Raising awareness

Raising awareness

Hundreds of local Jewish teens will gather Sunday, Feb. 3, to address the issue of bullying. The event “Bully: The Movie — An Exclusive Screening and Workshop for Jewish Teens and Parents,” will be held from 9 a.m. to noon.  

“Bully: The Movie” is the first of two programs that will round out the Lauren Webster Young Adult Initiative, a program intended to curb and raise awareness about the pressures of young people that too often tragically lead to suicide. The program is sponsored by the Agency for Jewish Learning, Jewish Family & Children’s Service and Rodef Shalom Congregation and is made possible by the Lauren Webster Young Adult Initiative.  

The Lauren Webster Young Adult Initiative began with a gift by the grandparents of the project’s namesake, Norman and Marilyn Weizenbaum, who know the reality of these pressures and their devastating effects.

“There is a tremendous pressure among young adults and teens to be a part of the crowd,” Norman Weizenbaum said in a prepared statement. Some kids for one reason or another aren’t able to handle it and finally do a terrible thing by taking their own life. They think there is no hope. It is important to instill that hope early on, not just in the kids but in the parents.”

The morning will begin with a free screening of the movie “Bully,” which was released in theaters last spring, at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill.  Following the movie, teens and parents will walk together to the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill for discussion with educators from the Agency for Jewish Learning and experts from Jewish Family & Children’s Service.  The event is free and open to teens in grades eight to 12 and parents.  Busses will be provided from Beth El in the South Hills, Temple David in Monroeville, and Ohav Shalom Congregation in the North Hills, leaving at 8:30 a.m. and returning at 12:30 p.m.

Weizenbaum’s hope for the project’s impact is one shared across all organizations co-sponsoring its work.

“I would feel vindicated if only one person was in fact rescued, but I would hope this awareness would grow from small roots to make an impact on young people and parents alike,” he said. “This is my wish and hope, but large journeys start with small steps.”

The second program of the Lauren Webster Young Adult Initiative is slated for late summer and will target college-aged young adults focusing on academic and performance pressures.

“Bully: The Movie” is open to the community and welcomes all teens and parents who want to learn how to stand up to bullying and talk about issues from the perspective of Jewish values. Contact Beth R. Goldstein at the Agency for Jewish Learning at bgoldstein@ajlpittsburgh.org or 412-521-1101, ext. 3203 for more information.