By MARA BOSLOY
As a card-carrying millennial, I joined TikTok at the beginning of quarantine in March only to alleviate boredom (the social media app was used mainly by Gen Zs before quarantine). Once there, the algorithm eventually led me to Jewish TikTok. This means that a lot of the content that comes up on my feed is Jewish, which I enjoy.
Jewish content on TikTok could be anything from someone posting about their love of bagels and lox, to Jewish celebrities, to old bar/bat-mitzvah photos, to posting a funny story that happened at shul, and so forth.
I was initially shocked, although I shouldn’t have been, to find so many antisemitic comments and so much antisemitic content under various Jewish hashtags. A recurring theme that seems to exist on TikTok is that Jews will post Jewish content (not related to Israel) and immediately, antisemites will step in with comments like “Free Palestine,” “Israel doesn’t exist,” or, most simply, the Palestine flag emoji by itself.
This is where the problem begins. This is why Jews constantly point out that anti-Zionism doesn’t always equal antisemitism, but a lot of the time, it does. Antisemites constantly conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism. It doesn’t matter to them that Diaspora Jews have nothing to do with the politics of Israel (or even necessarily agree with Israel). What matters to them is that they virtually weaponize themselves against any proud Jew posting on TikTok because, like a red cloth to a bull, they charge at sometimes even the hypothetical sight of Israel’s flag.
A Diaspora Jew who has never been to Israel and posts about the brisket their Bubbie made for Shabbat will get “Free Palestine” comments on their posts.
This is not even to mention all the solely antisemitic comments and posts, without reference to Palestine or Israel to be found on the app. This includes Shylockian stereotypes, and Holocaust denial/”humour.” This is also deeply troubling to young Jews wishing to scroll through wholesome Jewish content and instead finding a gas chamber “joke” because the user has used #Jewish, or related hashtags.
Because this app is dominated by people in their early 20s and below, they are largely influenced by their peers on how to think and what to think. It has gotten to the point where young people (including millennials) wake up, check their phone for notifications on social media, and read up on the news that has been posted on social media, instead of checking a legitimate news source. This means that the clutter of short videos posted on TikTok provide instant information (whether the information is factual or not) for young people, without them needing to check references.
Non-Jewish teenagers will see a popular account posting antisemitic content, such as @the.juc, who has spoken about how all Jews are “white nationalists” and “colonizers.” Viral TikToks cause a mob mentality to form; if so many people engage in and enjoy the content, why shouldn’t one more person do the same?
Big account followings (or at the very least, an account with a lot of “likes”) tend to make young people feel that since those people have the platform, they must have the intellect to follow (which is damaging and untrue, as accounts can buy “likes”). These kinds of posts further promote antisemitism among young people. It is scary to think about how young people will grow up with easy access to antisemitism on a mindless app, absorbing the information and potentially digesting it as legitimate/news/facts.
Young Jews should not be made to feel uncomfortable on an app that is simply meant for passing the time.
I am scared that we are going backwards with antisemitism and young people, and that the lack of education and surplus of quick views and likes will be ultimately quite damaging.
Mara Bosloy is a publishing and editing professional currently working at a leading Canadian educational publisher.