about their movement, they shared the page on their social media, which gave Adams and Gabbai an even bigger following. Eventually, people they did not know started following the account and sharing their stories.
Adams said she and Gabbai have also created programs for local Jewish youth groups to spread their message. She said they have upcoming programs in Virginia, Texas and Florida. She hopes to see the programs expanded to more college campuses.
The response has been positive, with the exception of a few comments and messages, according to Adams.
“We’ve gotten a lot of other messages online from people saying, ‘thank you for making this account, it inspires me,’” Adams said. “We’ve had multiple people say that they went out and bought the Star of David necklace because this account inspires them and the stories they’ve read inspired them to get one and to feel proud and comfortable.”
Adams has also felt the impact of the stories. She said she feels even prouder to be Jewish after reading others’ experiences.
“One of our first major stories that impacted me was a friend who lives in Paris,” Adams said. “She doesn’t own any Jewish necklaces or any Jewish jewelry or clothing that would show she’s Jewish because the anti-Semitism is so bad there. She wrote about that and how even in the U.S. where there is bad anti-Semitism and where one in three Jews tries to hide their identity, in places like Paris, it’s really a daily thing for her.”
When they go to college, Adams and Gabbai plan to continue spreading the message of Why I Wear My Star. Adams said the two hope to have an ambassador program to include more people in the movement, but it is something they are still working toward..
“Sammy and I plan on being the two main people in charge and we really want to make sure that we spearhead this so that we always remember why we started it in the first place,” Adams said.
Oringel and Adams both said that persistence is key to creating change.
“I think that persistence and passion are two of the biggest things that can drive you,” Adams said. “Personally, my life has been shaped around those things. Change is slow, and sometimes it’s very frustrating that it’s slow, but you need to keep working and persisting for real change to actually occur in the long run.”
Oringel said remembering the reasons for starting activism is a great motivator to keep persisting.
“It’s not always going to be easy, especially with an issue like gun violence,” Oringel said. “Seeing all of these mass shootings in the news can be depressing and make you feel like you’re not doing enough, but stay true to your passions and the reasons that you care so deeply about the issues you care so deeply about. Continue fighting until you see the change that you want to be had.”