Social media is used by people from all walks of life. It is a platform that allows users to have meaningful conversations, share information, and create web content. It has transformed the modern world into a digital playground where interactions occur through screens, and relationships are fostered through likes and comments.
As social media continues to grow, so does the range of its users: from activists to influencers, from chefs to trick shot masters – the list goes on! Life on social media is a never-ending stream of content.
Despite those who spread positivity, social media is also a breeding ground for hate. The rise of antisemitism on social media platforms is at an all-time high. When popular rappers, basketball stars and football players spread false accusations about our culture, faith and people, we lose sight of the good and channel our emotions into anger.
However, Jewish TikTok influencers are fighting back. As Rabbi Light beautifully stated at Zman Kodesh, “We can’t erase their words, but we can minimize their effects by courageously committing to step into our Jewish-ness and finding one extra way each day to show our Jewish pride and express our identity.”
This is what Jewish influencers have done on the social media platform TikTok, the world’s destination for short mobile videos that gained popularity midway through 2019. As the app continues to grow, so do the Jewish influencers using the platform to teach others about our faith and promote positive Jewish vibes.
I first stumbled on a Jewish influencer while scrolling through my For You Page a year and a half ago. This influencer is Melinda Straus (@therealmelindastrauss) whose content focuses on sharing her life as a modern Orthodox Jew living in New York. From Kashrut Laws to the meaning of Shabbat, her favorite kosher restaurants, the Mikvah and more, she educates others on the meaning and importance of Jewish customs. Her content reminds us that something so familiar to one is so foreign to others. Like other Jewish TikTokers, Melinda Strauss shares how she often wakes up to streams of anti-Semitic tropes being commented on her videos. Yet, she has remained committed to teaching others about Judaism and using TikTok as a platform to promote inclusion and respect for all faiths.
Some Jewish influencers like Melinda are vocal about antisemitism; some are less, but all never fail to show their Jewish pride. Mordechai Weiss (@mordy4prez), a recently sworn-in attorney, is known for sharing day-in-the-life videos from when he was in law school. Each video started with him waking up eating breakfast and getting ready for the day. However, unlike other day-in-the-life videos, his included a section called “Blessing Up,” which featured him wrapping Tefillin each morning. Wearing Tefillin is a mitzvah men perform by wrapping black straps around their arms to foster a greater connection with G-d. By including this in his videos, Mordy demonstrated his willingness to express his Jewish pride without fearing the backlash he might face. Mordy’s courage and enthusiasm towards our faith is something to be emulated by all.
Recently, other demonstrations of Jewish Pride have also been populating the TikTok For You Page. The Miami Boys Choir has gained immense popularity across the platform. In addition, influencers like Sarah Haskell (@thatrelatablejew), a college student sharing her early struggle with the faith, Eitan Bernath (@eitan), a Jewish chef, and Malka Levanna (@thatjewishqueen), a woman who shares her journey with Chabad, are all examples of individuals who remind us the beauty of the Jewish faith and what happens when we remain resilient in spite of hate.
During times of mass antisemitism, its more important than ever to spread positivity to those willing to fight it and remember that all of our actions are important to combating hate. Today, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone: wear a Jewish star around your neck, wear a kippah and share your love for Judaism with someone else. As Jews, we are stronger together.