Bein Adom Lechavero

Between Friends....

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The behavior that we are asking children not to engage in, bullying, is precisely what is being modeled to them.

This website exists because as a social worker and a parent, I see the need for a resource to help parents and teachers combat bullying, particularly in Jewish and other insular, private educational settings.

Bullying has become an issue of great concern from elementary school through high school. What was in an earlier era considered a playground problem has grown and evolved. Today, bullying may follow the object of the violence from school to home. Today, bullying is physical, verbal, and has even gone viral. Today, our children endure taunts, teases, and outright lies on social messaging sites, from Facebook to Twitter.

My aim is to arrest all occurrences of bullying in insular educational communities — Jewish and, as needed, beyond. In my practice, I conduct trainings, seminars and classes on the parochial and university levels. I go into the field, to provide hands-on experience in difficult situations and provide interventions.

I intend this website to become the central marketplace for resources and expertise in bullying prevention. I welcome your questions, comments and dialogue as we work together to build a safe and nurturing educational environment for our children.

It’s cause for great concern that Jewish children are able to act violently or abusively toward others. We are not a violent people. I have been told that bullying is ingrained very deeply in our schools, and it’s often unrecognizable to parents, teachers and principals. Your child/student might be afraid to tell you that he or she is being bullied or is a bully. — Avrum Rosensweig

Bullying can be traced back to the beginning, with the abuse Cain heaped on Abel. Ever since, children have been bullied — the strong prey on the weak as hierarchies form in social settings.

Bullying is a major issue in Jewish day schools, as it is in public and other private school systems and informal educational settings such as summer camps. However, there are additional issues related to the private school setting. For example, on a basic theological level, bullying is particularly troubling in Jewish settings because the Torah, the primary source of lessons for our children, teaches a foundation of kavod — interpersonal respect, which our faith calls “bein adam lechavero.”

I have worked over the past decade in private day schools and summer camps and I have confronted how social status, financial resources, community values, cultural norms and individual behavior create obstacles to ensuring fairness and equality for all participants in the educational system. My earlier work with victims of domestic violence also showed me the extent to which family, culture and workplace pressures affect both the victim’s and the institution’s decision to acknowledge abuse or remain silent. These strains, both perceived and real, influence the development of intervention and treatment programs. It’s a confounding challenge; what works in one community or environment may not always work in another.

If there is one constant in combating bullying, however, it is this: As parents, we are the #1 role model to our children. If there is a place to start, it is here, with the behavior of adults as role models.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. — James Baldwin

Cartoon by Gorf!

Cartoons courtesy of Jordan Gorfinkel

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