In December, McKenzie Adams took her own life. She was only nine years old.
According to national media reports, Adams was one of several American children under the age of 12 to commit suicide after being severely bullied. (The actual circumstances are still being investigated, but her parents claim that Adams had been bullied at school for being black.)
Mental health professionals point out that bullying isn’t the cause, per se, of suicide, but it leads to depression and anxiety that can result in suicidal thoughts and actions.
Unfortunately, the Jewish community is not immune to this tragedy. There have been cases where bullying was the cause for suicide.
Simcha Leiner is leading a new initiative to combat bullying by utilizing an unexpected tool: song.
He hopes that the power of music will help foster unity and lessen conflict. It’s a quest that took him to a number of schools across North America and will hopefully impact students in hundreds more.
Bullying Has No Age Limit
Simcha discussed how bullying shows itself in a myriad of situations and affects all ages. “At times during this project, I thought to myself about how there are so many opportunities in my work to pick someone up or push someone down. In the music business, everything revolves around reputation. Music is so subjective that 99% of my clients hire me based on what they’ve heard from others about me and the way they think of me. In Chabad, I’ve heard people say of me that I’m great on the dance floor, whereas in the yeshivish world I’ve heard them say of me that I don’t know what I’m doing on the dance floor, but the chuppah is great. The fact is that you can’t change the way adults think about you. It’s a bit sad, but that’s the reality, and you just have to work with it.
“When I was just getting started, I met with a potential agent. This guy was known to have a strong and shrewd personality. He called Avraham Fried, put him on speaker and said, ‘Avremel, I’m considering bringing Simcha Leiner on board; what do you think of him?’
“This was bullying, gneivas da’as and every other thing you can think of. I was really petrified because he didn’t tell me that he was going to do that. Avremel had no idea that I was sitting right there and listening in.
“I don’t know what I would have said in that situation, but Avremel said, ‘He reminds me of myself 25 years ago a little bit.’ The amount of stress and anxiety I had when that conversation started…
“I told Avremel a couple of years ago, ‘You don’t know what you did for me.’ I didn’t end up signing with that agent—very much because of that conversation—but that’s how you can see who is a really good person.”