By Nina Amir
After the publication of my article about three Jewish youth movements standing up against bullying, Alicia Zimbalist, public relations manager for the Foundation for Jewish Camp, notified me that her organization had joined the cause as well.
In fact, Zimbalist said the Foundation “has urged all of the over 155 nonprofit Jewish camps we work with across North America to join us in signing Keshet’s Jewish Community Pledge, obliging us to make a public commitment to stop bullying in its tracks and welcome and protect all members of our Jewish community, no matter their sexual orientation.”
Keshet is a national organization working for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) inclusion in Jewish life. The organization began a campaign against all types of bullying–but homophobic bullying in particular–in response to the suicides this fall of a number of gay teens who took their own lives after being bullied by peers.
According to Zimbalist, many children cite Jewish camp as the only place where they feel truly accepted for being themselves. “This is because camps work hard to create a safe, nurturing, tolerant, and welcoming environment for kids. In recent years camps have also put additional safeguards in place to further prevent bullying including having kids and parents sign anti- bullying pledges before the summer, keeping counselors in the bunks after lights out, banning the use of potentially hurtful language, and much more.”
My son always felt most accepted at Jewish camp—more so than anywhere else. That’s why attending Jewish camp was the highlight of his year. Now he has replaced that experience with his membership in BBYO.
The National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) was an initial part of the joint youth-group push to get people to sign Keshet’s Jewish Community Pledge. However, the group was left off a press release distributed by BBYO more recently and was, therefore, left out of the last article I wrote on this topic. NCSY continues to support the cause to stop bullying of any type.
On Keshet’s website it clearly states: “Most excitingly, the leaders of the newly formed Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders – representing BBYO, USY, NFTY, and NCSY – are standing together to put an end to bullying and are promoting the pledge to their members. They write: “By signing this pledge, we have agreed to be a part of a united front against bullying that stands for inclusion and tolerance…We have spoken up, and now it is your turn.”