A prominent TikTok user with 1 million followers committed to do teshuvah, Hebrew for atonement, after Shekhiynah Larks of Oakland posted a video urging him to do so.
TikTok user George Lee says he unknowingly “liked” an antisemitic video that disparaged Holocaust victim Anne Frank. The video was made by the Black Hammer Organization, a “revolutionary” and anti-colonial group based out of Atlanta whose website has blog posts that include a defense of the Holocaust and other antisemitic content.
The video has been deleted from Instagram, but a copy of it can be found on Twitter.
“Why would I care about a white Jewish girl, who has a museum, who we are forced to remember every year in schools?” a man says to a group of people dressed in black sweatshirts and masks.
After his followers alerted him to the video’s content, Lee apologized.
“To the entire Jewish community, I want to send an apology for liking this video that has been brought to my attention,” Lee said. “It’s extremely antisemitic.”
After becoming aware of the apology video, Larks, who is Black and Jewish, replied to Lee by posting a video on her own TikTok account and tagging him.
“Thank you for apologizing and allowing yourself to be held accountable,” Larks said in the video. “But I’m going to encourage you not only to apologize but to do teshuvah.” She then explained the Jewish principle and encouraged Lee to use his platform to educate his audience about the history of Jews and other minority groups.
Lee replied in a “duet,” which allows TikTok users to have their video play side-by-side with another user’s. In this case, Lee played Lark’s video about teshuvah alongside a new video where he is nodding along to her remarks.
#duet with @shekhiynah challenge excepted!!♬ original sound - Biynah Shekhiynah La
“Challenge [accepted],” Lee wrote. The reply to Larks currently has over 11,000 views.
In an interview, Larks said Lee’s reply was “an amazing move forward.”
“I think his response is an example of how we should react in those situations, how we should react to people letting us know about racism, antisemitism,” she said. “He didn’t take it as a critique of his person, but something he didn’t know.”
Larks is the program coordinator and diversity trainer at Be’chol Lashon, an organization in San Francisco that advocates for Jews of color.
On his website, Lee describes himself as an “Edutainer,” where he combines “education and entertainment to be purposefully provocative.” He is a language arts teacher in Oklahoma City’s public school district and is the coordinator of policy debate for the University of Oklahoma’s debate team. Many of his TikTok posts discuss Black identity and history.
TikTok’s popularity as a video-sharing social media platform has exploded since its creation in 2016; the app has 1 billion monthly users, according to social media advertising company Wallaroo. Some Jewish users have reported widespread antisemitic content on the platform.
Lee did not respond to an interview request.
In his original apology video, Lee said his intention was to “boost” the posts and pages of Black content creators and didn’t realize the video had antisemitic content.
Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.
This story was originally published on JWeekly.com and has been reposted with permission.