Rabbi Debbie Young- somers

Debbie Young-Somers

Debbie Young-Somers

We are now galloping our way through the book of Devarim-Deuteronomy, which in Hebrew means ‘Words’. I have a bit of a thing about language and words and how we talk to one another – one of my favourite prayers comes at the end of the Amidah in a meditation reflecting on humble healing language.

Yet I cannot remember ever feeling so aware of the language around me as I am this year, especially on social media. One of my favourite tweets of the last few weeks (from one Tony Novak) read: ‘I used to think it would be cool to read other people’s minds. Then I joined Facebook and got over that.’

During the past month of conflict, my Facebook feed has become a confused mash-up of constant postings of blogs, memes, news, videos and opinions, seeing instant gut reactions and hearing everything on everyone’s minds, sometimes unfiltered.

Truth and lies were declared left, right and centre. Most troubling, as I became absorbed in article after article, were the threads of conversation that followed them – vile anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and just plain old nastiness. Just what people in bomb shelters and fleeing their homes need. For me the past month has been one of relative silence on social media.

I decided instead to find ways to say what I need to about the conflict in positive actions and through seeking dialogue. When one scratches the surface of social media, there is a constant undercurrent of abusive language. At the moment we in the Jewish community feel particularly vulnerable and attacked, but trolling or bullying is a daily gift for many.

Hiding behind social media to deliver our darkest and most violent thoughts is despicable, and collectively is something we must challenge and report, whether it is about #HitlerWasRight or threats to rape a woman wanting to put a female figure on a £10 note. As we enter the month of Ellul, we all have to take responsibility for our words wherever they are said. I hope it will be a year of uplifting words, and safer spaces for all.