Home April 2012 Anti-Semitism, Hate Crimes & Bullying: Part Three of Three

Anti-Semitism, Hate Crimes & Bullying: Part Three of Three

In this series, I have written about how much anti-Semitism, hate crimes and bullying exist today. While it is sickening, and we all want to make it go away, the reality is that it exists and we need tools to be able to help ourselves and our children combat it and cope effectively when faced with such negative behaviors in our schools, activities and communities.
Many resources are available.  I encourage you to explore the various options and educate yourself, even if your family has not been touched by this crisis.  The Anti Defamation League, founded in 1913, has a mission to stop the defamation of Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.  Its website, www.adl.org, has many resources to help people experiencing hate and discrimination of all types.  A very proactive organization, the ADL offers many educational programs that can be brought into schools, synagogues and other groups, to educate the victims as well as those responsible.  Many times these heinous acts are based on ignorance.  Our local ADL office is very responsive when notified about an incident or ongoing discrimination and welcomes phone calls and e-mails from concerned members of the community.
Rabbis and educators are also excellent resources when dealing with these types of situations, as they are trained not only to respond to the discrimination itself, to help put a stop to it, but also to help people deal with the ramifications.  There are also many organizations working towards creating a more inclusive, less “hate filled” world and are attacking the hate crime phenomena with a vengeance.  These organizations have wonderful advice and resources as well, offering programs and materials to individuals, schools and groups.  Two examples are the “Finding Kind” movement (www.findingkind.com) and “Bullied to Silence” (www.bulliedtosilence.com).  A Google search leads to more organizations.
Even more important than knowing where to go for help is recognizing WHEN our children are being victims of bullying of any kind.  Even those of us who feel that we have excellent relationships with our kids may be surprised at their failure to tell us when something like this is going on.  It’s possible that they may not realize they are being bullied, as sometimes it can be very subtle.  A teenager whose friends tell “Jew jokes” may think it’s all just teenage antics and may laugh and participate. One of my kids’ friends, who shared with me that his friends routinely call him “Jew Boy” and refer to his being out of the oven was shocked when I told him that he is considered to be a victim of a hate crime, saying “but my friends like me, they don’t hate me… they’re just joking around.”
Another reason why a child, especially a teenager, may not share what’s going on is because he or she is too embarrassed and thinks it won’t do any good or fear the bully will retaliate.  Also, reporting such behavior is viewed as a sign of weakness, and no teenager wants to appear weak.
It is really important to make sure we are vigilant about talking to our teens and younger kids and letting them know that we are here to listen, that we won’t judge them and that we will problem solve together to handle the situation.  I always find that the best place to talk to my kids is driving home from school or to activities or when you go in to say good night.  It is also a good idea to keep an eye on the signs that something might be troubling them, such as if their grades start to go down, if they isolate themselves, if they become sullen, withdrawn or irritable (I know, teenagers are moody half the time anyway!) or if they just seem to be acting differently than usual.
Maintaining open lines of communication with our kids, keeping a close eye on what’s going on in their lives and with their behavior, educating ourselves about these topics and how to handle them and being proactive about getting help from organizations and professionals will go a long way toward keeping our children and our communities free from anti-Semitism, hate crimes and bullying.

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