“Achdut” – the Hebrew word for unity, or even harmony – is the buzzword these days as NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, responds to the episodes of sinat chinam (baseless hatred) in Israel involving fringe members of the Orthodox community.
These episodes include the attacks on IDF military bases and the taunting and spitting on an eight-year-old girl in Beit Shemesh by those who considered her clothing to be immodest.
These incidents are an aspect of bullying, and NCSY is already on record as opposing bullying in any form, done face-to-face or through the Internet and social media.
In October 2010, Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY (and now Managing Director of the Orthodox Union as well) wrote an op-ed piece, “There’s No Place for Bullying in God’s World,” which was published in dozens of Jewish newspapers across the country. The piece was provoked by the suicide of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old college student who killed himself following bullying over his sexual orientation.
Rabbi Burg wrote, “At NCSY, we have adopted strict policies against acts of malice and aggression. All of our regions across North America are being instructed to have sessions on bullying. The Midwest Region, based in Chicago, already has announced a bullying program at its Fall Regional in Kansas City next weekend.”
Since that piece was written, NCSY has published two compilations of scriptural verses condemning bullying -- a pamphlet that is part of NCSY’s “Torah on One Foot” series, and a more comprehensive collection, “Bullying in Jewish Thought.” Both were compiled by Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, the Torah Content Editor for the OU Torah web site, www.outorah.org. Both publications include the famous verse, emphasized by Hillel, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
“Scripture is replete with strictures against bullying in its various forms,” Rabbi Abramowitz said. “Although the word bullying is never used, the verses we quote involve striking another; oppressing another person through verbal abuse; cursing a deaf person and placing an obstacle in front of a blind person; causing emotional distress by mistreating widows, orphans, converts and the financially needy; and embarrassing and humiliating another person publicly.”
At the OU, it is not only NCSY that is speaking out against these acts. The Orthodox Union, in a joint statement with the Rabbinical Council of America, declared that it “strongly and unambiguously condemns the recent violence and intimidation committed by segments of the Jewish community in Beit Shemesh, Israel. We call upon all involved to return to the peaceful ways of our sacred Torah and to respect the dignity of all human beings. It should be clear to all that this hateful activity does not represent Judaism.”
The statement was followed on the fast of Asara b’Tevet with a webcast featuring the OU’s Executive Vice President, Emeritus Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, and the RCA’s President, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, calling for harmony among the Jewish people to bring the ultimate redemption. The webcast is archived at www.ou.org/harmony.
NCSY will continue to impress upon its teenagers that bullying is antithetical to Jewish thought and practice and that it should be avoided completely and condemned where it occurs.
Judah Joseph, the International Teen President of NCSY, said that “more important than anything else, it is imperative that the Jewish people end any and all discrimination perpetrated by and intended for us. The recent acts of baseless hatred in Beit Shemesh expose a greater, underlying problem within our community, which we need to examine and eradicate.”
As Rabbi Burg wrote in his op-ed piece, “I call upon parents, educators, clergy and all others who work with youth to join us in a zero-tolerance policy for bullying in all its forms, including cyber bullying. Not only will this save young lives from being needlessly thrown away, it will ensure a safer and healthier environment for all our children.”
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