The Complex Problem of Bullying

I learned last week that when my 5-year-old son goes to synagogue with his father, a 10-year-old boy is bullying him. Telling him he’s part of a “club” and if he surrenders his candy, he’ll have “500 lives.” Instilling in my precious baby a fear that if he doesn’t do what this bad kid says, something bad will happen.

When I found out about it, and that no one is protecting my son, I had to do something about it. I spoke with my ex; he believes I am creating trouble. I emailed the mother of the boy, whom I’ve known for most of my life. No response. I called the rabbi of my ex-husband’s synagogue. And therein I found salvation.

The rabbi was compassionate, kind and understanding and he agreed wholeheartedly that this is a problem that needed fixing. He did some investigation and learned that I was right, my son is being bullied while services are taking place and the adults are focused on praying. The kids, then, are supposed to be in youth groups, but it’s two girls in charge of all the kids and some obviously slip away without notice.

The rabbi spoke with the synagogue president, who spoke with the two girls, who know to make sure this 10-year-old stays in groups. The rabbi is speaking to the bully’s father. And I’ve spoken to my children. I’ll also make surprise appearances at the synagogue just to let them know I’m there to protect them, even when they’re not with me.

But what is most alarming to me is the lack of stepping in by anyone who knew what was going on. It’s bad enough that certain kids think they can intimidate, scare and provoke other children. There are kids older than this 10-year-old who knew exactly what was going on, who confirmed it to the rabbi, and who did nothing to step in and stop it.

That’s where our entire society goes awry. There is a fine line between meddling in business that isn’t yours and standing up for right over wrong. It’s not my place to judge another person’s political leanings or religious beliefs, and if I’m just opening my mouth to tell them they’re wrong, then I have no business opening my mouth at all.

But when someone is being tormented, hurt or otherwise preyed upon, you bet we all have a responsibility and an obligation to stand up for the most innocent among us.

It is a tall order, say, for a 12-year-old to have the courage to tell a 10-year-old that what he’s doing is wrong. But at the very least, why couldn’t an older kid in the know tell his parents, or the rabbi?

The problem is – everyone thinks someone else will take care of it.

But they don’t. And the littlest, most precious ones among us continue to be hurt.

At Penn State, something was said but nothing was done. And who knows how many people knew what was going on but stayed silent. Celebrated the trinity of football leadership. Put the leaders on pedestals, even as one of them molested little boys.

Wrong is wrong – I don’t care where it takes place or who perpetrates it. WRONG IS WRONG.

If we want to stem childhood bullying, we have to lead by example and stand up to protect those who need protecting. Always. Not just when it’s our own children, but whenever we see an injustice happening.

I don’t care if bringing this to the fore makes me unpopular in that community. Plenty of people already dislike me for daring to be different. Only I have to look myself in the mirror every morning and rest assured that I am doing all I can to be the best person I can be, and make the most of this life.

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