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Cuomo: Massive Orthodox wedding in Brooklyn ‘disrespectful’ – Associated Press

Posted By on November 25, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) A Brooklyn synagogue should be investigated over reports that it hosted a secret wedding with thousands of unmasked guests earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

If that happened, it was a blatant disregard of the law, Cuomo said during a briefing in New York City. Its illegal. It was also disrespectful of the people of New York.

The New York Post reported that guests, mostly unmasked, crammed inside the Yetev Lev temple in Williamsburg for the Nov. 8 wedding of Yoel Teitelbaum, a grandson of Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, in blatant violation of coronavirus restrictions that ban large indoor gatherings. The synagogue has a capacity of 7,000 people.

Organizers kept the wedding secret after state officials canceled an earlier Satmar wedding, the Post reported, citing a Yiddish newspaper, Der Blatt.

If it turns out that because we stopped that wedding the reaction was, Well well have a secret wedding, that would be really shocking and totally deceitful, Cuomo said. Its illegal and the city should do a robust investigation, he added.

A spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is investigating.

The city is conducting an investigation into the incident and will hold those accountable to the fullest extent of the law, spokesperson Avery Cohen said.

Businesses and houses of worship that flout bans on large gatherings risk fines of $15,000.

A man who answered the phone at the Yetev Lev synagogue on Sunday said officials there had no comment.

Compliance with coronavirus restrictions in some of New Yorks Orthodox Jewish communities has been an issue since the pandemic started last spring.

Protests erupted in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn last month after Cuomo announced a crackdown in several Orthodox neighborhoods as virus cases increased. Many members of Orthodox communities complained that they were being singled out.

Cuomo and de Blasio have warned all New Yorkers that even small gatherings during the holidays could fuel a spike in coronavirus infections.

The problem is that this is a dangerous period because you have increased social activity by definition, Cuomo said.

Virus rates will likely rise between now and New Years Day, Cuomo said.

Cuomo said there were 2,562 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state on Saturday, 119 more than the previous day. There were 30 deaths, he said.

___

This story has been corrected to show that the groom who reportedly was married in a large ceremony in Brooklyn was the grandson, not the brother, of the grand rabbi.

___

This story was first published on Nov. 22, 2020. It was updated on Nov. 23, 2020 to correct that the leader of the religious group that organized the celebration is the Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, not Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelman.

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Cuomo: Massive Orthodox wedding in Brooklyn 'disrespectful' - Associated Press

Cuomo: Disrespectful’ of Thousands to Attend Secret Orthodox Wedding in Brooklyn – NBC New York

Posted By on November 25, 2020

What to Know

A Brooklyn synagogue should be investigated over reports that it hosted a secret wedding with thousands of unmasked guests earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

If that happened, it was a blatant disregard of the law, Cuomo said during a briefing in New York City. Its illegal. It was also disrespectful of the people of New York.

The New York Post reported that guests, mostly unmasked, crammed inside the Yetev Lev temple in Williamsburg for the Nov. 8 wedding of Yoel Teitelbaum, a grandson of Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, in blatant violation of coronavirus restrictions that ban large indoor gatherings. The synagogue has a capacity of 7,000 people.

Organizers kept the wedding secret after state officials canceled an earlier Satmar wedding, the Post reported, citing a Yiddish newspaper, Der Blatt.

If it turns out that because we stopped that wedding the reaction was, Well well have a secret wedding, that would be really shocking and totally deceitful, Cuomo said. Its illegal and the city should do a robust investigation, he added.

A spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is investigating. During an interview on NY1 Monday evening, the mayor said that the synagogue that held the secret wedding will be fined $15,000 and more consequences could be coming soon.

"We know there was a wedding, we know it was too big. We don't have an exact figure, but whatever it was, it was too big," de Blasio said. "There appeared to be a real effort to conceal it, which is absolutely unacceptable."

A man who answered the phone at the synagogue on Sunday said officials there had no comment.

Compliance with coronavirus restrictions in some of New Yorks Orthodox Jewish communities has been an issue since the pandemic started last spring.

The COVID-19 hotspots in New York City are largely Orthodox Jewish strongholds, and some community members are complaining of being singled out for enforcement.

