Combating Bullying and Exclusion
JWA's Rising Voices Fellowship helps female-identified teens develop authentic voices, strengthen their leadership through writing, and begin to influence the important conversations of the Jewish community. Of course, these rock stars are already shaking things up in their communities today. This is part of Rising Voices in Action, a month-long annual series that demonstrates the many different ways in which you can challenge the status quo, no matter your gender or age.
When the status quo simply isn’t acceptable, our Rising Voices Fellows step in. In addition to being activists, they are just some of the mensch-iest people you’ll ever meet, and they don’t take things like bullying or exclusion lightly. From working to make youth group more open and inclusive, to refusing to take part in school bullying, these young women teach us the importance of sticking to good values, no matter the risk or cost.
Arguably, the worst feeling in the world is the feeling that you don’t matter. What you say doesn’t matter, how you feel doesn’t matter, who you are doesn’t matter: you just don’t matter. For the first couple of years that I was involved in my temple youth group, I felt that I just didn’t matter as a member of the community. And to be frank, that sucked. The entire youth board was comprised of one friend group and, as the decision makers for the group, it was pretty hard for them to meet the needs of us “outsiders” when they didn’t even know what those needs were. But then, during a bus ride to a temple event (ironically), I voiced these feelings to another participant and…she felt the same way. Now, with both a platform and a partner, we (along with the temple’s staff members) were able to rally other teens who felt the same way, to make our voices heard. Now, as a whole youth group, we have worked to reform our ways to include and encourage the voices of each and every member. First, it was within the youth group itself, and now, as a unit, we are working to raise our voices in other ways, to do as Malala once said: to “raise up [our] voice[s]––not so [we] can shout but so those without a voice can be heard.”
The kids at my school are mostly homogenous in terms of political opinions and interests, but just because people think similarly, it doesn’t mean that they get along. Just like anywhere else, my school has bullies, and where there are bullies, there are bystanders. I get why people choose to be bystanders. It’s scary to align yourself with someone who has already been ostracized, and it’s way easier to ignore what’s happening. But this has never been comfortable for me. There are two times in particular I’ve refused to be a bystander. Once in sixth grade, when my friend group decided to bully a girl; and again more recently, when a couple of my friends were being picked on incessantly. I wouldn’t call my actions revolutionary. All I’ve done is ask the bully to lay off, and try to help the person who’s been bullied by offering kind words, pulling them away from the situation, and giving them a safe space to vent. I lost my old friend group, but I’ve grown closer to my friends for whom I’ve stood up; plus, I know I took the moral high-ground. It’s safer, and easier, to do nothing, but it’s better, and right, to take a stand.
Inspired by these reflections? You can check out RVF’s other blog posts. If you love the series and want to hear more about what these budding revolutionaries are doing, sign up for our blog mailing list.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Klebe, Larisa. "Combating Bullying and Exclusion." 30 April 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/combating-bullying-and-exclusion>.