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April 14, 2011 - Image 57

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-04-14

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breaking stereotypes

by Lindsay Rosenbaum

defeat the label

Friendship Circle launches social movement
promoting judgment-free society.

Andover students

Molly Klein, right, and

Leah Jacobs, below,

take part in a

Defeat the Label seminar.


ndover High School was fortunate to be chosen by the Friendship
Circle to participate in a newly created campaign, Defeat the Labe 1
(DTL). This program is a social movement promoting an inclusive
judgment-free society devoid of stereotypes and social labels.
Andover students — as do many high school students — experience daily judg-
ments or "labels" based on their appearance, clothing or even ethnicity. Friendship
Circle came to our school in March to conduct DTL seminars.
Friendship Circle, aWest Bloomfield nonprofitthatworks with children with special
needs, developed this online and in-school anti-bullying curriculum in consultation
with professionals from Wayne State University in Detroit. Rather than a one-time as-
sembly, DTL provides a monthly in-
school seminar. So far, Andover and
Walled Lake Western high schools
are the first pilot schools.
The online element also is more
than a one-time registration. After
students register at the website,
defeatthelabel.com , they will receive weekly call-to-action missions asking them to

perform a good act within their school, social groups, family and other community-
based organizations.
At Andover, the program began with a diverse group of students who helped cre-
ate a video to represent the significance of Defeat the Label. Soon after, 25 students
signed up to participate in meetings to organize a campaign for this program.
Finally, we all worked together in a single classroom at Andover during a study
hour. Bassie Shemtov and Rabbi Yarden Blurnstein of Friendship Circle told us about
the website and showed us the video some of us had filmed earlier.
After the video, we stepped into a taped-off area where we saw a slide show of
two different images and everyone would have to step to the side of the tape they
preferred. For instance, one side was Pepsi and another Coca-Cola. Then the sides
became increasingly serious with "stick up for yourself" or "walk away."
This was a classroom where no one was judged based on their sides; so we were
being brutally honest and completely opening up to one another in this game.
Then we all were given different cards with labels on
them: nerd, loser, j ock, popular, rich, pretty, hippy, etc. Then
we were asked to go outside of the classroom, table by ta-
krtg t _rr....N11 -v
ble, to receive a costume. In costume, we walked in one at
a time and received a label card from each table to see how
people "labeled" us. Many students, including me, were up-
Right: Site of the March 23 bus-stop bomb
set that an individual can be judged so quickly — within 30
in Jerusalem. Left: Soldiers at the scene of
the murder of five members of an Israeli
Unlike assemblies we've experienced in the past, this
family in Itamar, a West Bank settlement.
presentation left an unforgettable mark on all of us. As
we left, we were given two bags, one with posters and the
other bag with rings. We then began hanging the posters
that was hit by missiles on March 24, not Fair-
Perhaps we can humanize hollow statistics
throughout Andover.
fax, Va. The comparison drawn by replacing by putting names to numbers. The victim of
One poster read: "blonde=dumb. Offended? You should
the names of Israeli cities with American cities the bus-stop bomb on March 23 was not a
be. Defeat the Label." This was just one of the many mes-
is both unnerving and awakening.
bland humanoid. Her name was Mary Jean,
sages that resonated with the students. Kids and teachers
It's tragic that conditions of terror in Is- a 59-year-old student at Hebrew University
were talking about the posters all week.
rael have escalated to a point where reports and a classmate of my sister's roommate. She
The rings printed with deafeatthelabel.com soon be-
of violence are not only typical, but expected had come from Scotland to Israel to study
came the new fad. We all wore them the second we stepped
— and are therefore neglected by the media. Hebrew in order to translate the Old Testa-
out of the room and just started to hand them out random-
Meanwhile, a car bomb that failed to explode ment for a tribe in Togo, West Africa.
ly to people in the hallways. It took less than three hours for
last year in New York made headline news
Mary, you will be missed. Your altruistic
this message to spread from Andover High School to Lahser
for days.
life mission was cut short by bigotry, and it is
High School.
We should not have to take steps like the in your name and in the names of the thou-
It was such a great experience to be associated with this
formulation of the above Facebook status sands of other innocent terror victims that we
program, and everyone is excited for the
to arouse empathy for lives lost. What hap-
continue to pray for peace.
next meeting to continue our campaign to
pened to the worshipped ideals of Martin Lu-
Defeat the Label. {
ther King Jr., who stressed the irrelevance of


labels such as nationality and religion? Have
we forgotten that people are people, regard-
less of where they live?

Talia Schechet, 15, is a freshman

at Frankel Jewish Academy in

Lindsay Rosenbaum, 17, is a junior at

West Bloomfield.

Bloomfield Hills Andover High School.

teen2teen April 14 . 2011 TT3

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