“We’re going to have a brief moment of silence as we remember the 17 victims from Stoneman Douglas High School, and all victims of senseless shootings,” said Beila Goodman, of Chabad of the Beaches in Long Beach. “Let’s take a moment to think about how we can add more light, more meaning, more purpose and more love into this world.”
More than 80 people gathered in the Long Beach High School auditorium on Feb. 26 for the Teen Unity concert featuring Nissim Black, a black Hasidic rapper from Seattle who converted to Judaism in 2012.
Organized by Rabbi Eli Goodman of Chabad of the Beaches in collaboration with James Hodge, board chairman of the Martin Luther King Center, the concert showcased themes of acceptance, redemption and solidarity with the victims of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.
A group of teenage congregants who focus on humanitarian programs, known as CTeens, helped organize the event, including Long Beach High School juniors Brooke Shapiro and Madison Bloom.
“We hope to move forward in unity, faith and a better future,” Shapiro said.
“A positive message for the youth is extremely, extremely important, and now, with the events that took place just under two weeks ago, James Hodge and myself realized … the importance of a positive and strong message to all the teenagers and children out there,” Goodman told the crowd.
Organizers said it was fitting to honor the shooting victims at an event that highlights the contributions of teens to the community.
“When Rabbi Goodman said we want it to be a unity concert because of what happened, it made even more sense — to be able to pull people together to celebrate life and talk about peace and loving one another in this world,” Hodge said. “It’s exciting to collaborate and show unity and solidarity for those who went through what they went through in Florida. When one goes through it, we all go through it, so we’re standing in unity to show love and peace throughout the world.”
The crowd consisted of congregants of local houses of worship, CTeens, Long Beach students and fans of the artist.
“I’ve been a fan of Nissim for about two years,” Chabad of the Beaches congregant Rob Kron said at the concert. “Nissim talks about God, and anything having to do with God is love, community, helping each other, being a good human being and treating your fellow as you would want to be treated. I think that message relates to every good thing and every tragedy.”
LBHS junior Jessica Guadagnino said that Black’s lyrics applied to current events in relation to school shootings.
“It helps you find a way to deal with it, like having fun, being at a concert, dancing, jumping around and singing along,” she added. “It really makes you feel better and gets rid of those negative thoughts for a few minutes and puts you in a better place.”
“It’s nice to show that even though we’re so far away from Florida, we still stretch our hands out and help,” said LBHS senior Zach Ryder.
Goodman said Chabad of the Beaches and the MLK Center have partnered on many programs behind the scenes in the past, and that the concert was the first event for everyone to see.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for us to partner together on a bunch of different programs and hopefully this is the first of many,” said City Council Vice President Chumi Diamond. “In Long Beach, we celebrate diversity and this is a way for us to come together and really enjoy something as a community.”
Goodman said that several thousands of dollars were raised, although the exact amount was not yet known as of press time on Wednesday, and that the proceeds would benefit local youth humanitarian programs as well as youth programs in Parkland.