TikTok is home to thousands of niche content creators – there’s probably a perfect “side” of TikTok for everyone. Do you like reading? Spend time on Booktok. Interested in politics? Political TikTok is incredibly active, especially during election season. There are TikTok creators that cater specifically to women, the LGBTQIA+ community, devout Christians, and more. Yet even with all of these culture-driven communities, certain social identity groups have historically been underrepresented, and not just on TikTok.
Jews in particular have been woefully absent from social media representation and, more importantly, from social media activism. However, a handful of TikTok creators have started turning the tide for Jews around the world, and we should all listen to what they have to say.
My own journey with Jewish TikTok started when TheRealMelindaStrauss appeared on my “For You” page. A Jewish mother living in Long Island, New York, Strauss began posting about her modern Orthodox Jewish life — observing Shabbat every weekend, celebrating major holidays — while also drawing attention to Jewish social issues. who have had little or no time in the spotlight before. . She has amassed over 600,000 subscribers and over 67 million likes, an impressive feat to say the least.
Her account acted as a valve for the many other Jewish creators who have started carving out a niche on TikTok. ThatJewishQueen publishes her Hasidic Orthodox life. ThatRelatableJew talks about her search for a strong and welcoming Jewish community as an adult — something that the many Jewish students at the University of Michigan can probably relate to. I recently ran into Miriam Zagui. She is also from New York and educates her followers on what it is like to live an Orthodox lifestyle.
None of these creators’ Jewish experiences are exactly like mine, but these differences in culture and tradition are what make their pages so influential. It should come as no surprise that Jews are an incredibly diverse group of people. However, we live in a world where there remain a frightening number of generalizations about Jews in America. Old anti-Semitic stereotypes have persisted and new ones continue to form.
For years, the portrayal of Jews in the media has been inaccurate and rooted in these harmful stereotypes. In “The Big Bang Theory” – the hit CBS sitcom with a 12-season run – one of the main characters, Howard Wolowitz, portrays the “symbolic Jew”, who is constantly ridiculed and mocked. The popular Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy” features a villain who speaks Yiddish (a language commonly used by Jews), enforcing the dangerous stereotype that Jews are evil individuals seeking world domination. It doesn’t even begin to touch on the horrible anti-Semitism that infects almost every social media platform. A 2018 study found over 4 million anti-Semitic incidents on Twitter, and that number has only grown since, with more and more anti-Semitic conspiracy theories being pushed by hate groups like QAnon. This problem is compounded by the fact that these messages are not deleted as often as they should. In many cases, the Jews are left to the wolves.
It’s undeniable: anti-Semitism is on the rise and the constant noise can become overwhelming. Earlier this month, it filled our own backyard, when, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, posters were distributed at the University stating that Jews are responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s easy for most to dismiss this as a wild, baseless conspiracy theory; however, these actions are indicative of a greater danger at stake for Jews around the world.
It has been proven time and time again that accurate representation can do wonders in breaking down societal biases. I doubt I’m alone when I say that for the past few weeks I’ve cried tears of joy watching young black girls react to the new trailer for “The Little Mermaid.” Their faces light up at the sight of someone who looks like them on their screen. More crucial still is the fact that accurate representation in the media can go well beyond the group it represents. Diverse representation can also begin to challenge the implicit biases of others who may be watching. In the case of “The Little Mermaid,” Halle Bailey’s performance will not only leave young black girls in awe, but will hopefully show viewers of other races and ethnicities that Ariel doesn’t need to be white to embody the character.
All too often, the mainstream takes over the media, leaving marginalized groups in the dark. Jewish creators are crucial because they help create a world where Jews are seen in an honest way that has been missing for too long.
We social media junkies also have a role to play behind these creators. Like, comment and repost their content so it can reach as many people as possible. With any luck, posts from the aforementioned Jewish creators will land on someone’s “For You” page plagued by stereotypes about Jewish people. These are the same people who most need to see this content. It is only by opening their eyes to what it really is to be Jewish that we have hope of changing their minds.
Needless to say, the road is long. A TikTok video can’t change a story of discrimination and hate, but every post is a small step in the right direction. It is our responsibility to hear what these Jewish creators have to say and spread their message on and beyond social media. Not only will this help Jews around the world feel seen and represented online, but it will also help non-Jews dismantle their own conscious and unconscious biases, one post at a time.
So, as I close this article and move on with your day, I’ll say this: take a second to open TikTok, search just one of the names I’ve shared above, and spend a minute or two on Jewish TikTok. Jews around the world will thank you later.
Everyday Arts Contributor Rebecca Smith can be reached at [email protected]