Jews should never be afraid to ask a question — even on Twitter by the Forward

Jews should never be afraid to ask a question — even on Twitter

We went there. We saw the trend on Twitter with people asking their followers about their most controversial opinions on a certain subject matter, and we wanted in on it. We did it knowing that the words “controversial” and “Judaism” could create a bit of a stir.

We considered a more softball version — what’s your most controversial opinion about challah, or Chanukah (beyond how to spell it) or, heaven forbid, bagels. But we saw other Twitter communities having thoughtful conversations and wanted to hear our diverse readers’ thoughts on the complexities of our shared religion and identity.

So we stuck with the straightforward: “What’s your most controversial opinion on Judaism?”

It’s not like we don’t address these questions indirectly on Jewish Twitter every day. And it’s definitely not like we haven’t talked amongst ourselves about this very topic since the dawn of Jewish time. (Remember the old adage: “Two Jews, three opinions?”) Or, in this case, 700 responses in less than an hour.

And yes readers expressed their concern over us even asking the question, but what gave us pause was the amount of concern we received.

We knew we were opening ourselves up to the hate that we and other Jewish publications and individuals receive on social media each and every day. And we got a little of that. It’s an occupational hazard when you work in the media, especially at a Jewish publication. We reported it to the Twitter police, as we always do, and moved on.

But what was a surprise was the overwhelming number of Tweets criticizing us for even posing the question in the first place.

These are charged times for our community and there was a vocal group of people who viewed our question as either a ploy for clicks, in bad taste, or, even worse, an attempt to feed the trolls.

It was not a ploy for clicks — indeed, there was no article linked to the Tweet, it was just a question to provoke conversation, reflection, debate. At The Forward, we start each morning asking, “What are American Jews talking about today?” Asking this question on Twitter was a natural extension of that. Anti-Semites and bigots are a sad fact of life, and as one Tweeter (and former Forward colleague) put it, “if you let the anti-Semites dictate public conversations about Judaism, they win.”

The anti-Semites didn’t win in this case, because amidst the fracas about whether the question was appropriate were some very thoughtful personal statements on what it means to be Jewish in America today. Many frank and honest conversations soon developed.

There were also many moments of levity, with food being a common uniter (and divider).

At The Forward, we value your input and we want to keep the conversation going. As @illgirlsdontcry put it, “I also felt the act spoke of our very specific sense of humor while also prompting intellectual dialogue.”

Thank you for letting us be your kvetching board and let’s keep talking.

John Kunza is The Forward’s audience editor. Follow him on Twitter @johnkunza.

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Jews should never be afraid to ask a question — even on Twitter

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