Protests eruptedin the Borough Park section of Brooklyn last month after Cuomo announced a crackdown in several Orthodox neighborhoods as virus cases increased. Many members of Orthodox communities complained that they were being singled out.

Cuomo warned all New Yorkers to avoid social gatherings during the holidays. The problem is that this is a dangerous period because you have increased social activity by definition, he said.

Virus rates will likely rise between now and New Years Day, Cuomo said.

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Cuomo: Disrespectful' of Thousands to Attend Secret Orthodox Wedding in Brooklyn - NBC New York

Congregation Or Tzion adopts voluntary ‘Gift of the Heart’ membership model – Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Posted By on November 25, 2020

In the midst of a difficult year, Congregation Or Tzion offered its congregants a new way to give, and its membership responded gratefully.

Everything just sort of fell into place, said Frank Jacobson, president of Or Tzions board of directors. I think its because people feel valued. People feel like, I can pay what I can afford to pay, whats meaningful to me, and the congregation accepts me for who I am.

Or Tzions new membership model asks members to give an Annual Gift of the Heart Contribution, where congregants pay whatever they think their membership is worth. Any amount, even a small one, is enough to be a full member, entitled to High Holidays seats, religious school enrollment and more.

The program was first introduced in the spring as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After synagogues closed in March, Or Tzion sent out a survey asking members how they had been impacted, in part to find out if financial hardship was going to make it difficult for congregants to renew their memberships. Of the 206 who responded, around half indicated that they had been negatively impacted.

Synagogue leadership decided that now was the time to switch to voluntary dues, as a way to lessen the burden on struggling families.

We had no idea whether it would work or not, Jacobson said. But what we also knew is that if we kept the same membership model that we had, we were likely to be losing members.

The board of directors began considering an annual commitment or voluntary dues model in 2018 and again in 2019, but it wasnt until the pandemic struck that the decision became urgent.

Originally, Jacobson said, the synagogue intended to wait for a calmer time to try the new model. Yet when the change finally came, it was in the midst of challenges not only for the community and the country, but for the congregation itself. The board of directors decided to make the switch at the end of April, a few weeks into what became a months-long shutdown, and a few weeks before Rabbi Micah Caplan died unexpectedly in June.

In spite of the turbulence, members of Or Tzion rallied.

That was the beauty of all this, Jacobson said. Our congregants decided that we had to come together, we had to mourn the loss of our rabbi ... They hung with us.

A cornerstone of the annual commitment model is transparency and strong communication, and Or Tzion made informing members a core component of the new system. With an operating budget of $1.1 million, staff calculated that the synagogue would be able to maintain its services and programs if each household whether a single older adult or a family of four made a sustaining contribution of $2,882.

In its guide to membership and the Annual Gift of the Heart Contribution, Or Tzion also suggests a minimum contribution based on the size of the household and enrollment status in religious school, ranging from $1,000 for a single membership to $3,600 for a family membership with children enrolled in the Roz Goodell Religious School.

When congregants began making their commitments in June and July, Jacobson was amazed by the amount people gave, he said: Some increased their contribution by as much as 10%.

Of course, Or Tzion doesnt expect every household to be able to afford to make a sustaining contribution or even the suggested minimum, and a gift of any size is enough to become a member. What matters is that theyre part of the congregation.

Theyre a member of Congregation Or Tzion how wonderful is that? Jacobson said. No one is evaluated by what they give, everybody is accepted. And everybody whos a member has the vote at the annual congregation meeting. Thats the way it works.

The voluntary dues or annual commitment model of membership is becoming increasingly popular among Reform and Conservative synagogues across the country. Reports by the UJA-Federation of New York identified 26 synagogues in the U.S. with voluntary due structures in 2015, and 57 in 2017. Two were in Arizona: The New Shul in Scottsdale and Congregation Bet Shalom in Tucson.

While the model is working well for Or Tzion so far, Jacobson cautioned that it requires careful planning and a strong commitment from synagogue leadership.

It may not be for everybody. Its really very dependent upon everybodys DNA, if you will, Jacobson said. It just happened to work for us at the right time, with the right leadership.

