Facebook’s waging war on my Hebrew name - A Case Summary in Sixteen Points1. I am an observant (Orthodox) Jew and a Jewish activist and I opened a Facebook account under my Hebrew name, Ariel ben Yochanan, some seven years ago.
2. Everything was fine, until probably an anti-Semite must have reported me and Facebook obliged by disabling my account on June 15 ’17 saying that:
"It looks like you're using a name on Facebook that goes against our policies. Can we update your name on Facebook to Andras Bereny?
If we update your name, Andras Bereny will be the name people see on your profile and anywhere else your name appears on Facebook (ex: tagged photos, past posts, search).
If you're already using the name you go by in everyday life, select Don't Update and we'll help you confirm your current name".
3. Andras Bereny is the name on my ID, bank account, etc. and we Jews call it a “slave name”.
4. So, of course I clicked on Don't Upgrade, as on Facebook I want to appear under my Hebrew name, with which we are getting called up to the Torah in the synagogue and under this name I run my blog, the Torah Revolution, comment on Jewish and on Torah issues and write articles. I provided Facebook with a link to such an article,
where the editor even explains that I write under my Hebrew name, but Facebook didn’t bulge, they keep my account blocked, as if preventing the use of my Hebrew name was their hidden and evil mission.
5. In the following I am going to show that a Jew’s Hebrew name is an outward sign of his Judaism, just like wearing a kipah (yarmulke), tzitzit (fringes), talit (prayer shawl) or tefilin (phylacteries) and that therefore preventing its use is allegedly unlawful, in as much as it allegedly goes against the principles of Freedom of Religion. The maintenance of the guarantees under the Freedom of Religion is extremely important, especially for minorities, like the Jews, who were limited and persecuted by enemy nations in most of recorded history. We don’t want Facebook in particular and the corporate world in general to be allowed to go down again on this road.
6. I will prove the point in two ways:
The first way is to say that there is a Midrash (Jewish religious literature) that sheds light on the importance of a Hebrew name in Judaism. From it we learn that the very redemption from our slavery in Egypt is merited in function of three attributes:
a) We kept our language,
b) We kept our Hebrew names and
c) We kept our Jewish clothing.
7. In view of this we can conclude that not even the Egyptians did to us during our slavery up until about 3300 years ago what Facebook is doing to me now, namely bullying me under the pretense of their “policies” to renounce the use of my Hebrew name!
8. As a consequence, we see that keeping our Hebrew names has a special place, significance and importance in Jewish tradition (Mesorah), that even many non-religious Jews keep, irrespective of whether it is registered or not registered, documented or not documented, used for utility bills or not used for utility bills, all alleged limitations that Facebook unlawfully places on an outwardly sign of one’s Jewish identity. For a better understanding of this issue please read the following four articles available online, or google “Hebrew names in Judaism”:
- Language, Dress, and Names – Jewish continuity in a nutshell
- Did the Jews assimilate when they were in Egypt?
- Torah Attitude: Parashas Bo: Three areas of excellence
- Judaism & the Power of Names
9. The other way to establish that Hebrew names are an integral part of our Jewish identity is to observe:
a) That only Jews have Hebrew names;
b) That almost all Jews have Hebrew names and
c) That non-Jews do not have Hebrew names.
10. Once we establish that a Hebrew name is an integral part of the Jewish identity, it becomes immediately obvious that negating a Jew the right to use his or her Hebrew name is allegedly anti-Semitic in nature and if it is done in the name of company policy, it is the company policy that is allegedly anti-Semitic, even if not intentionally so, and it must therefore be changed or repealed altogether without delay under the principle of Freedom of Religion: The Hebrew name of a Jew is NOT a “fake name”, as it is presently treated by Facebook, it is one of the manifestations of the identity of a person as a Jew, just like wearing a kipah, tzitzit, talit or tefilin!
11. The latest in this tragic, anti-Jewish escalation is that Facebook changed the message that appears on my log in page and now they are directly prompting me to sign in as Andras Bereny: I firmly believe it is my sacrosanct Jewish right to be able to use and be known by my Hebrew name and be listed on Facebook under Ariel ben Yochanan. It’s not what they call a “fake name”. It is my Hebrew name and I maintain that its use is protected by the very principles of Freedom of Religion. I will not renounce of its use, even if they put me on the wheel or burned me at the stake alive, like their presumed ideological predecessors did during the times of the Inquisition.
12. My account has more than 1500 Facebook friends, out of which more than 200 are “followers”, meaning that they want to see my posts and read my comments: Blocking my account harms them as well, not only me.
13. With some contacts, like old class-mates, friends and associates, my Facebook account is the only means to keep in touch, as they don’t know my email address (email@example.com) and I don’t know theirs.
14. I would like to mention here that my account was disabled by Facebook from one minute to the next, with no warning, so I was not even given the possibility to collect and save the emails of my contacts or to warn them of what was coming.
15. One email in particular I received from a friend said that he got “frightened” seeing my account disappear. What right Facebook has to frighten my friends? Another person started to read a private message from me and when she returned to finish reading it, it was gone, disappeared from her screen: A traumatizing experience for which there is no excuse!
16. I therefore require the following three actions to be taken:
a) Facebook must re-activate my account immediately, under my Hebrew name, Ariel ben Yochanan;
b) Facebook must issue a public statement in which it apologizes for its alleged anti-Jewish policies concerning their limiting the use of the Hebrew names of Jews and
c) Facebook must pay me damages, effective, moral and punitive. The idea is to make sure that Facebook never negates a basic Jewish right to a Jew again, like it allegedly does to me now, by preventing me from being listed under my Hebrew name on their website.
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