Sisterhood Blog

Youth Groups Take On LGBT Bullying

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

When “Dan”, a 16-year-old boy from the center of Israel left for school on Tuesday morning, he told his mother that everything was fine and he was okay. That afternoon, Dan committed suicide.

Dan’s mother had no idea how bad his situation had become, she told the Army Radio in an interview last week. The most significant clue into Dan’s state of mind was the computer screen that Dan left on. It showed his Facebook page, which contained some of the taunting messages that his friends had sent him that day. “I’d kill you,” one message read, “but it’s wrong to be cruel to animals”.

Reports emerging from the school — an elite institution that is most actively recruited by the Air Force — paint a horrifying portrait. According to YNet, Dan was mocked, humiliated, beaten and turned into a regular object of scorn. While many students are claiming that it was all “nothing,” that the media is blowing events out of proportion, some other students have expressed deep shame. “Everyone picked on him because he was small”, a girl told reporters.

Meanwhile, while Dan’s distraught mother blames the school for not intervening, most of the parents and staff deny wrongdoing, and the school has been sending psychologists into the classrooms to help the students cope with their feelings. “Our feelings are not the problem,” the girl said. “The problem is how all the kids treated him.”

Bullying among teens seems to be on the rise, and now includes a new category of cyber-bullying. Kids who want to be cruel thus have new some frightening new tools at their disposal to destroy one another’s lives. This issue has come to the fore recently with a recent spate of bullying incidents and suicides among gay and lesbian Jewish youth that highlights the trauma of one group that disproportionately experiences suicide.

Now, a cadre of Jewish teens has decided to try and take action against this terrifying trend. A letter issued recently by the Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders — the presidents of the International Jewish Youth Movements, youth leaders from Jewish teen organizations BBYO, NFTY, USY and NCSY — calls upon all Jewish teens to sign the “Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives,” with a goal of getting 18,000 signatures. The pledge was initiated by Keshet, a grassroots organization that works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Jews in Jewish life.

This is the first time these youth organizations have worked together to influence their peers on this important issue. “BBYO, NFTY, and USY may be different in many ways, but our mission for the Jewish people is the same,” said Jeremy Sherman, BBYO’s International co-president, according to the press release. “We share a desire to impact lives, and bring Jewish teens together. The CJTL’s combined effort to stand for respect and inclusion is a significant one.”

Philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, long-standing supporter of Keshet and BBYO, told The Forward via the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation communications officer Roben Kantor that she is “very excited about seeing these organizations work together”. She had been touched by the seriousness of LGBTQ bullying and exclusion across the Jewish community. “Dr. King taught that the dignity of all humans is wrapped up in the dignity of each human. Bullying of any kind flies in the face of this guiding principle of common decency, and its effects can be hurtful, harmful and even tragic. The loss of a single life to bullying is unacceptable, and we must support these teens in their efforts to eliminate it by enforcing zero tolerance policies in our households, schools, congregations and organizations,” she told the Forward.

It is heartening to see that there are youth out there who deeply care. I hope they reach their targets, and that they continue to inspire both teens and adults to make some much-needed change.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Schusterman Family Foundation, NFTY, BBYO, LGBT

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv?
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.