When Solon High School students Marni Young and Koby Picker saw the documentary “Bully” in February at BBYO’s international convention in Atlanta, they were both struck by the film’s strong message.
“I found it very powerful, especially in the setting we were in,” said Koby, a junior and former Ohio Northern Regional BBYO moreh (teacher). “The theme of the weekend was Jews as a movement and how we can make the world better. Being in that kind of community enhanced the impact.”
“It really caught my eye on how bad (bullying) is,” said Marni, a senior and former ONR BBYO n’siah (president). “When I got home and looked around, I started seeing what was going on.”
Both Marni and Koby encouraged their friends, classmates and families to attend the BBYO screening of the film at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights May 2. Just prior to the movie, the two students spoke to the audience and encouraged them to look at the film through the lens of Jewish values. A total of 162 teens and parents came to the screening, and most stayed for a post-film discussion led by program associate Lisa Lefstein-Berusch of Facing History and Ourselves.
“I think the film is incredibly powerful,” Lefstein-Berusch said. “It highlights a different aspect of what bullying is and what we should be doing about it.” The discussion focused on what individuals and schools can do to help stop bullying, as well as how bystanders who witness bullying can take a stand. Facing History and Ourselves has produced a study guide for the movie that teachers can use, she said.
Teens from Youngstown, Akron and Cleveland attended the screening, according to ONR BBYO senior program director Todd Kay. “A lot of them had experienced or seen bullying,” he said.
The film’s director Lee Hirsch, who attended BBYO’s international convention, was present to answer questions at showings of the film May 5 at the Cedar Lee Theatre, after Clevelanders voted online to request his visit.
ONR BBYO joined other organizations in sponsoring the local screening of “Bully,” a full-length documentary that depicts North America’s bullying crisis. The movie tells the story of five families affected by bullying. It is intended to challenge viewers to move from shock and resignation to action aimed at creating schools and communities where bullying is unacceptable and empathy and respect are encouraged. “Bully” produced some controversy when it was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America due to language. Several parties involved with the film protested or appealed the rating, concerned it would discourage parents from allowing teens to view the film and it could discourage schools and youth groups from using “Bully” as an educational tool.
On the international level, BBYO, an exclusive partner of The Bully Project, the campaign associated with the film, has joined Keshet, North American Federation of Temple Youth, Repair the World, and a dozen more organizations across the country in ensuring the screenings reach the largest number of Jewish teens possible.
BBYO continues to raise awareness by asking teens and adults to join the “Bully Free: It Starts with Me” campaign. “We want to take action now,” Kay said.
To stand up to bullying, go to www.bbyo.org/bully/cleveland.