CHANA EISENMANN: ‘How long are you planning on scrambling the same egg, young lady?’.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘You are worse than David Gruen [David Ben-Gurion]!” reads the Facebook comment on the online newspaper article. “The juice of the *juice* of the rubbish. Curse you and your kind!” On the evening of Simhat Torah, a keyboard warrior of the hassidic world – some would say its biggest Facebook troll – passed away of congestive heart failure after a long illness. Chana Eisenmann z”l, is no more.
Wikipedia defines an Internet troll as “a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet, with the intent of provoking readers, whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.”
Imagine a troll to be a socially maladjusted teen, or a young man in an attic, an expert coder who gets a kick out of making fun of others. You think of a predator as a person to fear and to protect your children from. Could a kindly hassidic grandmother, spending her time between her family, her guests, and her very sick husband, be a troll?
Eisenmann was born into a hassidic family in Petah Tikva in 1942. She was known as a timid, gentle soul, and was involved in various hessed projects. When I met my wife and we married, I also met Eisenmann, and she struck me too as a modest, gentle soul. She had supported and helped my wife during her conversion and aliyah as a lone Asian convert.
When one of her grandsons bought her a computer, however, a new feisty Eisenmann was revealed to the world. This grandma took to the Internet with gusto! It didn’t matter how many people she was arguing against or how often she got cursed-out and banned, every evening for almost 10 years she would fight the good fight on her computer screen.
As a troll, Eisenmann would respond to online news stories, calling other commenters “clowns” and “garbage.” If they would respond with obscenities as they usually did, she’d come back with put-downs like “shut up, kiddo,” and “I’d love to hear your explanation to God of your language.” She would also troll people’s Facebook walls, often with strange comments such as, “I’m bored. I’m going to the kitchen,” and “For how long are you planning on scrambling the same egg, young lady?”
Following the announcement of her death, some took their postmortem “revenge” on Eisenmann, calling her “Mrs. Eichmann” (a play on the name Adolf Eichmann) and posting AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on several of her many Facebook walls (she had multiple accounts and sock-puppets.) At an age when most of us vegetate in old-age homes and sink out of relevance, even after her death she was getting a lot of reaction out of people.
But alongside the hate, and far outweighing it, was the love. Dozens of comments from people in all walks of life have been posted about how much they loved her and admired her, and how shocked they were about the news of her passing. Her admirers appreciated her rants about evil Zionists and chemtrails, secret societies running the world and UFOs. In her own eccentric way, she voiced a frustration they themselves felt with establishment, with rigid online etiquette systems and rules and the way they are enforced in social media.
So much love... for an Internet troll? It made me ponder once again the illusion that we think we can divide humanity into neat boxes and assign relative value to individuals, depending on which box we have placed them into. When an Internet troll could be a kindly hassidic grandmother. How shallow of us to think we can classify Chana Eisenmann so naively!
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