He credits the synagogue staff and the membership committee with paving the way for a smooth transition, crafting the message and providing the information to ensure that members were on board with the decision. Or Tzion also made a FAQ page on its website to explain the new membership structure to congregants.

There were a variety of questions, really excellent questions, Jacobson said. Does this mean I get the full benefit? Do I get tickets for the High Holidays? Does this really mean my kids can go to religious school? Do I get all the life cycle events? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes ... you are a full member in that regard.

This fiscal year, with the new model in place, membership grew from 393 to around 450. Some members who had left rejoined; some members parents or adult children contributed during the High Holidays and became members through the new model.

Overall, Jacobson is pleased with the results.

Not only did we exceed our budget expectations, we exceeded the membership expectations, he said. We really felt that we made the right decision, the congregation responded very positively to the program, and thats what were continuing to do. JN

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Congregation Or Tzion adopts voluntary 'Gift of the Heart' membership model - Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Campaign launched to save historic Cliftonville synagogue – The Isle of Thanet News

Posted By on November 25, 2020

Campaigners Lucy Lyons, Francesca Ter-berg, Kate Gillespie and Jan Ryan. Photo_ Nathan Jones

By Jodie Nesling

A resident-led campaign is fighting to save a stunning Cliftonville synagogue from developers after owners placed the building up for auction.

The resplendent building has formed an integral part of Thanets rich Jewish history but was recently put up on the market after years of closure.

Campaigner Francesca Ter-berg says they believe the building could once again thrive as an arts and heritage centre and became interested in the site after walking past.

She said: I was volunteering at a nearby food bank in Sweyn Road (Rosslyn Court) during lockdown and walked past it. I thought wow I must go and have a look in there. Im not religious but I grew up going to synagogues and because I play Jewish music, I have performed at concerts including Holocaust Memorial Day and other events especially in East London.

After making contact with charity owners, Margate Hebrew Congregation, Francesca was invited to have a look inside and was awe-struck by the beauty of the building. She said: Its in brilliant condition and would make an incredible music venue. There is so much potential for events and a museum and archive section too, she said

The synagogue is currently on the market with London auctioneer, Savills at a guide price of 300,000 and is set to go under the hammer on December 16.

Campaigners, who have since set up as The Cliftonville Cultural Space CIC, say they need to raise the full amount.

But treasurer of the Margate Hebrew Congregation Jeremy Jacobs says despite conversations with the group as it stands the synagogue will be sold.

He said: Its not unusual for this to happen. It has served its purpose and we have tried to keep the building going but have struggled to attract members.

We have a responsibility to the charity commission to sell the building. The (Jewish) demographic has shifted dramatically and is now more London-centric than ever. It will be going to auction in December unfortunately there are many people with big mouths and closed wallets. We needed this five years ago.

Mr Jacobs confirmed a meeting with trustees will seek to change their charity objectives and that they will be continuing to support other Jewish charities.

At the time of its construction in 1928 Margates Jewish community was buoyant with many hotels opened to cater for holiday makers.

But there were still many obstacles to overcome before the first stone was laid.

A report in a local newspaper recorded that at the end of the war the community were very much depleted both financially and physically and the question had arisen as to selling the congregation effects.

Since 1910 the congregation had increased substantially with plans to build a synagogue but the Great War in 1914 changed everything as a sharp decline in numbers made their situation financially untenable.

Following an appeal to the Jewish Press benefactor Joseph Jacobs cleared the congregations 200 debt which allowed Jewish soldiers to worship in Margate before heading to France many did not return.

At the stone laying ceremony in 1928 which was held at the Grand Hotel the importance of the visitor economy was cited with tourists from London expected to support the fundraising initiative for the continued building work when they came to worship.

Now, some 70 years later an eclectic community is once again uniting to raise funds to provide an important cultural centre while maintaining the integrity of its Jewish past.

Francesca said: We want to continue its mission of attracting visitors to Margate and breathe life into the area.

A crowdfunder page is due to be launched imminently. Find the campaign on social media under @saveourshulmargate.

