Brigitte Learns To Cope
With Bullies In School
RIGITTE BERMAN sought to soothe
her pain by hiding in a closet. She wrapped her arms around her
13-year-old body as if to contain a million fractured pieces.
After enduring months of bullying at school she felt utterly
alone, worthless, humiliated, so overcome by pain that she
believed her only choice was to end it forever.
She said the Anti-Defamation League
turned her life around from "this frightened child, who not once
but twice wanted to take her own life," to a young woman feeling
empowered enough, despite continued harassment throughout high
school, to reach six million people through her speaking and
having her novel accepted in more than 50 school curricula.
Brigitte found a reason to keep living
when she attended an ADL Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp. She
learned a poignant phrase: "Tolerance is not enough. We must
work towards respect."
That defines her robust lobbying for
anti-bullying reform and implementing ADL’s "No Place for Hate"
programing in schools.
On a personal level Brigitte said she
found the strength to forgive her tormentors.
As an ADL camper, Brigitte learned
about "the pyramid of hate." At the top are genocide, hate and
violence. The top is buttressed by a foundation of bigotry:
name-calling, stereotypes and jokes. "We can change that," she
said, "by chipping away at the base of this pyramid."
To me Brigitte was the highlight of
the ADL centennial in October at the Grand Hyatt in New York.
Never mind that Secretary of State Chuck Hagel was there
to announce that he has agreed to open up even more advanced
military capabilities to Israel, including the new V-22 Osprey.
This is a tilt-rotor aircraft that lifts up like a helicopter
and flies like a plane.
Hagel said he directed the Marine
Corps to expedite an order of six V-22s out of the next batch to
go on the assembly line.
ADL national director Abraham
Foxman presented the William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute
Service Award to Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of
State and former CIA director, whom Hagel praised as strong on
security and just as strong on civil rights and equality.
Foxman said he was honoring Panetta
not only for his successful attack on Osama bin Laden but
also for his historic changes to civil rights at home.
In the award presentation, Foxman was
joined by a rabbi, a priest and an imam. Whereupon ADL national
chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher declared, "How pleasant it is
to have siblings dwell together."
Panetta noted that his family came
from Italy to the Bronx to seek a better life for their
children. "I washed glasses in my father’s restaurant," he said.
"My parents believed child labor was a requirement."
Now that he’s out of national
leadership, Panetta can assess his former environment
fearlessly: "I’ve never seen so many people in Washington
dedicated to screwing things up."
He said it reminded him of the three
missionaries—British, French, Italian—who fell into the hands of
cannibals. The chief said, "You can kill yourselves or jump into
this pot and be cooked. Either way we are going to use your skin
to build a boat."
The three killed themselves. The Brit
slit his throat, the French plunged a knife into his heart, and
the Italian started to slash and puncture his body.
"Are you crazy?" cried the cannibal
chief. "What are you doing?"
"I’m going to screw up your boat," the