Linda Beigel Schulman was already choking up as she took to the Melville temple's stage and asked the audience to bear with her.
Her son, Scott Beigel, had his bar mitzvah – a celebration of his entrance into Jewish adulthood – exactly 23 years ago on the same spot, where, Sunday, she honored what would have been his 36th birthday.
Beigel Schulman said she wanted to pay tribute to her son, a Parkland, Florida, shooting victim, by speaking out about the need for “common sense gun laws” and to encourage people to vote on Nov. 6. She spoke about how Beigel’s death made the fight for stronger gun laws her mission in a birthday card that she read aloud.
“I’m writing a birthday card to my gunned-down son, so he knows his death will not be in vain and his memory will live on,” Beigel Schulman, of Dix Hills, said in a speech that left the audience of about 100 sniffling and wiping away tears. “Please vote so that no other mother has to stand in my shoes.”
Beigel, a Dix Hills-raised geography teacher and cross country coach, was one of 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. His birthday would have been Monday.
Beigel Schulman called on legislators to ban automatic weapons, require background checks for all gun ownership and pass the proposed Red Flag Law in New York State, which she said would help prevent people who are at risk of injuring themselves or others from having guns. She also endorsed several Democratic state and federal candidates.
Michael Schulman, Beigel Schulman’s husband, said the Temple Beth Torah event was part of the family’s attempt to celebrate Beigel’s life instead of mourning his death.
Beigel Schulman said giving her speech "was harder for me” than eulogizing Beigel at his Florida funeral. She said she wanted to give his birthday a purpose.
“If I had to give a gift to my son, it would be to make sure all these people here today really do go out and vote,” she said. “That’s the only gift I can give him, is to make change.”