To contact the campaign email savecliftonvillesynagogue@gmail.com

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Campaign launched to save historic Cliftonville synagogue - The Isle of Thanet News

Miracle in the Synagogue – Israel Today

Posted By on November 25, 2020

As every morning, Omer Haim (27, pictured left) came from Rehovot to the courtyard of a school near his house to pray in the open area in compliance with Coronavirus guidelines. Among those present was Raz Yitzhaki (pictured right), an EMT volunteer with Magan David Adom emergency medical services (MDA). At the end of the prayer, as the participants tidied up the courtyard, Omer lost consciousness and collapsed on the floor. Those who saw what happened quickly called to Raz, 21, who immediately began medical treatment, performed CPR on Omer and reported the event to MDA.

Raz, while performing CPR, sent a worshiper to the school gate to direct the ambulance and bring a defibrillator, and together with MDA teams, gave electric shocks that saved Omers life and restored his pulse. At the end of a nerve-wracking and strenuous resuscitation, his condition stabilized, and the MDA team evacuated him to the hospital for further treatment and recovery.

Raz Yitzhaki, the MDA EMT:

After the prayer, I heard cries for help, I ran to the scene and saw Omer unconscious. He just collapsed on the ground. I immediately called MDA and started CPR. When the ambulance arrived, they gave him two electric shocks and we continued with compressions. To our great joy, his pulse returned and after a few minutes, he started breathing on his own. Meeting Omer today for the first time since the event while standing on his feet is very exciting, its an amazing feeling. It is very important that every citizen in Israel knows basic CPR, it is simple and can save lives.

Regarding the difficult event and the miracle that happened, Omer Haim said:

I felt good that morning, I arrived at the prayer, as usual, after which I just collapsed on the floor. Luckily, two worshipers were behind me and called for Razs help. But Im very emotional about the miracle that happened to me and Razs amazing help. I feel like I was reborn, I received a gift from heaven and a great miracle happened here. I thank Raz and the MDA team who saved my life. I thank the Creator of the world who sent me a messenger and helped me in my distress.

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Miracle in the Synagogue - Israel Today

Wembley shul set to relocate after more than 60 years – Jewish News

Posted By on November 25, 2020

Wembley United Synagogue is set to vacate its building after more than 60 years, as it confirmed the purchase of a new property.

The community, which was established 92 years ago, confirmed plans to move to a new site within two years, with its financial representative having delivered the very good news to members earlier in November.

The synagogues best option, as outlined in its annual report included the selling of the entire synagogue site and out of the proceeds of the sale, find another site nearby for a smallish synagogue. The report said it is something like two years away from completing the downsizing.

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Writing to members on 12 November, Charles Vites, Financial Representative of Wembley United Synagogue, confirmed the purchase of a new building, and said If all goes well, we should be able to move into the new shul in 2022.

He told Jewish: We have purchased a site near our synagogue which we will develop into a small shul, in our own good time.

Earlier this month I wrote to all members of Wembley Synagogue and they are aware of our plans. When the time is right, we will sell the present site. However, we confidently expect to be here at the next High Holidays and later.

We are in no hurry. We are fortunate to have the time and resources to get this right. We are confident that Wembley Synagogue will be around for a very long time to come yet. As long as there remain Jews who wish to pray in Wembley, we will be there for them.

This comes after Noam Primary Schools lease for Wembley shuls building came to an end in December 2019, meaning it lost a source of rental income which had immediate financial implications. Wembley has been declining in congregation size for years as families move to growing communities such as Borehamwood, Stanmore and Edgware.

Rabbi Shlomo Odze, the United Synagogues Community Development Manager, said: We have been delighted to support the Wembley community to explore possibilities for their new home and help them purchase a new building which we know will be more comfortable and more suitable for their needs.

The United Synagogue will continue to provide services for the community in the area for many years to come. We wish the community well as they embark on the development project and will be with them every step of the way.

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Wembley shul set to relocate after more than 60 years - Jewish News

B’nai Emunah Synagogue Rabbi Hospitalized With COVID-19 – News On 6

Posted By on November 25, 2020

The rabbi at Bnai Emunah Synagogue has been hospitalized with COVID-19 and now the congregation is asking for donations to aid in his recovery.

