New York – Hoping to use the three week period of mourning over the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash to effect positive change, a Brooklyn resident is challenging the Jewish community to refrain from sharing information about others, a seemingly innocent pastime that can have significant negative repercussions.
TWiSTED PARENTiNG’s Avi Fishoff, a respected voice in the world of at risk behavior, threw down the gauntlet on July 18th in a nearly eight minute long video that explained that he has heard from numerous people whose families were torn apart because of mistruths that were passed around as certainties.
The close knit fabric of the Jewish community can often exacerbate the problem, said Fishoff.
“We are a machine of information between shuls and bungalow colonies,” Fishoff told VIN News. “We have huge families and we are extremely social. One person says something to five people and then each of them tell five more people and the numbers keep on growing exponentially and at the speed of sound.”
More often than not, the stories being spread are inaccurate, said Fishoff, who has personal experience being the subject of the rumor mill.
“We pass around information as if it’s fact,” said Fishoff. “We speak and we don’t say ‘I heard,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘I really don’t know.’ It turns into ‘of course.’”
Fishoff was quick to note that there is rarely malice involved when mistruths are shared and that people are typically well intentioned, sharing information that they believe to be true because they heard it from a “trusted reliable source.”
“We don’t even imagine that most of what we’re saying is just false and ends up really, really hurting people,” said Fishoff.
Looking to end discussions about others, Fishoff has launched a three week long challenge, beginning on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz and ending at midday, the day after Tisha B’av. Those who join the campaign agree to donate their age in dollars to charity every time they listen to hearsay about another person. The donation amount is doubled whenever a participant repeats information that isn’t a confirmed fact to another party.
In his video, Fishoff invited viewers to send him a short video pledging to take part in the Three Week Challenge and within four days approximately 200 people of all ages from all across the religious spectrum living in the United States, England, South African and Israel joined the initiative. Fishoff said that numerous others contacted him to share that they have been negatively affected by hearsay, some of whom have suffered tremendously.
Fishoff hopes to get 1,000 people to accept the Three Week Challenge and encouraged viewers to make their donations to the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation which runs numerous programs dedicated to positive speech.
In a second video posted to YouTube, Fishoff shared some of the video submissions he received, which include multiple children and several husbands and wives taking the plunge together. Musician, composer and arranger Leib Yaakov Rigler of Jerusalem’s Old City announced his commitment while wearing his tefillin with his wife, author Sara Yocheved Rigler, making a slight change to Fishoff’s terms.
“I accept your three weeks challenge, but because I live Israel, I accept it in shekels not dollars,” said Rigler, adding, “also I’m 71 years old so I really accept it in shekels not dollars.”
In another video, Uriel Levy expressed his support for the project and noted that the challenge demonstrated social media’s potential as a catalyst for change.
“I believe this is crucial for am yisrael and I’m glad that social media is being used positively,” said Levy. “Maybe this can be a portent for how social media can be used in a way to bring Moshiach.”
On a more lighthearted note, one unidentified man referenced the sweltering temperatures in his video saying, “In this weather I think would rather do the ice bucket challenge but your challenge sounds like a real worthy cause and I’m in.”
To join The Three Week Challenge send a short video to 718-902-6666 saying “Hi Avi, my name is___ from __ and I accept the Three Week Challenge as a zchus for ___”