Comedy, tears, and criticism – Jewish influencers respond to Roe v. Wade

Jewish influencers are speaking out about US Supreme Courts recent Roe v. Wade decision, including information about how Jewish law recognizes abortion.

  United States Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision (photo credit: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy)
United States Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision
(photo credit: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy)

The Jews are at it again,” Zev Burton said as he smiled into his phone camera and used the green screen function on TikTok to show a headline from The Miami Herald. The June 14 article stated that a South Florida synagogue, Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, announced its plans to sue the state over the new 15-week abortion ban that began on July 1.

Burton took care to write in his caption on the video that he himself is Jewish (hence his opening sentence). He has more than 234,000 followers on his TikTok account and is a master’s student in data science and analytics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

@zevulous i am jewish which explains that first line #jew #jewish #roevwade #jewtok #zevulous ♬ original sound - Zev

Activists take to social media

Following the May leak of the draft of the Roe v. Wade overturn and the June 24 announcement, activists, influencers and media consumers alike have taken to social media with their thoughts and feelings as a form of protest.

Jewish influencers – social media personalities who have garnered a large following, like Zev Burton – have taken a similar stance to Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor (Forever – literally, "For Generations").

In a video immediately following the announcement, Burton encouraged his viewers who are “doom scrolling” to take a deep breath. He then shared information for those who want to do something to help but don’t know how.

@zevulous breathe. its tough, but breathe. #supremecourt #roevwade #scotus #us #politics #zevulous ♬ original sound - Zev

A website address he writes on the screen shares a list of political representatives ( from the county to the federal level. The website informs Americans about who their representatives are based on their address, as well as ways to contact them. Burton encourages his viewers to “contact every one of them” and demand action.

“It’s our responsibility to say stuff,” he said.

SETH GOLDSTEIN is a rabbi at Temple Beth Hatfiloh (House of Prayer) in Olympia, Washington. With some 30,000 followers on his TikTok account, he has made multiple videos regarding Judaism’s views on abortion and written posts on his blog about the topic.

In one of his more popular TikToks, which has garnered over 16,000 views, Goldstein breaks down this week’s Torah portion and its similarities to the Supreme Court’s decision. After providing a summary of the 12 spies in Canaan (Torah Portion of Shelach, Numbers 13:1-15:41), he said: “A majority of men set back a whole community by 40 years, just as this morning the Supreme Court, a majority of men, set back our country by 50 years.”

@rabbi_360 #roevwade #torah #jewish #jewishtiktok #judaism #rabbi #progressiveclergy ♬ original sound - Rabbi Seth Goldstein

Goldstein has made other TikToks regarding abortion and Judaism. In one video called "Judaism and Reproductive Freedom," which he pinned to the top of his profile, he points to text cards over a trending TikTok sound that read: “personhood begins at birth,” “health of the parent takes priority,” and “laws again abortion violate religious liberty.”

@rabbi_360 Judaism values Reproductive Freedom! #rabbi #jewishtiktok #jewtok #progressiveclergy #reproductiverights #prochoice in honor of #reproshabbat ♬ original sound - Lucia

ANNIE FRENKEL is an OB-GYN in New York, and an Orthodox Jew with more than 121,000 followers.

“It surprises me how many people that I’m friends with, how many of my family members were not aware that in Judaism, the concept of saving the life of the mother always supersedes the life of the unborn child,” she said in her TikTok. “Every single rabbi that I have spoken to told me that when in doubt, the mother is always the one you need to choose.”

Her June 27 video came in response to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem stating that there would be an exception for saving a mother’s life that will allow such abortions to occur.

“Who defines what it means to save a life? Ask two different OB-GYNs, they’ll probably disagree,” she said.

She scoffed as she stared into the camera, aware of the possibility of being legally prosecuted were she to help a pregnant woman receive an abortion.

“Make no mistake, women will start to die in this country, and that’s a certainty.”

HILLEL GRAY, a professor of comparative religion at Miami University in Ohio with a specialty in Judaism, ethics and religious extremism, has just over 18,000 followers on TikTok.

Gray warned that his views are often polarizing and he is willing to break down harder topics through the educational clips he shares. On June 24, he broke down the Jewish views on abortion further, raising multiple questions in his video, such as: “Who determines if her life is in danger?” and “Under Jewish law, who do you suppose decides if that percentage risk would justify an abortion?”

@profgray It’s easy to misread recent articles on #Jewish #law & #abortion, re: #reproductiverights, though there’s #diversity of#POVs, incl seeing #Judaism infused w #autonomy. #roevwade ♬ IMPERIAL PIANO - Treia Music

He also provided an answer: “As with secular law, many difficult decisions are typically left up to judges, that is, the rabbis.”

However, “There is no Supreme Court, and rabbis differ on many issues,” Gray added.

GOLDA DAPHNA fought back tears in her June 4 TikTok called “Abortion – The Jewish perspective.” An American with 20,000 followers, she was raised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew and is a Columbia University graduate. Forcing others to accommodate your religious beliefs is oppressive #abortion #roevwade #orthodoxunion #jewishtiktok @Hannah ♬ original sound - The Gold Life

The Supreme Court decision means that states may now choose their own laws regarding abortion. And while abortion might still be accessible in some of them, Daphna said it will not be enough.

“When people say, ‘You’re in New York, you’re going to have access to an abortion,’ I think of people in the Bible belt, and who grew up in a really religious community,” Daphna said. "I know what it’s like to live in a community where there’s a train to go to New York City [where abortion will stay legal] but it’s such an impossibility to you.”

She emphasizes that while each of her two identities – as a Jew and an American – hold no priority over the other, in a country that promises separation between church and state, that promise extends to having the right to practice bodily autonomy freely and without religious intervention.

“Before I speak as a Jew, I speak as an American,” she says in her video. “America was founded on the separation of church and state. It was founded as a place for people to practice their religion freely and to not push their religious doctrine onto anyone. Anyone who does not allow a woman to have bodily autonomy because of their religion is missing the point and freedoms [on] which America was founded.”