Congregation Bnai Emunah located near East 17th Street and South Peoria Avenue, posted on Facebook Wednesday saying they are asking for prayers, well wishes, and thoughts of strength as their own Rabbi Dan Kaimanbattles what they say is a severe case of COVID-19. They said that he has a long road of recovery ahead of him and this is only the beginning since he will likely be in the hospital for several more days.

To help those in need who have suffered from the virus, the synagogue is setting up a COVID-19 recovery fund to help Kaiman and others who need help getting back to their normal routines during their healing after hospitalization.

To donate to the recovery fund,you can do so by calling Bnai Emunah at (918) 583-7121 or mailing a donation to 1719 South Owasso, Tulsa Oklahoma, 74120. The post says notes of encouragement can also be sent to that address if you would like to send a letter. to the post says notes of encouragement can also be sent to that address if you would like to send a letter.

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B'nai Emunah Synagogue Rabbi Hospitalized With COVID-19 - News On 6

Officials Investigate Reports of ‘Big Wedding’ in Hudson Valley – Hudson Valley Post

Posted By on November 25, 2020

Pictures show a large crowd of unmasked people gathering before an alleged "big wedding."

On Monday, the New York State Department of Health issued cancellation orders to the Congregation Yetev Lev DSatmar in Kiryas Joel following reports a large wedding was planned for Monday night, Fox News reports.

"In the event that the ceremonies are not canceled, the order requires that social distancing and face-covering protocols be enforced," Jill Montag, a New York Department of Health spokesperson, told Fox News. "With respect to the two receptions, it requires that they be limited to 50 people or canceled."

A carpentry contractor told The Daily Beast a big wedding was planned for Monday evening and that no one was wearing a mask. The Daily Beast confirmed New York health officials sent the synagogue a cease-and-desist order but report the order wasn't followed.

Pictures taken by DailyMail shows a large crowd gathering outside the Orange County synagogue for a wedding. The Daily Mail reports unmasked groups of people were spotted walking into and out of the synagogue, while traps blocked teh view from inside the venue.

"A steady flow of bearded, black-hatted people going in and out of the enormous synagogue were all unmasked. Large white tarps stretched from the overhang at the top of the stairs down to the floor, blocking passersby from seeing inside the venue," the Daily Beast reports.

The synagogue hasn't responded to requests for comment. Back in September, "Concerning" photos posted to social media claim "thousands" gathered at synagogue in Kiryas Joel without wearing masks or practicing social distancing. You can see photos of that gathering below.

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Officials Investigate Reports of 'Big Wedding' in Hudson Valley - Hudson Valley Post

City Is Investigating Large Satmar Wedding Held In Brooklyn In Violation Of COVID-19 Restrictions – Gothamist

Posted By on November 25, 2020

The city is investigating a wedding in the Satmar Hasidic community that reportedly drew thousands of people to an indoor celebration in Brooklyn without masks, in violation of pandemic social distancing restrictions.

Thousands of guests, most of them men, gathered earlier this month for the wedding of the Satmar Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum's grandson, Yoel Teitelbaum, according to videos obtained by the New York Post. The videos appear to show wedding-goers packed inside the Yetev Lev D'Satmar synagogue in Williamsburg on Hooper Street, singing and dancing with no face coverings.

"The City is conducting an investigation into the incident and will hold those accountable to the fullest extent of the law," said Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

She did not provide further information, such as when the city found out about the mass gathering. According to the Post, the wedding was held November 8th.

Last month, rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum's rival (due to a longtime feud and split within the Satmar sect) Grand Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum planned to hold a large wedding for his grandson in which an estimated 10,000 guests from Brooklyn and Rockland County were expected to attend.

After pressure from officials and news coverage of the event, the synagogue's leaders announced it would only be attended by close family members following what a spokesperson called "unwarranted attacks." The state health commissioner issued a pre-emptive order to limit the number of guests.

This wedding, however, was planned in secret, according to the Post, citing a Yiddish-language newspaper, Der Blatt. The newspaper reported the wedding was planned by word-of-mouth to avoid "ravenous press and government officials," according to the reports.

"If that happened, it was a blatant disregard of the law," Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday when asked about the wedding. "It's illegal. It was also disrespectful to the people of New York."

