“He will flatter with smooth words those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people devoted to their God will stand firm.” Daniel 11:32 (The Israel Bible™)
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook and the fifth richest person in the world (and the richest Jew), announced that he had gifted his young daughter, Maxima, with a century-old family heirloom silver kiddush cup in a post that drew a surprising amount of ire and consternation.
The post on Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook page shows his daughter, nicknamed ‘Max’, drinking from the silver cup. Other photos on the post show an impressively braided challah (bread eaten at Sabbath and festival meals), and Sabbath candles.
“For Shabbat tonight, we gave Max a kiddush cup that has been in our family for almost 100 years. Her great-great-grandfather Max got it after our family immigrated here and it has been passed down through our family ever since,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post that got over 200,000 likes and over 9,000 shares.
Many media questioned the sincerity of this touching pro-Jewish post in light of recent revelations that Facebook enabled advertisers to target anti-Semitic audiences with interests in topics like “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’” ProPublica, an investigative site, reported this on Thursday, going so far as to purchase promoted posts to verify that this allegation was indeed accurate. Their ads were immediately accepted.
After ProPublica contacted Facebook, most of the blatantly anti-Semitic categories were removed. These categories are automatically generated by algorithms, which have created problems in the past.
“There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards,” Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook, told ProPublica. “In this case, we’ve removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”
ProPublica did a similar search for ad categories targeting Muslim haters; none were found. It was reported on Friday by BuzzFeed News that Google’s algorithms had an identical feature.
As touching as his gift to his daughter was, some noted its sensitive timing. Sarah Tuttle-Singer, an editor for the Times of Israel, expressed this in an editorial published Sunday.
“I’m touched that you’re standing proud as a Jew in front of billions,” she wrote. “That is a beautiful thing, and the greatest legacy of all. But along with this, I implore you: For the sake of your children and for the sake of mine… PLEASE. Do more to combat anti-Semitism on Facebook. There are simply too many groups out there — ones that glorify Hitler and wish he had finished the job, ones that continue to encourage violence and mayhem. And there are too many instances where comments get reported, but are ignored by your team.”
Though raised in a Reform Jewish family, Zuckerberg’s personal connection to Judaism is ambiguous. He has claimed to be an atheist but this claim was challenged after he posted a Christmas/Hannukah greeting. He responded, “I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.”
Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla, is the American-born daughter of ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam and a practicing Buddhist. Jewish law dictates that the religious status of the child is determined by the religion of the birth mother, so Max, the recipient of the kiddush cup, is technically not Jewish.