Shoshana Gottlieb, a writer, content creator and podcaster who is best known for running the popular Instagram account ‘jewishmemesonly’, appeared on the most recent episode of Podcast Against Antisemitism where she discussed how she uses memes as a means of mocking and dismantling antisemitic conspiracy theories.
“Memes are a recurring internet joke. It’s usually a picture or a video that you can take and turn on its head, and repurpose in other contexts,” Ms Gottlieb explains. “I started making them because I reached a point where I realised I could make them, because I had the meme knowledge and I had the Jewish knowledge, and I put those two things together.”
Ms Gottlieb’s content playfully exposes how ludicrous and nonsensical antisemitic beliefs can be, as well as highlighting some of the weird and wonderful aspects of Jewish culture. In the past, she has used her platform to mock antisemitic tropes such as the Rothschild conspiracy, allegations of media control and the cliche that all Jews are rich.
Speaking on how she created a meme in which she used an image from the television programme The Simpsons to poke fun at those who believe in tropes of Jewish power and control, Ms Gottlieb said: “Someone posted the image of [Marge Simpson] with money coming out of her hair and a bundle of cash, and I’m like ‘Well, people say Jews have a lot of money and people say Jews get money at these secret meetings’…it’s just connecting the dots.
“You find the absurdity. I remember learning about [The Protocols of] the Elders of Zion at school and being like, ‘That’s crazy, no one could ever believe that.’ And now you’re in a YouTube comments section and people are quoting it.”
However, there are some lines that the content creator refuses to cross.
“I stay away from serious antisemitism. I’m not going to make a joke about a synagogue that’s been held hostage, I don’t make jokes about the Holocaust. But when it comes to antisemitic conspiracy theory, at a very superficial level, it’s ridiculous. Before it becomes harmful, it’s just insane. That’s the stuff I’m making fun of,” she said.
Ms Gottlieb revealed that while the response to her content has largely been positive, she has received some antisemitic comments in the past.
“As for antisemitism, I have zero tolerance. Every so often, once in a blue moon, someone will comment something on a post. And the internet, for me, is a fun place. I don’t come on to fight battles and I don’t come on to try to talk down people who literally spend their time finding Jewish creators.
“I report them to Instagram because I don’t think they should have a platform, I block them, I delete their comment and I continue on my way. My internet experience is infinitely happier for it.”
Ms Gottlieb told us that her experience of online antisemitism has not been limited to Instagram.
“One time on Twitter, someone was creating lists of Jews, lists for the next gas chambers. It was really bad, and it was me and a bunch of other Jews on Twitter,” she said. “I think there are some people you can push back on when you say antisemitic things, but when it’s people who come in to purposefully annoy you, what’s the point? They just want to get a rise out of me. I’m not going to give them that.”
Throughout the interview, Ms Gottlieb touched upon a variety of other issues that included the importance of high-quality Holocaust education, representation of Jews in the media, and her own podcast, Pop Culture Parasha, in which she and her co-host pair that week’s Torah portion with a film or television programme and discuss the similarities.
Podcast Against Antisemitism, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, talks to a different guest about antisemitism each week. It streams every Thursday and is available through all major podcast apps and YouTube. You can also subscribe to have new episodes sent straight to your inbox.