Stop sending Rosh Hashanah greetings, instead end antisemitism on social media
A plea for Rosh Hashanah 2023/5873: Spare me your Shana Tovas. All your embossed greeting cards and earnest text messages? Narishkeit. (Google it!)
I’ve spent the last two years on the frontlines of the war against antisemitism and am stupefied by the niceties surrounding the current High Holiday season.
I’m tired and frustrated. But mostly I’m angry.
Consider me your golem of Rosh Hashanah to come: I bring tidings from the future and they are anything but sweet.
There isn’t a Jew in this country who isn’t at least casually aware of the disturbing rise in antisemitism.
Last year the ADL logged a record 3,697 reported antisemitic incidents in the US, a 36% rise over 2021.
But even those figures paint an incomplete picture of what we’re up against.
Particularly on social media.
On every social platform, Jews find themselves awash in antisemitism.
Conspiracy theories, slurs, harassment, threats.
Everybody knows the socials can be toxic, but for Jews, it’s a Three Mile Island of blood libels.
The Holocaust is a myth.
Jews orchestrated 9/11.
We control the media, Hollywood, The White House, and the weather.
We masterminded Covid, Brexit, January 6, and Epstein’s suicide.
Too blithely we dismiss antisemites as trolls when they’re actually part of devastatingly effective campaigns.
Armies of Hate, I call them, and nothing energizes them more than Israel.
Much of this is due to that faddish notion known as Intersectionality — which has aligned the Palestinian cause with other marginalized communities (no matter how historically inaccurate).
The result: Unprecedented numbers of people receptive to their soundbyte-ready lies: The Jews stole Palestinian land! The Jews are oppressors! Israel is an apartheid state!
It’s true, that we’re no strangers to these aspersions, but social media is a nuclear-level catalyst without precedent.
It coalesces fringe ideas into communities where lunacy is validated and amplified.
Here, madness spawns movements with staggering efficiency.
Last year, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said the quiet part out loud, declaring that you can’t be progressive “yet back Israel’s apartheid government.”
Her comments went viral and exposed a warped syllogism popular on socials: If Judaism is synonymous with Zionism, and Zionism is racist, Jews must be racist. No matter that antisemitism is humanity’s oldest form of racism.
Well before Kanye West immolated himself on Twitter, a spate of celebrities used their platforms to push antisemitism.
The response? Barely a whimper. “
Recent incidents of antisemitic tweets and posts from sports and entertainment celebrities are a very troubling omen…but so too is the shocking lack of massive indignation,” basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in The Hollywood Reporter in 2020. “We expected more passionate public outrage. What we got was a shrug of meh-rage.”
Part of the problem: calling out antisemitism on social media is risky business.
Take the cautionary tale of Eve Barlow, a prolific music critic when in 2021 she took to Twitter to promote a story she’d written for Tablet decrying the “social media pogrom,” only to have actor Seth Rogen cruelly mock her for it.
Their Twitter exchange made her an industry pariah, effectively ending her successful writing career.
A staggering 85% of Jews between 18 and 29 say they’ve experienced antisemitism on social media, according to the American Jewish Congress. (Do you know how hard it is to get 85% of Jews to agree on anything?)
We reassure ourselves that social media isn’t the real world, but there we are, self-censoring photos of a family vacation to Tel Aviv.
And giving a grateful nod to the security guards standing watch over our synagogues for High Holiday services.
And then there are the whisper networks of Jewish parents sharing intel about colleges where their kids won’t be harassed for being proudly Jewish.
Tell me again how social media doesn’t matter.
Seven years ago I co-founded JewBelong as an online resource for people searching for a non-judgmental connection to Judaism.
We put up billboards saying things like, “So you eat bacon, God has other things to worry about,” or “We don’t care which half of you is Jewish.”
But JewBelong’s mission evolved with the explosion of antisemitism–and, more specifically, our impotent response to it.
The pattern is always the same: a horrific event rattles us. We grit our teeth, await the inevitable press release or apology, and move on.
But social media has rendered that response loop utterly inadequate.
It’s a dusty old playbook for a thoroughly modern game.
And we’re playing as if our lives depend on it.
Because history shows they do.
That is why I ask that you skip the Shana Tovahs but pay attention to the shofar.
The ancient Jews didn’t just blow it on Rosh Hashanah, but also before battle.
It is a rallying cry.
And when it blows this year, let it be our call to action: We are done cowering.
Archie Gottesman is co-founder of JewBelong.org.