Tag Archives: elections

Ten Commandments of Social Media – Post-Election Edition

Just over two years ago, Behrman House and Darim Online each had me write a version of an article I had written about reclaiming and taking ownership for one’s social media space.  The Darim piece is at Darim Online, and the Berhman House piece, in Ten Commandments form is at Ten Commandments of Social Media with a second part at Jewish Education and Social Media.

socia-mediabubble

The recent elections in the United States were heavily influenced by what appeared on social media. And since the elections, social media has become a battle ground for a deeply divided country.  With that in mind, I share my new version of the Ten Commandments for Social Media with guidance from Jewish teachings:

  1. “Avtalion said: Wise people, be careful with your words”. Words are not “just words”(Mishnah Avot). They are actions, once you say them, and even more so once you write them. Use caution.
  2. “Distance yourself from false words”(Exodus 23:7). In the election’s aftermath, people are making up stories and posting them on social media as fact (e.g., absentee votes aren’t counted except to break a tie, Ivanka Trump isn’t going to the Inaugural because it’s on the eve of Shabbat, to name a few outright falsehoods that show up on my feeds).
  3. ” Truth and peace we love” (Prayer of the Hazan on High Holidays). Truth is a primary value. This is not simply about avoiding falsehood, but about pursuing truth. That’s right, I consider fact-checking to be the performance of a religious obligation. Educators know how to do this. We don’t teach something unless we are certain that it is true. We need to use the same standard on social media.
  4. Lashon Naki (Clean speech). The Talmud mentions instances in which the Torah went out of its way to use wording that was “pure” and not insulting or inappropriate. My immediate assumption, when someone curses while stating an opinion is that either a. they aren’t sure enough of their point to make it with objective language, or b. they are posting while enraged. Which leads me to…
  5. Maimonides’ teaching that “One who becomes angry is as though that person had worshipped idols.”  No, we can’t control our feelings, but we’d better be able to manage them.  If you’re enraged, social media isn’t the best place to respond. Run a mile, do kickboxing, meditate, or whatever works for you. Then, decide if you want to post something.
  6. “Judaism is a religion of listening” (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks) – While his statement refers to humans listening to God, I expand it to apply to humans listening to each other (since, after all, we are all in the image of God). If you just spew your ideas, you’re not growing. But the dialogue that social media gives us allows us to broaden our horizons. If we listen.
  7. “Seek peace and pursue it”(Psalms 34:14). This is a great time for peacemaking. Our country and our world face problems that go beyond a particular philosophy or even a particular country’s borders. Time to create the peace and the coalitions that are going to address environmental issues, poverty and human rights. Want to troll for a fight? Do it elsewhere. Not on my social media space.
  8. Tzelem Elohim.  Everyone is created in God’s image, or, if you prefer, with a spark of divinity. Everyone deserves respect:  President Obama, Secretary Clinton, President-elect Trump, the protesters in the streets and the folks who are exuberant about the election results. I police my social media territory to make sure that all who are my guests there treat each other respectfully and refrain from insulting others.
  9. Tikkun Olam. The mystics taught that our job is to repair a world that somehow went off track from the time of creation. In recent years, we’ve adopted it to mean anything we do to make the physical world a better place. Adding positive energy and action via social media? Great. Adding negatives? Find someone else’s space.
  10. Lashon Hara. Gossip, even when true, is still gossip. If it’s the need to call someone or something out because it will endanger others, different story. But simply to accuse or to spread rumors? Off limits.

Our presence, in real time, real space or in social media-land, can make a difference. Let’s all agree to use our presence for life, for our country, for our world.

Good Morning, America, How Are Ya?

 

As a rabbi and Jewish educator, part of my job is to both comfort people at difficult times and to challenge and teach them how to face the future. Both are difficult for me this morning, living in a country that is seriously divided. As CNN reported yesterday, 58% of voters indicated that they would be “scared” or “concerned” if Donald Trump were to win the election http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/08/politics/first-exit-polls-2016/index.html. I have no words of comfort for those 58%, nor do I have words of exuberance for those celebrating the election.

