Archive for the ‘How Would You Like It If Someone Called You Names?’ Category

Protesters: Facebook OK With Anti-Semitic Postings

October 17, 2013

This article was first published in JWeekly.

Israeli Phillip Pasmanick takes part in a protest at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on Oct. 14. photo/joyce goldschmid

Israeli Phillip Pasmanick takes part in a protest at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on Oct. 14. photo/joyce goldschmid

A small group of activists accusing Facebook of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism online staged a protest outside the social media giant’s Menlo Park headquarters on Oct. 14.

The protest was organized by Michael Mendelson, a 45-year-old electronics salesman from Miami who has been working for two years to get Facebook to remove pages and groups he believes are anti-Semitic or hateful against Jews and Israel.

In an email, Mendelson said he received support from the Zionist Organization of America and Stand With Us, and that “over 400 attendees” had signed up online and would be at the protest. The actual number was about 15.

Mendelson claims he collected 112,000 signatures on a petition he presented to Facebook, and his “Help Report Hate & Anti-Semitic Pages” Facebook page has been liked more than 12,000 times.

“It all started when I saw a Facebook page called “F-ck Israel,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been reporting hateful page after hateful page, but even if one gets taken down, it pops right back up in no time at all.”

The son of parents he termed Holocaust “refugees,” Mendelson accuses Facebook of practicing a double standard: carefully removing content that is hateful toward gays, blacks, and other ethnic and minority groups, but blatantly allowing material that is virulently anti-Jewish to stay visible in newsfeeds.

Those who showed up to the protest waved blue and white signs with messages such as “Facebook=Hatebook,” “Social Media Holocaust” and “Demand Facebook take anti-Semitism seriously.”

Phillip Pasmanick said he traveled from his home in northern Israel to support Mendelson’s efforts. Retired from the Israel Defense Forces after 30 years, he now runs an Israel advocacy website. “I, too, have worked for a long time to fight anti-Semitic pages and have alerted others about them so they can help me get the links taken down,” he said.

Pasmanick, who wore a large Israeli flag as a cape, blamed Facebook’s algorithms for allowing hateful material to stay online.

Matt Steinfeld, manager of policy communications for Facebook, refuted Pasmanick’s claim. “An individual reviews each reported page and measures it against the standards on Facebook’s community standards page,” he said. With 1.2 billion users and 3.5 billion posts per day, Facebook maintains that the only “scalable way” to handle complaints is through its online reporting protocols, and by engaging with community organizations to address various concerns.

One of those community organizations is the Anti-Defamation League, which said in an official statement that it is “routinely in contact with the leadership at Facebook to raise concern about anti-Semitic and other problematic content published to their pages.”

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Words Drove Hadassa Margolese Away

August 15, 2013

This piece was first published on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.

b-sisterhood-Margolese-081413Somehow, I did not put two and two together.

I read Hadassa Margolese’s post (in Hebrew) on the Maariv website back in May about her negative — even traumatizing — experience at her local mikveh (ritual bath) in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Then, recently, I read several Facebook posts she wrote about her family’s move to a new home. However, I didn’t realize until Tuesday that these two things were related. I finally made the connection when I read this JTA article about how Margolese, a reluctant activist, was driven out of Beit Shemesh not by the Haredim she had previously stood up to (when they harassed and intimidated her young daughter over her dress), but rather by her fellow Modern Orthodox neighbors.

Coincidentally, I also read on Tuesday a new e-book by Allison Yarrow, titled, “The Devil of Williamsburg,” about the notorious Nechemya Weberman sex abuse case. It’s all about how Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic community covers up everything from minor misdoings to major crimes, routinely shunning community members who dare shine a light on them.

One can’t exactly compare the reporting of crimes like rape and child abuse to the writing of a column about nasty mikveh ladies who over-scrutinize you and don’t give you enough privacy. But, from what I understand, there seems to be a trickle-down effect happening. It’s no longer just Haredi Jews who are hounding and ostracizing those who air dirty laundry in public.

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s A Gay, Jewish ‘Superhero’

February 5, 2013

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

The Purim Superhero

Nate doesn’t know what type of costume to choose for Purim. His friends are all dressing up as superheroes, but Nate loves aliens and wants to go as one to the Megillah reading and holiday carnival. Like most young children, he decides to discuss his dilemma with his parents. But unlike most kids, Nate doesn’t bring the problem to his mother and father. Instead, he talks it over with his Daddy and Abba.

Nate is the protagonist of “The Purim Superhero,” the first LGBT-inclusive Jewish children’s book written in English. The little boy, his sister and their two dads represent many American Jewish families who — until now — have not seen themselves reflected in the picture books their children read in Hebrew school or bring home from the Jewish community library.

Kar-Ben Publishing, a Minneapolis-based distributor of Jewish content for kids between preschool and middle school, decided it was time to bring Nate and his gay fathers into Jewish homes and educational settings.

“We had been interested for a long time in this subject. We’d done focus groups with parents and educators, and most were interested in seeing a book like this,” said Joni Sussman, Kar-Ben‘s publisher.

“What we wanted was a story with a gay family setting, but not specifically about being a gay family. We were looking for something non-didactic about the gay issue,” Sussman explained. “What we loved about ‘The Purim Superhero’ is that it is about a boy looking for his own identity and standing up for who he is. It’s really a story about Purim and Queen Esther.”

As a married lesbian with a 12-year-old daughter, the book’s author, Elisabeth Kushner, found being a same-sex family to be a non-issue.

“I wanted to write out of my own experience and that of other gay and lesbian families we know,” the 46-year-old told The Times of Israel by phone from her home in Vancouver, Canada. “It’s really not an issue for kids or for most people in larger cities. And for kids in LGBT families, their parents’ being gay is not necessarily the main issue in their lives, and I hadn’t seen any books reflecting this reality.”

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


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