Members of Cincinnati’s BBYO youth group are fed up, and they’re not going to take it anymore! This year, over 13 million American kids will be bullied at school, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones and on the streets of their towns, making it the most common form of violence young people in this country experience. It can become so unbearable that some even take their own lives. That’s why these local BBYO teens have made bullying their Stand-Up Cause and have dedicated themselves to tackling the problem head on.
“We are collectively committed to speaking out against bullying and intolerance everywhere,” says BBYO city director, Matt Steinberg. “This past January, we held an event called Occupy the JCC which centered on bullying, and helped raise awareness for teens across our entire Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio (KIO) region. Since then we have had a number of programs focused on this issue and every one of our teens, staff members and advisors will continue to take a stand against bullying,” he explains. “It’s an issue that each of us can personally address and together we can make real change!”
BBYO is dedicated to cultivating strong teens and encouraging them to make good life decisions through the numerous leadership programs and conventions offered throughout the year.
As part of this ongoing effort a group of BBYO teens attended a showing of Bully last week, a recently released documentary that profiles the lives of five kids and their families. It was filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, and opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders.
After the movie, the group reconvened at a local restaurant to talk about their thoughts, feelings and reactions to what they saw.
“Every single teenager has struggled with bullying, whether they have been the bully, been bullied, or witnessed it,” says BBYO member, Herb Meisner. “The movie was very sad, and really opened my eyes to what goes on in other cities, showing the different attitudes people have and how kids are bullied in different ways. I feel more strongly than ever before that it’s up to me to try my best to stop it,” he adds. “BBYO has taught me a lot about my peers and how to treat others. In BBYO, we are a family, and seeing a family member struggle with bullying really sets me off. It’s BBYO that has made me into the person who has the guts to step in when I hear a derogatory word towards someone or something or see a kid get teased.”
Stacey Wolfe, a grad student in the field of School Psychology, led the discussion following the film. “I could see that the movie had opened their eyes. They saw the range of the bullying and how it affects the kids and their families and how, sometimes, the kids who are getting bullied are so desperate for friends, that they sacrifice their own safety and well-being just to be liked,” she shares. “I know in their hearts these BBYOers truly want to change things, and I think they really can because of the bond they share as a result of the experiences they’ve had together in BBYO.
“It’s scary to step up and make a difference, especially when no one else will. But it only takes a small group of people to make the change and give it momentum, and there’s something about these teens that shows me they have what it takes to be that change!”
Cincinnati BBYO’s interest in taking on bullying as their Stand-Up Cause was born out of the teens’ desire to have a mix of meaningful programs and fun activities, and felt bullying was an important topic that all teens could relate to. “It’s exciting to see that Cincinnati BBYO is leading the way with this kind of innovative programming,” says Josh Rothstein, BBYO KIO regional director. “Now the entire region has gotten on the bandwagon and we hope it spreads to many other cities across the country.”
In addition to special events, parties, and Jewish social action- and holiday-related programs, BBYO provides numerous leadership opportunities and offers many chances throughout the year for teens to attend regional, and even national and international conventions, summer camp and trips to Israel. BBYO is open to those who are currently in eighth grade and now eligible to fully participate in all programs and events and attend chapter meetings and conventions.
BBYO is the world’s largest pluralistic Jewish youth movement. From offering fun, meaningful and affordable experiences to Jewish teenagers, BBYO has been providing leadership programs and identity-enriching experiences, shaping the lives of 250,000 alumni who are among the most prominent figures in business, politics, academia, the arts and Jewish communal life in the country and around the world. BBYO’s broad program menu enables teens to explore areas of leadership, service and civic engagement, Israel education, and Jewish values with the expectation that they will exhibit positive attitudes and behaviors about being Jewish while maintaining the values and relationships that strengthen the Jewish people.
According to a recent BBYO Impact Study, commissioned by the Schusterman Foundation, across several measures, BBYO alumni demonstrate a strong sense of Jewish pride and peoplehood, a willingness to play leadership roles and a connection to the State of Israel. They support Jewish organizations with their checkbooks and volunteer time. Alumni also participate actively in Jewish social networks and exhibit a desire and commitment to raising Jewish families.