"If it turns out that because we stopped that wedding, the reaction was, 'Well, we'll have a secret wedding,' that would be really shocking," Cuomo added. "I'm sure [the city] will be able to figure it out, and then we'll bring the full consequence of legal action to bear."

The synagogue could not be immediately reached for comment. The Post points out that it is located next door to a firehouse, and the FDNY is one of the city agencies responsible for inspecting establishments that may be in violation of COVID-19 restrictions. FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer told the Post that the wedding celebration "clearly violated" the rules, which currently limit indoor religious services to 33% capacity and require social distancing be maintained.

But firehouses dont conduct surveillance on their neighbors," Dwyer added.

One member of the Brooklyn Hasidic community tells Gothamist that weddings are still taking place regularly. This just happens to be the one reported on," the source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of a backlash from the community, said.

Additional reporting by Jake Offenhartz.

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City Is Investigating Large Satmar Wedding Held In Brooklyn In Violation Of COVID-19 Restrictions - Gothamist

Six weeks ago, Facebook announced a ban on Holocaust denial. It’s still easy to find. – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on November 25, 2020

(JTA) As of Wednesday afternoon, one of the first results in a Facebook search for Holohoax a term popular with Holocaust deniers was a post decrying Zionist White Jewish Supremacist Child murdering Apartheid State, Talmudic Satanic Holohoax promoters.

Right below it was a video, posted by a group with more than 6,000 followers, captioned Research: Holohoax and Jew world order.

These results showed up six weeks after Facebook announced that it was banning Holocaust denial and distortion across its platforms, including Instagram.

When it made the announcement, the company pledged that it would direct users to resources that provide credible information about the Holocaust. Those resources have yet to appear on the site.

In contrast, similar resources do appear on searches for the QAnon conspiracy theory, which Facebook announced it would ban approximately one week before announcing the ban on Holocaust denial. And QAnon groups appear to have been removed after that announcement.

Its not just Holohoax. A page for the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust-denying organization masquerading as an academic center, is active and has more than 1,000 likes as of Wednesday afternoon. A recent post on the page links to an article titled, Israels power is unlimited. A post from earlier this month laments the great loss of life and terrible suffering endured by the German people during the Second World War.

A box on the side of that page labeled Related Pages directs users to several pages that either deny the Holocaust or spew blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric. The Institute for Historical Review group and its related pages were first reported by the tech publication The Markup.

One, with 531 likes, is called Goy Lives Matter and features a stream of blatantly anti-Semitic posts and links. One example is a link to a website purporting to give information about the The Jewish Ethnic Cleansing Of Europeans. Goy, a Hebrew term that means non-Jew, has been appropriated by white supremacists.

Another far more popular page, with more than 11,000 likes, is called Open Borders for Israel, a trolling phrase that has become a slogan among white supremacists. The slogan implies that Jews are hypocritical because white supremacists believe Jews are trying to flood America with non-white immigrants, but Israel does not have a liberal immigration policy.

A version of the pages logo includes Pepe the Frog, a cartoon appropriated by white supremacists. One of its posts is a meme featuring a visibly Jewish man saying America is a nation of immigrants and then, when someone asks him why Israel doesnt absorb refugees, responding, Youre being antisemitic. Another post featuring a picture of Harvey Weinstein saying, Israel wont need to open its borders to the world to let Weinstein in. It only lets Jews in.

The pages and posts and others like them show that more than a month after it pledged to remove content that denies or distorts the Holocaust, Facebook has yet to do so. The persistence of Holocaust denial on Facebook underscores the challenge social media giants face as they try to fulfil recent pledges to root out hate and misinformation from their platforms.

Spokespeople for Facebook, as well as a Jewish organization thats working with it on these issues, say the social media giant is working hard to implement the policy. But they caution that it will take more time to refine artificial intelligence tools and create training materials for human moderators that can assist in recognizing Holocaust denial.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company catches the vast majority of hate speech on the platform. The spokesperson told JTA that the company has 15,000 people reviewing content to monitor for hate speech and other violations. According to the companys data, Facebook detects 95% of hate speech posts before users report them. And another recent report by the company says that from July to September, hate speech accounted for only 10 or 11 out of every 10,000 times someone viewed content on Facebook. (Given the billions of users Facebook has, that still results in a potentially enormous number of people viewing hate speech.)

