Sisterhood Blog

Cyber Bullying on Jewish Sites

By Caroline Rothstein

  • Print
  • Share Share

While bullying is sadly not new, cyber bullying can often seem like the cruelest playground. I have been writing for the Sisterhood since March of last year, and I have been bullied in the comments section below several of my articles.

As a professional writer, performer and advocate I have been subjected to public commentary for years, since I began sharing and publishing work online. Years ago, I was called an “ugly rhinoceros Jew face” on one of my YouTube videos. In 2012, a video of me performing my poem “Fat” about my experience having and recovering from an eating disorder went viral after Lady Gaga tweeted it. Amidst the endless affirmations, accolades and messages of gratitude from viewers who felt moved or inspired by my story, there were many negative comments, like “Go on a actual diet,” “Your are an unhappy fat chick!” and “In all seriousness though, you and anyone who supports Rothstein are the cancer that is killing this world.”

None of this broke me. I’ve got a thick skin, “rhinoceros face” and all. But I never expected vicious comments to occur on the Forward or the Sisterhood. I wonder, in the confines of a publication dedicated to Jewish news and content nation and worldwide, should we be abiding by an ethical Jewish code? I feel it’s worth considering that we — writers, readers and editors alike — embrace an ethics of compassion when engaging in this Jewish publication.

Below a piece I wrote about the importance of having a Jewish partner, one commenter dissected the “vapidity” of my piece, referring to me in third person: “she.” At the end of the commenter’s diatribe, in the final dig, the commenter wrote to me: “You go on writing your raunchy poetry. The rest of us are going to do something truly meaningful in the interest of Jewish continuity.” Another commenter called me “fat.” Many others also described both my writing and me as “vapid.” One blamed my piece for what is “wrong with Modern Judaism.”

In response to my piece about grappling with my religiosity, one reader wrote, “Judaism isn’t important enough to the author to bother getting to know what it has to offer, other than some dreadful clichés.” To this, another replied, “…your words are insensitive, hurtful, and unnecessary…instead of critiquing her and questioning her sincerity, how’s about you offer to have a chevrusa with her?”

Some people say hateful or hurtful or angry responses are better than no response at all. At least people feel something, right? But when we live in a world where Jews are ridiculed every single day, where anti-Semitism is still alive and well, where discrimination of all kinds against all demographics is epidemic and widespread, shouldn’t we be kinder? Shouldn’t we find ways to engage with each other that don’t perpetuate negativity? Aren’t there more effective ways to counter or critique written work that is constructive, patient and open-minded?

I find it curious that nobody commented on my post about forgiveness and my experience with being a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, or that the only person who commented on my piece about forgiving the man who killed my brother was a close friend. While these pieces cover the most tragic and traumatic experiences I’ve experienced in my life, did I not express vulnerability in my other posts? Is the assumption that when I write about relationships and religiosity, my emotions are not at risk or my humility can be spared?

We should consider each other’s feelings always, especially in Jewish spaces. Heated debate is enriching; negative commenting and cyber bullying is destructive.

While so much anti-bullying work both online and off is committed to youth, it is not too late for adults to shift our behavior. It is not too late for us to show compassion towards one another online — and off — while still standing up for our opinions, sharing our thoughts freely, and offering each other critique. Comments and reflections should not attack people, but rather question ideas. As one commenter on my article about dating said in response to another’s verbal attacks, “How about having some rachmones?”

Caroline Rothstein is a New York City-based writer, performer, and advocate, who contributes regularly to the Sisterhood blog. Follow Caroline on Twitter @cerothstein. Photo credit Thinkstock


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: fat shaming, cyber bullying, Jewish

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.