What I do have, and offer as a rabbi and Jewish educator, are prayers and aspirations for the future I would like to see, and that our communities would most benefit from. My prayer list:

  • For President-elect Trump to have the humility and critical thinking to seek out and bring on board the best people to be his partners and advisors. May he move away from his belief that “I alone” can lead change or that “I know more than the generals”, and instead surround himself with the people who will help him to lead
  • For those who thought that Donald Trump was giving a green light, either passively or actively, for hatred and bigotry (including anti-Semitism and racism) to crawl back under the rocks from which they came, and for our country to make progress towards being a society that doesn’t hate
  • For members of the Senate and House of Representatives, in which his political party holds the majority, to step forward with integrity and without regard to party lines, to fulfill the important role of checks and balances that will keep the executive branch from any possibility of overstepping
  • For the wisdom that President-elect Trump and the Congress need in appointing Supreme Court justices and other judges that will not lead the national backwards in regards to issues what we’ve moved forward: women’s rights (including the right not to be harassed), reproductive / choice rights, LGBTQ rights, and other freedoms that have been guaranteed in recent years
  • For a system that will improve or replace the Affordable Care Act and continue to provide health care for those who have been covered and who need to be covered
  • For President-elect Trump to break his campaign promises:
    • To prosecute or jail Secretary Clinton – She has served her country well, and has endured more than enough investigations, none of which found her guilty of anything deserving of prosecution. We have a justice system; It did its job. Move on.
    • To require allies (including Israel) to repay all foreign aid. It’s called aid for a reason, and serves a strategic purpose.
    • To ban all Moslems from entering the country. It’s a really, really bad precedent.

May our incoming president be a force for good in our country and across the world. And let us say: Amen.

Bad service, bad food, bad politics and a surprise

I recently participated in a really great learning experience. A group of truly wonderful people gathered to learn from one another and from some of the greats, who are doing wonderful things in the Jewish community. The only real problem was the food. Some of the time, the food was great quality and served poorly, with lines stretching out well out of the dining room and into the hall. Some of the time, the food was terrible, such as beginning the day with cold hard omelettes that were left unharmed on a buffet area. Some of the time, the wait staff just cleared the food too quickly, not realizing that attendees were in sessions and might arrive a little late.

At the end of the event, the dining room was half empty, as many participants decided to go out for the meal, understandably. I sat next to a gentleman who I did not know and we got acquainted. And he spoke with me about his work which, among other things, supports “traditional marriage”. Realizing that I was going to strongly disagree with him, I was all primed to not like the guy and even to not respect him. As we were leaving the dinner table, he turned to the African-American waitress for our table, addressed her by the name that was on her name tag, and proceeded to thank her for serving us dinner.

And there you have it. Hakarat Hatov, the incredibly Jewish value of recognizing when another human being has done something good for you. And kavod, honoring the image of God, wherever you find it. And I apologize to you, my new friend. Because even though your opinions and mine do not align, you have taught me an object lesson in kavod haberiot, respect for God’s creatures. And you reminded me that, even though our opinions might be different, I should never believe for a moment that I don’t have something to learn from you. Because now that I have learned from you, you are my teacher and therefore are always to be treated with respect.

Which bring us to the Israeli elections and American politics. Very few of my fellow Jewy Jews are neutrals when it comes to the recent Israeli elections or to President Obama. I have my opinions, too. But here’s the thing: At the end of a conference with poor food, a colleague showed me how to treat another human being with respect, despite her connection to the food. Same here: Whether you like President Obama or not, he is the president of the United States. And he is deserving of the kavod, the honor, that a president of the United States gets. That’s why the rabbis in ancient times wrote a berecha, a blessing to be recited when seeing a great secular ruler, regardless of whether we like his politics. And most every synagogue in the United States recites a prayer for the government that specifically asks God’s blessings for the president, whoever it may be. That kavod must carry into the very public arena of the Jewish press and of social media. Treating the president of the United States with anything less than honor, even when disagreeing, is nothing less than a chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name.

At the same time, the Israeli public has voted and will retain Prime Minister Netanyahu. Some love his views, some hate them. But he is the leader of the Jewish (albeit secular) state of Israel, and that earns him kavod. To denigrate him, or those who ran against him, is also shameful and a chillul Hashem.

Let’s hate bad food. And let’s disagree over our politics. But let’s never let it get in the way of treating people with the honor due them for their role in life, the leadership they exhibit and their creation as humans in the image of God.