The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American rabbis — commends Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal for calling to stop the spread of hate on a local Facebook group, Rise Up Ocean County. For a long time, this group has hosted broad anti-Semitic content and comments in the context of changing demographics in Ocean County, New Jersey. Internet providers and content hosts need to act responsibly in their role as platforms for ideas that affect the broader culture, and can lead to bloody violence.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America expresses strong concern over Paul Mulshine’s January 12, 2020 column on NJ.COM, titled, “Governor Phil Murphy joins a Facebook food fight on overdevelopment in Lakewood,” objecting to the governor’s and attorney general’s call for editorial control on social media. Mulshine supports first ammendment freedom in spreading hatred and bigotry, objecting to attempts to influence Facebook to exercise sound editorial judgment. Unfortunately, Mulshine himself agitated against Orthodox Jews in this very article. Writing in the context of accusations of Jewish political influence, Mulshine says that, “A group of 11 elders called the Vaad interviews the candidates and makes its endorsements, which the voters wisely follow.” The term “Elders” holds ominous historical significance, alluding to the infamous book, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a hateful forgery that has served as the handmaiden of anti-Semites for over a century. Such inflammatory language only serves to fuel the bigotry that is found in the Facebook group Rise Up Ocean County.
Further, Mulshine singles out Orthodox Jews by discussing only zoning and development plans that affect them while ignoring all other zoning and development changes under consideration in Ocean County. This focus on Jews and their influence, rather than broader demographic and settlement trends throughout the state and country, raises grave concerns. More than ever, this country needs journalists and commentators who can add sober context and evaluation into overly heated socio-political conversations.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America objects to this normalization of anti-Semitism in traditional and social media. If a Facebook page such as Rise Up Ocean County agitates against Jews in its posts, it cannot take refuge in the claim that the expected responses are just comments. On its face, this group appears to be a source of hatred and bigotry. The tenor of Rise Up Ocean County seemingly targets only Orthodox Jews, with inflammatory content about Orthodox Jews unrelated to development and occurring in other states. This reflects concern not just about over-development in Ocean County but a desire to keep out Orthodox Jews. This bigoted, un-American behavior is a symptom of the tumultuous times in which we live and must be opposed by all good people who cherish civic rights and responsibilities.
More than ever, this country needs unity and tolerance. As we witness the increasingly violent outcome of anti-Semitic rhetoric, we expect the media to use sensitivity and sound editorial judgment to report and comment on the news in a responsible way.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America calls upon editors and content managers of traditional and social media, including Facebook and NJ.com, to provide a clarification for these examples of irresponsible journalism and communication. The first ammendment allows writers, journalists and commenters free speech. It does not free them, their editors and their hosts from responsibility and criticism.