I was moved the other day when a woman in her late 50’s told me that she cried when she heard about Deb Tambor. The woman did not know Deb, in fact she had never even heard of her until that awful day when Deb passed. Apparently many members of her community were speaking about what had transpired. This woman is Chasidic and very much into her lifestyle. She told me that she cried inconsolably for hours because “It is not supposed to turn out this way. People should not be bullied. It is not what we are taught to do for one another. We are supposed to be kind to each other. How she lived her life is between her and god. They had no right taking her children away from her and harassing her.” I sympathized with the woman but I also pressed her by asking her if there was anything that she thought might be accomplished within her community to prevent anymore such terrible tragedies. She had only one sad response. She shrugged her shoulders as tears welled her eyes.
I am of a different perspective. I like to believe that there is always something that can be accomplished if there are people willing to take a stand. When I was told that there was no such thing as abuse in the Jewish community and that if I attempted to speak about it publicly I could be shunned I did not sweep it under the rug and pretend to move on. Taking a stand against wrong is an innate human quality. Most individuals know when something is incorrect, unethical and wicked. Sometimes a form of pluralistic ignorance prevents people from acting. If they see others acting in a certain way they tend to go with the majority. But most are willing to take a stand against wrong it if they are part of something larger, a group, and not even necessarily a large group, of like minded people.
Today, October 7, happens to be anti-bullying day. If you see groups of school children wearing blue shirts today it is a symbol that they are taking a pledge to stand against bullying. Bullying takes many forms. Deb was bullied. She was bullied by a community that she left. She was bullied by family. Deb was bullied away from her children. Legitimate issues may have been at play in her divorce. I have no insight into that. But I do know that the rigidity and ferocity of the attitudes and attacks against her have no place in law or in Halacha.
Change is forever possible both from within a system as well as from the outside. I would like to believe that despondency and futility can and should be stricken from the human condition. I also know that this tragic event can be a turning point in getting us to bring change to a system desperately in need of it. Someone who was bullied can feel trapped and is almost always despondent. Instead of giving in to this sense of hopelessness we can create an environment of support and a means of communication to help those who need it. Instead of more despondency let us vow to work together to bring new meaning from the tragic event.