It’s no overstatement to say that middle school bullying changed Rabbi Leora Kaye’s life.

When she was halfway through 5th grade, her parents decided to move.  Her new home, in the Chicago suburb of Willamette, was only a short drive from her old home in Evanston, but the move meant changing schools at a really tough time in the school cycle. 

A social kid with a thriving circle of friends from her synagogue’s youth group and Jewish summer camp, Leora had never experienced the kind of ridicule and shaming that soon rained down upon her. 

The bullies were relentless.   

Leora thinks about this experience now as she talks to her daughter and son about how to treat others. She asks them to consider what others may say about them 10 or 20 years from now.

“You don’t want them telling their loved ones that you’re the one who made them cry every day.” She reminds them and others that “what you put out in the world is what’s in the world.” 

Leora found refuge in the Jewish spaces where she was made to feel confident and grounded.  She says that her youth group and Jewish summer camp gave her a foundation beneath her feet.

Today, Leora is the Director of Partnerships and Collaboration at Union for Reform Judaism in Brooklyn, NY.  Her daughter once asked her what she does at work each day.  After explaining a bit more about how she spends her days bringing people together, Leora’s daughter responded, “Oh, so you’re a friendship manager!”  

Leora’s decision to pursue rabbinical studies was 100% motivated by a desire to create safe spaces for others to come together and find community.  Friendship manager indeed!  

Episode Links and Resources:

Rabbi Leora Kaye:

Queen Bees and Wannabes, Rosalind Wiseman

Masterminds and Wingmen, Roasalind Wiseman

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