***Disclaimer. I am not a rabbi or your rabbi. But, I do have non-Jewish followers who see and hear things and ask important questions. They deserve answers.
This week, in the days of reflection and resolution, are Jews helping or hurting themselves by sitting on social media too much?
I get asked many times from non-Jews about respectful dress, appropriate language or kosher laws. I tell everyone that although I am not an expert, I appreciate their interest and give them my thoughts. I never try to be a rabbi or an authority. That is why my tagline is, “You don’t have to be Jewish with Cindy.” I share the best of our world and find what we can enjoy and learn from within the non-Jewish world.
Here are some recent examples where non-Jews questioned posts, memes and reels on social media:
Someone has made it a job to write mini biographies about Jewish celebrities, even though the same personalities didn’t have Jewish mothers, didn’t marry Jewish spouses and share their own Christmas family holiday celebrations via the very same outlets that self proclaimed authors claim they are Jewish. Would these same influencers profess Jewishness of a cousin who wasn’t famous? Probably not.
Before Shabbos, I received multiple text messages with memes regarding Queen Elizabeth and King Charles. I wrote back, technically, the man is in shiva. Would you share this about someone you know in your shul grieving? Totally inappropriate in my opinion and I voiced my concerns to the messenger.
Is it OK for kosher restaurants to charge four times the amount for lettuce or broccoli dish because the VAAD overseeing the kashrut follows Halacha guidelines, but then the same establishment with the same VAAD rabbis allow influencers who are dressed immodestly, public figures who are involved in intermarriage relationships or engage in projects questioning Zionism and Israel’s rights to exist represent these locations? Remember, non-Jews see this and think they are learning our laws.
There are a few people who act as though they are “The Jewish Police” stalking people on Facebook or Twitter, including myself. If they don’t like something said or a photo shared, they fill the remarks section with insults and false information. They constantly criticize Jewish establishments like kosher restaurants and supermarkets. They attack people’s Parnassus, or income abilities, or their status for potential dating opportunities. They have multiple accounts with different names after incidents of bans. Their efforts hurt Jews as a whole and misrepresent to the non-Jewish world a narrow-minded negativity that sparks anti-Semitism.
With the rise of anti-Semitism, social media platforms could be a strong advocate for ending Jewish hatred. Instead, it seems that too many of us are using it unprofessionally and face conflict among ourselves. How can we expect others to support us when they read and see photos giving confusing information?
I am hearing organizations and even government officials are asking social media influencers for help. I suggest they research carefully and interview influencers before they fall into the “infatuation” phase of promoting Jewish issues.
Last year, I wrote about the failure of the “blue box” social media campaign to end anti-Semitism. These influencers did nothing other than to communicate with each other. It received no attention from the mainstream press and too many didn’t even know it existed. Few non-Jews or even no religious Jews participated. I found a non-Jewish actor with roots of grandparents saving Jews during the Holocaust, but he represented a handful of participants not professional influencers.
As someone who has worked many years within the fashion industry, I heard from many of the designers who learned the hard way that most social media influencers don’t necessarily build businesses or get out the message.
Not all is lost! There are many great ideas, personalities and businesses that thrive on social media. However, we have too many chances of opportunity that fall through the cracks.
In the last few days of this Jewish year, several situations arose that made me think, “Can Jews Do A Better Job Promoting Themselves?” The answer is yes!
Let’s make the resolution to be more mindful and respectful of ourselves and all Jews around the world as we share posts, stories, reels and memes.