Enlightenment 2.0

“Jew and Me” – new initiative Sapere aude helps provide young social media users with an accessible introduction to Jewish-German culture…



For more and more people, social media is the most important source of information and the place where their opinions are formed. Young people in particular have largely abandoned daily newspapers and television as sources for news and information. They obtain political and social information largely via Facebook,
WhatsApp and YouTube. Nine of ten teens, for example, are regular viewers of YouTube. For popular YouTubers, the secret behind their success is their authenticity: unlike television or pop stars, YouTubers establish direct contact with their fans, speak with them, and engage with them. This sense of proximity is what has led many young people to regard their YouTube idols as role models and “true friends.”
But there is a problem: Jewish life in Germany remains largely invisible on social media. At the same time, these channels are being utilized very effectively by anti-Semites for propaganda purposes. Even obvious falsehoods remain unchallenged. With support from the German Ministry for Family Affairs, the newly founded association Sapere Aude in Berlin is now taking aim at this problem. The phrase “sapere aude” was proclaimed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant as the motto for the Enlightenment: “Have the courage to use your own understan­­d­ing.” This is precisely what the initiative aims to encourage in our age of digital communication, calling to life an “Enlightenment 2.0” by lending the Jewish community a voice and a presence online. With young people as its main audience, the initiative will offer a lively introduction to Jewish life in Germany. Young Muslims, in particular, will be encouraged to seek open and respectful dialogue with Jews. One of Sapere Aude’s key ideas is the “Jew and me” format, which will present short video clips of young German Jews, ranging from a Jewish event organizer to a Jewish cook who serves up kosher burgers in a hip local eatery. The underlying message takes aim against anti-Semitism in a deliberately understated way, rather than conveying it through classroom-style “frontal instruction.”
Sapere Aude also seeks to provide editorial content as well as training and coaching to the authors of similar YouTube formats. The initiative will provide technical video-production training to authors, as well as training in generating content for a variety of social media formats. Because successful YouTubers can also become targets of hate speech and incitement by radicals, the initiative will also provide legal support as well as training in addressing such issues. The professional assistance offered by Sapere Aude will help enable young authors working in similar formats to provide their young target audience with an accessible and appealing introduction to what Jewish culture has been for many centuries: an integral and unwavering part of German society, marginalized though it was time and again. Today’s burgeoning and diverse Jewish community life has to be protected in the context of Germany’s liberal and democratic fundamental order. Using the tools of enlightenment, the initiative will thus help counter hostility and aggression, while joining forces with others who seek to courageously oppose those who would undermine the very spirit of the Enlightenment.

Photo Credit: JVG

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