Inspiring the TikTok generation

Inspiring the TikTok generation

How Jewish parents can help their kids navigate social media

Dr. Noam Weissman
Dr. Noam Weissman

“Every time I present to teens and young adults and ask them the reason for the generational divide on Jewish identity and Israel between older folks and younger folks, they roll their eyes and say ‘social media.’ They are almost trained to say that at this point,” Dr. Noam Weissman said.

Both generations — parents and their children — are aware of this phenomenon, but parents may need help supporting their children in navigating the choppy waters of social media, especially during the Israel-Hamas war. Dr. Weissman aims to provide that  help  on March 7, when he speaks at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. (See box.)

“This is one of the first times a war has been played out over livestream,” Dr. Weissman said. “In real time, people are learning about what is happening and seeing images that are sometimes real and sometimes doctored, always without context.”

Dr. Weissman is the executive vice president of OpenDor Media. That’s the parent company of Unpacked and Unpacked for Educators, two programs that offer professionally produced media content to help users explore Jewish and Israeli history, culture, and current events “in all their complexity, intellectual depth, and sophistication,” he said.

“People who are looking to make a difference have to be willing to engage people where they are, on their platforms. If teenagers are consuming news on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Spotify, we have to be there too, in a way that is not reductive and not inauthentic.

“We have to inspire the TikTok generation and treat them with respect.”

Every week, Unpacked releases a new educational video on the group’s YouTube channel, which has 230,000 subscribers. Every week, Dr. Weissman’s podcast, “Unpacking Israeli History,” which has been downloaded more than a million times, offers a fresh perspective on controversial and  current events, up to and including the Israel-Hamas war.

“Our goal is to be the storytellers of this generation for the Jewish world, to tell the story in a thoughtful and nuanced way on the platforms of preference that young people are on,” Dr. Weissman said.

CyberWell, a Tel Aviv-based tech nonprofit monitoring and combatting the spread of antisemitism on social media, just released a report confirming that “social media remains the key battleground for the spread of information and disinformation.”

CyberWell flagged more than 150,000 antisemitic posts in English and Arabic during 2023. In the month following the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, more than 61 percent of verified antisemitic posts called for or justified violence against Jews. The leading antisemitic tropes in 2023 included the Rothschild conspiracy theory (Instagram), Jews are an enemy (TikTok and X), and Jews are the “Synagogue of Satan” (YouTube).

Sheryl Sarin, JFNNJ’s senior director of community planning and allocations, said, “In this moment where our children are bombarded with social media posts, with very little context, federation is offering this program to provide some tools and strategies for how to navigate this new social world. Parents need to learn to help their children think critically about where their information comes from and how to respond — or not respond — to the deluge of misinformation that exists today.”

Dr. Weissman plans to share some methods of becoming a conscious consumer of social media and different ways in which consumers can integrate  sources into their own perspective.

“I will talk about the positives of social media, and dos and don’ts within social media and how they relate to Israel per se,” he said.

One of the don’ts is about engaging in comment  wars. Don’t do it, Dr. Weissman said. “Very few hearts and minds have been won in the comments section, so if you’re looking to persuade someone, be conscious of that,” he advised.

One of the dos is this: “Engage people in good faith and lead with a disposition of curiosity.”

While parents cannot fully control what their teens watch, they can spark their children’s curiosity by suggesting content that they found interesting or meaningful and explaining why.

Dr. Weissman also recommends that families try to watch trusted content on Israeli or Jewish history or current events together as part of their Friday night dinner or, if they are religiously observant, before Friday night, so they can discuss it at the Shabbat table.

“You can make that a Friday night ritual,” he said.

Unpacked, available free online at, offers myriad videos, podcasts, and articles.

Just some of the titles available: How Did the Oct. 7 Hamas Attack Change Israel?; Israeli Hostages vs. Palestinian Prisoners; Is Israel Committing War Crimes in Gaza? The True Origin of Modern Zionism; Is Israel an Apartheid State?; What is Life Like for Palestinians in Gaza?; Why Did Israel Build a Wall around the West Bank?; Can the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict be Solved?; Self-care Tips When the News Gets Too Overwhelming; Jewish Wisdom for Navigating This Time of War; Is Criticizing Israel Antisemitic? Navigating Conversations on Campus; When Professors Cross the Line into Antisemitism on Social Media; and Unsafe Spaces: When Being Jewish Means You Don’t Belong.

As for educators, Dr. Weissman says that some 70% of non-charedi Jewish schools across the globe regularly use Unpacked for Educators multimedia content and resources, which are geared to students 10 and older.

In New Jersey, Unpacked for Educators collaborative schools — which receive professional development, networking, and expert support — include Congregation Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, Congregation Shomrei Torah in Wayne, the Frisch School and Yavneh Academy in Paramus, the Kaplan Learning Center at United Synagogue of Hoboken, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, Moriah School in Englewood, Naaleh High School in Ridgewood, Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, and Temple Emanu-El in Closter, as well as Hillel Yeshiva in Ocean Township.

One of OpenDor Media’s 45-plus team members is Sarah Gordon, senior director of Israel education for the Americas, who was director of Israel guidance and experiential education at Ma’ayanot for more than a decade.

About 100 elementary, middle and high schools, supplementary schools, and educational institutions in New Jersey also have engaged with content from Unpacked for Educators since 2022. Nearly every Jewish school is on that list but so are others — for example, Cavallini Middle School in Upper Saddle River, Newark Academy in Livingston, Paramus Catholic High School, and Rahway public schools.

What: “Navigating Social Media When Israel is At War: How To Best Support Your Children,” a conversation for parents of teenagers with Dr. Noam Weissman, executive vice president of OpenDor Media

Where: Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, 50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus

When: March 7, 7 p.m.; a dessert reception will follow the talk

To register:, email Linda Heller at, or call her at (201) 820-3904

Sponsored by OpenDor Media, the Frisch School, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, Torah Academy of Bergen County, and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey

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