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!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • 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.