Friday, June 24, 2016

Outrage Ensues After Aish HaTorah Posts Controversial Facebook Meme

 On Friday, June 24, 2016, the ultra-orthodox Aish HaTorah kiruv group's Facebook page posted a meme stating that "Silence equals consent" along with a picture of a young woman covering her face. Facebook users immediately exercised more than silence, berating the international outreach group for lacking sensitivity and common sense in posting a picture and quote with no context that evokes thoughts of rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and unwanted sexual contact.
  Readers of the Facebook page expressed their immense displeasure with Aish's post, rebuking them for a lack of sensitivity. Those knowledgeable in Talmud tried explaining the original post. Commenter Yardena Winegust wrote "One translation says "silence is regarded as admission" and then added "Shame on you. The choice of image, and choice of quote is exceptionally triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault." Others tried to be understanding of this horrific blunder. Shana Aaronson stated "Please remove this immediately. I assume (hope) that this was not your intention but this quote translated like this, especially together with this picture, is irresponsible, insensitive, triggering, and outrageously inappropriate." Commenter Meranda Prediger wrote:
This was very poorly thought out. In fact, I dare suggest it was not thought out at all. The quote relates to moral conduct and the need to stand up for what is right as saying nothing is the same as supporting. This image, combined with the quote and no further explanation inserts the wrong context. It is a very dangerous image as is right now.
(More comments can be read in the pictures on this post. Click to enlarge each section.)
  This PR disaster is more than just a little mistake on social media. It's indicative of a clear lack of understanding of the world outside of Aish's religious bubble. In a time when images on social media spread like wildfire, Aish has shown that they are not at all in step with the world outside of their community--even though it is the people of that world who they are trying to recruit. Scarier still is that Aish HaTorah serves as an umbrella for groups like MEOR Maimonides Leaders Fellowship which exist on college campuses throughout the United States. A mistake of this magnitude doesn't just reach a couple of people on Facebook. It travels back to college students and their parents--who are possible donors to Aish's many programs. It travels to people who will now be wary of Aish's mission, and it travels to people like myself--who are critical of ultra-orthodox kiruv.
  While many users called for the outreach group to remove the picture immediately, the picture remained posted (and, at the time of this post, is still online), most likely due to the onset of Shabbat in Israel, where it assumed the post was made.
  Update: Thank you to Hemant Mehta, at the Friendly Atheist, for writing about this and quoting this blog. At the time of this update, Aish.com's post has been shared 160 times and remains posted.
  Update 2: At the time of this update, Aish.com's Facebook page had been updated with an apology reading:
Aish.com apologizes for the graphic that was posted before Shabbat. The meaning of the Talmudic quote was meant to inspire people NOT to remain silent in the face of evil. Given the photo and lack of context, we regret posting something that contained an alternative offensive meaning. It was not our intention; we goofed.
While I'm not a fan of Aish HaTorah, I'm relieved to see that they had the sense to issue an apology after posting something that was so hurtful to so many. A screen shot has been included at the end of this post. Click the graphic to enlarge.
  








4 comments:

  1. Hi Rebecca, i aint no expert, but "i think" aish is alluding to a major scandal regarding meir pogrow who was caught sexually abusing his female students big time, and aish is circuitously bemoaning the fact that people who knew of his misdeeds didn't speak up earlier, and so 'shtikah ki'hoda'ah dami, which is kind of saying not speaking up (against this travesty) is akin to approving it, but aish idiotically juxtaposes this statement with a picture of what's supposed to be one of the victims, and so anyone (which is 99.99% of humanity) who is not aware of A. The pogrow scandal, and B. the intent of the talmudic saying in regards to the pogrow scandal, would draw entirely different conclusions from the original intent. Of course, Aish could've just bluntly stated the whole pogrow affair for what it was, and that people need to speak up when they see abuse, but they (Orthodox folks) are reluctant to A. Mention the guy's name explicitly, and B. Are intrinsically ambivalent about people "speaking up", and so what comes out is this convoluted debacle, entirely of their own making.

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  3. After being around almost every Aish speaker, executive, Founder, their rebbetzins, rabbis.... This is trying to demand those to be careful about what we don’t say, because “silence is consent.”. The way I read it is a trigger on kiruv. Looked into Talmud Yevamos (which is something I wasn't taught after being a follower for 20 years). If the followers or those they are trying to follow see this, it will pose a question in their mind? I'm thinking more of a psychological technique they are using. Those that dig or are curious and insecure will want to question this statement. Which we know as OTDers is horrific (picture and statement). The new followers or existing will want to question to their Rabbis/ Rebbetizins, what is this all about. This is exactly Aish's goal - to have those with "insecure innocense" to question and inquire. It's to grab them in. Once they question these Aish detectors, they innocent will be screwd and flip the tables to have them believe a women doesn't have the option to marry after become a widow back in the times of the sanheidren. Then of course, that will be their iccher to dig deeper on their insecurities of their personal life. It's a ploy to see the feeble come forward and question since they are already so weak.. Those that are strong and are on the other side, are typically not reading AISH articles.

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  4. Looks as if someone over at Aish finally woke up after the Sabbath & took the offensive post down along with the many outraged comments. No harm, no foul? Me thinks not. Aish can't pretend this never happened thanks to good citizens such as the author of this blog.

    This makes me wonder why Aish is on the internet at all? Their goal is to recruit people who ARE on the internet, and know how to use it, such as non-religious college students. In a perfect Aish-world these intelligent recruits would pack up their computers from Fridays through Saturday nights, no matter what public relations disasters ensued. Doing the sensible thing, checking on their web site, is out of the Aish-world question.

    In an even more perfect Aish-world these same recruits will raise mini-kiruv'd-me's who may never have access to the internet. Ever.

    So why does Aish bother with an internet site? It's hypocritical to use the very communication system they would have recruits silence. Aish obviously can't manage a web site. That requires 24/7/365 supervision. Aish offended the very people they were trying to recruit. They demonstrated that following ridiculous Ancestral voodoo customs trumps acting responsibly and reasonably.

    Let's be honest about this. Aish doesn't really want the people who read their internet site, using the internet. Aish should take the entire site down. That is something I could respect them for.

    Yehuda

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Your respectful comments are welcome.