By Dori Singer, NFTY-SW
At the URJ Biennial this past December, NFTYites were asked to identify what their own campaigns were by filling in the blank: “I stand up for ________ This is my campaign.” Some people instantly began to write things like “inclusion” or “GLBTQ rights.” I thought about what I was going to write. It had to be something I was passionate about and something that had a direct effect on me. It had to be something I wanted to change in the world. And with that I picked up my marker and wrote in: Anti-bullying.
In middle school I was a victim of verbal and physical bullying. People would purposely bump into me in the halls and I was called crude names from the moment I stepped onto the school bus in the morning until the moment I got off in the afternoon. It eventually got to the point where my parents pulled me out of school and transferred me to a different one because it was so bad. I longed to be accepted. I changed the way I acted and the way I dressed, but nothing was ever enough.
With the start of high school, I prayed that this would be the new beginning I was longing for. To an extent it was, but I was scared to be judged and ended up floating through high school rather unnoticed. Little did I know, I would find that new beginning, not in my school – but in NFTY. NFTY was a place where, the moment I stepped off the bus, people I hardly even knew were hugging me and accepting me for who I was. I tried to get involved in school by playing lacrosse and dressing up for spirit days, but that was about the extent of it. I guess I loved NFTY “too much for my own good.” I was cyber bullied about it and before long my whole school knew. I was teased, harassed and was even told that I didn’t belong at school. There was a period of time where I was scared to wear my NFTY clothing to school because I was afraid to be bullied.
My story is not uncommon, but I was blessed with a strong support system of a loving family and a few close friends and had my safe place in NFTY. It took a while, but I eventually gained the strength to say, “THIS IS WHO I AM.” I am not ashamed to show it my love of NFTY. I am stronger today and more confident in the person I am because of it. Unfortunately, not all victims of bullying have the support I did.
Which is why THIS IS MY CAMPAIGN.
While serving as the Programming Vice President of NFTY Southwest, I eagerly jumped on board with the Living NFTY Initiative: Bullying and Harassment. I wrote and led programs for my region to help educate participants on our own roles in bullying, why bullying exists and what we can do to help its victims. At the end of the program, everyone in the region signed our own pledge to stop bullying. One participant even took it a step further and went home to create an anti-bullying Facebook event that spread to a North American level, 1,300 attending participants across the country, both NFTY and non-NFTYites.
Bullying is NOT a normal part of growing up and NO ONE deserves to be treated that way. There are things that can and need to be done. Whether it is standing up and flat out telling the bully to stop or being an ally to the victim, any action taken is better than none. Too many teens are seriously harmed by bullying and steps must be taken in order to prevent it from getting any worse than it already has.
I PLEDGE to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, be an ally to victims and work to educate others on the effects of bullying and how to help prevent it.
The Coalition of Jewish Teens is working to put a stop to this by asking us to speak up, be an advocate, be a role model and finally put an end to bullying. We all can do something, every bit counts.
Be a social critic and stand up for what is right. We are the 350,000 and bullying ends with us.
Dori Singer’s term as NFTY-SW Programming Vice-President recently came to an end after 2 years on regional board. She graduates this week from high school in Arizona and cannot wait to spend her summer at Kutz working in Avodah.