Controversy broke out in a Jewish women’s Facebook group on Monday evening after group administrators removed a transgender member for what they cited was a violation of the group’s standards for language and oversharing. But many saw it simply as bigotry.
The group, “Jewish Women Talk About Anything,” has over 26,000 members and purports to welcome women from a diverse range of Jewish backgrounds and affiliations. All topics are welcome but many discussion threads tend to revolve around marriage, parenting, education and work-life balance.
Though discussions often take a dramatic turn with commenters attacking one another, this post—about her struggles dating Jewish men as a transgender woman—struck a nerve, receiving many comments before it was removed by administrators within minutes.
The woman from the offending Facebook post spoke to The Jewish Week on condition of anonymity. She said she was surprised by the attention the incident received.
“It kind of just took on a life of it’s own,” she told The Jewish Week over the phone.
“It kind of just took on a life of it’s own.”
Some members pointed to the language in her post, which contained two curse words, as the reason for her removal. Others said it was because she was transgender, with a number of commenters debating whether or not that would be appropriate grounds for removal.
It also opened up a wider discussion as women debated who should and should not be allowed in the forum. “I did think it was spectacular how many people stood up for me… they were really standing up for trans[gender] people in general,” she said.
“I knew it would open up a can of worms because so many people have different beliefs on the topic,” said Meital Rofe, a member of the group from Queens. “There’s such a mixture of different types of Jewish people…they’re coming from very different sides of the spectrum.”
This issue has forced the administrators of the group to define its rules more clearly, as the group has expanded and discussions have become more contentious. Administrators said they conducted a poll several years ago, when the group was smaller and mostly composed of Orthodox women, where most members voted to limit the group to cisgender women only.
“I’m going to stick around… It’s pretty entertaining.”
The group’s description on Facebook simply states that it is “a place for mature Jewish women of all ages and backgrounds.”
When asked about the group’s membership policies, an administrator responded via Facebook. “At this point, no one is going to be banned or removed unless there is a glaring reason for it. We hate removing members from the group but sometimes it’s really in the group’s best interest.”
While many members commented with their opinions, some left the group in protest. Others, however, didn’t take it so seriously.
“To me it’s just a facebook group and the admins can do whatever they want with it,” said Rofe. “It’s just a few women managing a group on Facebook, it’s no more than that.”
Despite the drama, by Tuesday the group was already buzzing with several new posts and dozens of comments. Rofe, for one, isn’t turned off by the drama.
“I’m going to stick around,” said Rofe. “It’s pretty entertaining.”