'We must give a voice to the voiceless'

Post-Oct. 7 antisemitism spurs pair to use hostages’ roots to highlight Jewish diversity

Two friends, disillusioned with harsh stereotypes of Jews and Zionists on social media, create Our Shared Jewish History on Instagram to showcase beauty of global Jewry

Destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Nir Oz seen on October 19, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Nir Oz seen on October 19, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

On October 7, when Hamas invaded southern Israel, Angelica Gottlieb’s colleagues at the startup she worked for in London began posting blatantly pro-Hamas content on social media, even as it came out that the terror organization had killed some 1,200 people and taken 253 hostages.

“I noticed that Jews and Israelis were being typecast as white colonizers who all look the same and sound the same and do the same things,” she said of their posts.

Five months later, Gottlieb and her friend Ariella Goodman are using this experience and others like it to educate the public about Zionism and Jewish history on their Instagram page, Our Shared Jewish History, which launched at the beginning of March.

Goodman and Gottlieb explained that by sharing the stories of those killed or taken hostage on October 7, along with insights into their communities and backgrounds, the page shines a light on the highly diverse nature of Jewish and Israeli history and “on what ultimately binds us together” despite those differences.

“We must give a voice to the voiceless,” they said.

Gottlieb and Goodman met in 2020, when they both enrolled in a Dutch-based Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding program called Youth Peace Initiative.

Angelica Gottlieb (left) and Ariella Goodman (right). (Courtesy).

They soon discovered that their own Jewish histories were intertwined — their grandmothers met at the Jewish World Congress in Prague in 1948 and, like Gottlieb and Goodman in 2020, became fast friends.

However, throughout their time with Youth Peace Initiative, the two young women became keenly aware that their status as English-speaking Israeli immigrants was subtly being used against them to invalidate Jewish-Israeli heritage.

Gottlieb, a Tel Aviv University graduate with ties to social justice and tech, and Goodman, an IDF veteran and history scholar involved in Arab-Jewish cultural dialogue, frequently discussed Israeli and Palestinian indigeneity to the land throughout the program.

“I’m the most classic Jewish New Yorker, Jelly’s very British Jewish,” Goodman told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Meanwhile, their Palestinian peers lived on the same plot of land as their grandparents and great-grandparents.

“It was often used against us in dialogues,” Goodman said.

Even after leaving the program, the two found that their identities as Israeli Jews were called into question in Leftist “woke” spaces. This was jarring for them both, having come from largely liberal Zionist backgrounds; suddenly, they found that the terms “liberal” and “Zionist” were seemingly at odds.

This kind of rhetoric, which has been particularly present in left-wing social media spaces since October 7, promotes the idea that Jews in Israel are all European colonizers who stole land from Palestinians and that Zionism is an inherently colonialist movement.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators gather for a ‘Flood Manhattan for Gaza’ rally outside Radio City Music Hall where US President Joe Biden is attending a fundraiser for his re-election campaign, in New York, March 28, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz/AFP)

It was this rhetoric that Gottlieb found herself facing from her colleagues when the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

“It was completely eradicating the diversity, not only of Jewish society and history but also Israeli society [which encompasses] multiple different religions… and it was coming out as just pure hatred,” she said.

She eventually left that company, and, in early March, she and Goodman launched Our Shared Jewish Experience to combat the anti-Zionist stereotype that all Israeli Jews are European colonizers.

They began by profiling 75-year-old Alex Dancyg, a Polish-Israeli grandfather from Kibbutz Nir Oz, who was kidnapped on October 7 and has remained in Hamas captivity since. In a series of slides in one Instagram post, Gottleib and Goodman tell Dancyg’s life story and highlight his dedication to social justice and left-wing ideals, showing readers that being a Zionist does not preclude being a staunch liberal.

Excerpt from an Instagram post by Our Shared Jewish History, highlighting Alex Dancyg, who was taken captive by Hamas on October 7. (Courtesy).

On International Women’s Day, Our Shared Jewish History made a post about Tamar Kedem Siman Tov, an artist who was also running to be mayor of the Eshkol region and was murdered along with her husband and children on October 7 in Kibbutz Nir Oz.

Since that first week, the page has uploaded 11 posts, each with hours of research behind it. Most highlight individuals who have been killed or kidnapped in the war, but the page also posts book and film recommendations, and plans to branch out into other aspects of Jewish history and culture.

Most recently, the account shared a post about Eitan and Yair Horn, two Argentinian-Israeli brothers currently being held hostage in Gaza. The post highlights the brothers’ love for the simple things in life and the holes that are left in their communities in their absence.

Brothers Eitan (left) and Yair Horn were taken captive from Yair’s Kibbutz Nir Oz home when Hamas terrorists attacked on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

Although the page is still small, it has had a broad reach, interacting and collaborating with accounts dedicated to memorializing specific victims of October 7 or bringing home specific hostages.

The founders explained that posts about younger people tend to get more online engagement than the others. This, they said, is likely because Instagram’s user base is quite young, and people are more likely to engage with content that they feel reflects some part of themselves.

Goodman and Gottlieb have great expectations for Our Shared Jewish History, hoping it can eventually be a tool for Jewish people to confidently engage in conversations about Israel and the diversity of the Jewish and Israeli populations, countering the “white colonizer” stereotype.

“It’s a way to be able to have those conversations and to be able to say, look how special [the Jewish community] is,” Gottlieb explained. “But also, pretty much all of the people we’ve posted about so far have some kind of persecution in their background. Their families have been through a pogrom or a massacre two generations back. So we’re pointing that out.”

Both creators agreed that Our Shared Jewish History will not single-handedly change global opinions of the State of Israel. They do not even claim the label of “hasbara,” the Hebrew term given to pro-Israel advocacy efforts.

Instead, the page can educate and equip members of the Jewish community who are not versed in their people’s history. Goodman and Gottlieb said many curious people have already found their page and engaged with its content.

“[You cannot] change people’s minds,” said Goodman. “But you can wake up your own community.”

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