Judaism and the meltdown

Rabbis are a great resource during this economic crisis, providing both support and networking oppor

In any period of difficulty, it is essential that communities pull together to share their expertise to support those in need. During this period of economic uncertainty, it is certain that there will be no sector, faith, nor community that will be unaffected by redundancy and financial turmoil. It is clear that the leaders of those communities will be looked to for guidance during such a testing period.

I was therefore delighted to speak last week at a seminar, convened by the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, for the communal rabbi’s of the various synagogal bodies across the UK. Featuring industry leaders and communal organisations, the seminar provided the rabbis with an overview of the current economic crisis, the impact it might have on the Jewish community, as well as the resources available to assist those affected.

The common view of those in attendance was that whilst not expected to be business experts, rabbis are, like their counterparts from other religions, often the first point of contact for congregants struggling during testing times. In addition, faith leaders can be a great focal point for networking opportunities within a community. Rabbi’s, with an in-depth knowledge of their congregants skills and expertise, are often able to create positive and beneficent synergies.

By creating positive and mutually supportive relationships it is always possible to develop business contacts, find employment for those made redundant and provide advice in setting up a new business. It can be beneficial in the long-term too – the person you are helping today may have the expertise you need help with tomorrow.

Jewish text tells us that the highest form of charity – as discussed at length by Maimonides, the great twelfth-century philosopher and expert in Jewish law – is to find someone a job, thereby putting him in a situation where he can dispense with other people’s aid.

At TrainE we work within the Jewish community to empower people to make a strong and sustainable income by offering training and business development options. By offering nationally accredited training courses, a pioneering mentoring scheme and a business incubator supporting entrepreneurial business enterprise, we are supporting those in generating long term and sustainable incomes.

During any economic crisis, the job market is demanding and making career choices is all the more challenging. The tools to make an informed choice may give the added edge needed to make the right decision. We aim to do just that and our training courses together with extensive support network are a perfect way to gain the qualification that can help people stand out from the crowd and find a perfect vocation.

The attendance of so many rabbis at this seminar, and their willingness to engage with these issues should serve as an inspiration to others to think, not only about how to survive the economic downturn, but how to support others through it too. We can certainly draw inspiration from the ancient proverb of first-century Jewish scholar and theologian Rabbi Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I?”

Shraga Zaltzman is the Managing Director of TrainE, a non-profit Jewish community organisation dedicated to empower individuals to make a strong and sustainable income. He studied at Gateshead Talmudic College and at the Mir Talmudic College in Jerusalem. He holds a BA in Technology, Marketing and Management from the Jerusalem College of Technology and an MBA from Bar Ilan.

John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.