Detecting hate speech is not only a difficult challenge, its an evolving one, the spokesperson wrote. A new piece of hate speech might not resemble previous examples because it references a new trend or some new news story. Weve built new tools so they can scale to future challenges as well as present ones. With more flexible and adaptive [artificial intelligence], were confident we can continue to make real progress.

The spokesperson said the company has no further information on when or how it will direct users to credible external materials about the Holocaust. Facebook likewise said it would not detail its training materials or criteria for determining what constitutes Holocaust denial, out of concern that that would allow bigots to game the system. Facebooks Community Standards likewise do not specify what counts as Holocaust denial or distortion.

Facebook has been more active on enforcing at least one other recently announced policy. On October 6, six days before it banned Holocaust denial, Facebook banned groups and pages promoting QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory with anti-Semitic overtones. Just 15 days later, the company announced that it had put links in place to credible information that users now see when they search for QAnon. No such links exist, as of yet, regarding Holocaust denial.

That Facebook is banning Holocaust denial at all is itself a major shift. Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg told the tech publication Recode that he saw Holocaust denial as a lack of knowledge as opposed to an intentional expression of anti-Semitism. I dont believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong, he said.

Zuckerbergs statement sparked an outcry among Holocaust scholars. Earlier this year, a coalition of civil rights groups led by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP organized a boycott of Facebook ads that grew to include more than 1,000 companies.

Now, in the face of that activism as well as studies showing that anti-Semitism is rising while knowledge of the Holocaust is decreasing, Facebook has done an about-face. The company now views Holocaust denial as willful anti-Semitism. And before announcing the ban on Holocaust denial, Facebook said it had banned more than 250 white supremacist groups.

Denying the Holocaust is not just getting your facts wrong, Monika Bickert, Facebooks head of global policy management, said in a video interview last month with the World Jewish Congress. We know that Holocaust denial is used as a way to actually attack and stoke hatred against Jewish people.

Yfat Barak-Cheney, an official at the World Jewish Congress who has worked closely with Facebook on the Holocaust denial policy, said she believes the company is sincere about banning Holocaust denial. She expects the policy to be fleshed out, at the soonest, in a few months, and says her organization is in near-daily consultation with Facebook about it.

I think its a bit early to make these reports and look into this, said Barak-Cheney, the World Jewish Congress director of international affairs. The announcement is there. Its not something they are trying to avoid doing. They are very serious about it. Theyre definitely dedicating resources to it.

As the election season heated up earlier this year and public pressure mounted on tech companies to confront hate and misinformation, several large social media sites announced bans on conspiracy theories or different forms of bigotry.

Earlier in the year, along with banning QAnon, Facebook also said it was cracking down on other anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. TikTok banned white supremacist content in October. YouTube banned QAnon in October as well. In response to the stepped-up action against hate groups, many far-right activists moved their center of activity to Telegram, an encrypted messaging and social media app, and more recently to Parler, which bills itself as a social network without restrictions on speech.

In October, Twitter also said it would be banning Holocaust denial though two weeks later, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told a Senate hearing, regarding Holocaust denial, that we dont have a policy against that type of misleading information.

And Facebooks policies dont always result in blocking haters from the site. According to a recent report by two groups that monitor extremism, Facebook and Instagram directly host neo-Nazi networks with over 80,000 followers, some of whom use the site to see merchandise. After the report was covered in the Guardian, Facebook said it removed the neo-Nazis.

For too long Facebook has chosen to respond to hate on their platform only when there is enough public outcry over it, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted about the report. Case in point: Facebook knowingly hosted this neo-Nazi network for years.

But Barak-Cheney said that the problem was one she expected Facebook to tackle. While she doubts that Facebook will be able to detect all Holocaust denial, she expects the platform to find and prohibit most of it.

Its hard to detect, and it changes all the time, she said. All of it is going to be hard, but its not going to be a static policy.

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Six weeks ago, Facebook announced a ban on Holocaust denial. It's still easy to find. - Cleveland Jewish News


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