The Pittsburgh and Cleveland leaders of the Anti-Defamation League are planning an effort to strengthen Pennsylvania’s bullying law by supporting an amendment to outlaw cyber bullying.
The effort is one of several that the recently reorganized ADL in this region is planning, including education programs for students and teachers on dealing with prejudice.
ADL has thrown its support behind H.B. 2569, which would require each school in the state have a policy prohibiting “harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyber bullying” by Jan. 1, 2011. The bill also lays out how the policies are to be implemented and what their minimal components should be.
The bill contains language recommended by ADL.
Like many other Jewish organizations, ADL retrenched over the past two years year due to the financial crisis and subsequent recession. In the Cleveland office, which covers western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, two employees were layed off a year ago and three more left on their own; their positions were not filled.
The office was reorganized six months ago with Nina Sundell as its new regional director and Jill Rembrandt as its new associate program director.
In Pittsburgh, Beverly Weiss Mann, an attorney with the firm of Tucker Arensberg, became president of the local council, but ADL’s only local paid employee, Program Director Dina Clark, left for another job. Her position remains vacant, though Mann said the Pittsburgh council intends to fill it.
“You need the right person to fill that position,” Mann said. The position involves much outreach to area schools and promotion of anti-prejudice education programs.
Despite the personnel changes in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Mann said ADL’s core mission — fighting anti-Semitism and all other forms of prejudice — won’t change and may even intensify, out of necessity.
“Jews have historically not fared well in bad economic times,” she noted.
Sundell said anti-Semitic myths tend to resurface during tough economic times. “If you think of Bernie Madoff and some of the things that came out on the Internet,” she said, “myths of Jews controlling money are prevalent during these times.”
Sundell, who came to Cleveland after nine years in the ADL’s Denver office, said the organization must do more with less.
Among those activities, ADL hopes to introduce Miller Early Childhood Initiative here. That’s a program designed to teach educators of children ages 3 to 5 how to speak to their pupils about prejudice in ways they understand and without instilling fear.
They also hope to expand their No Place for Hate campaign here — an annual school-based initiative in which all students and faculty of a participating school sign a “pledge of respect” and then plan at least three programs during the course of the year built around the theme of respect for people from all backgrounds.
For 2010, only one school in western Pennsylvania signed the pledge and none in West Virginia compared to seven in Cleveland, Sundell said.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at Leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)