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What a Facebook group tells us about our community

Until October 7, 2023, Sydney Jews talked about community events and challah. Online community spaces then became a support lifeline.
Kevin Garber
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Illustration: TJI

Published: 17 June 2024

Last updated: 14 June 2024

A month after October 7, I had to buy a new phone when the side buttons on my old phone fell off from overuse.

The reason was my role as the administrator and moderator of the Jews of Sydney (JOS) Facebook Group . 

I have been involved with tech, social media, and co-creating communities (virtual and real life) for most of my adult life.  In 2017 when Facebook was at its critical mass, I noticed that there wasn’t a central online group for the Jews of Sydney, so I thought I would create one.

From its inception until October 7, 2023, JOS was mostly about community events and challah, with almost no politics. Growth was slow but consistent with between zero and five new members a day.

Then the Hamas attack occurred. Within a few days the group had more than 100 join requests. 

The Jewish Independent

After October 7, the Sydney Jewish community, like Jewish communities around the world was hurting, hungry for updates, and most importantly needed to connect with each other.

Of particular note, Jewish people who were far on the fringes of the Jewish community and didn’t know where to start reconnecting with the Jewish community, found JOS Many of these people found great comfort in connecting with the community.
Of course, the administrator tasks for the group also increased exponentially and as the only administrator, that load fell on me. 

 I needed to individually vet every single application to join the group. Bad faith actors on the internet abound, and those wanting to infiltrate Jewish spaces on the internet are even more motivated.

I also needed to manage the content and conversations. A maximalist free speech approach just doesn’t work online. In fact, online discussion tends towards entropy, particularly with respect to any topic that is even mildly contentious.  Don’t believe me? Just login to X (formerly Twitter) and see what (almost) free speech maximalism looks like online.

My moderation approach is as light as possible. I shut down threads only when necessary and remove comments only when they are inflammatory, insulting or unhelpful.

I also try to bias the group towards positive and uplifting posts.

Content moderation is an art, and, luckily, I have a lot of experience with it.

Understandably most people take content removals personally, and my inbox is a constant stream of complaints and sometimes abuse.  I have been accused of being too left wing, too right wing, too centrist, too heavy-handed, not heavy-handed enough, too partisan, too non-partisan, and so on.

With any online community, I feel it is important to create a culture of mutual respect, free of personal attacks, or hating on any groups of people or individuals.

I am proud to say that we have mostly achieved the above with JOS .

Soon after October 7, I brought on  three additional excellent moderators who are now vital to the day to day running of the group. Moderators need to be technically literate, familiar with the idiosyncrasies of online communities, and in our case, the Jewish community. Importantly they need to resist getting sucked into the drama that can sometimes manifest online.

Of course, what would a Jewish community group be without some of our own drama? A few months ago, someone posted a request asking how long the school bus to Masada takes from the Eastern Suburbs?  Without thinking, as a throwaway silly comment, I replied, “Apparently it is an overnight bus”.

Wow.  I unleashed a beast. I had no idea the opinions were so sensitive on the value of living in Sydney’s northern or eastern suburbs.   I received multiple calls from community heads asking me to work with them to defuse the ongoing jokes. 

It is ironic that, in the face of a Hamas massacre, antisemitism and divisive Israeli politics, the  most controversial topic to date has been suburban rivalry.

The real satisfaction for me personally, is when I see people connecting and enhancing their lives: finding accommodation, jobs, and friends through group connections.

Managing the group has been a second day job.  Every now and then I have to force myself to slow down as my arms and fingers get unhealthily tight.

However, compared to the sacrifices people are making in Israel, maintaining the group is the absolute least I can do to help inspire and strengthen our community.

I try to regularly post positive content, for example recently a video of a non-Jewish person singing Hatikvah on a Melbourne train was doing the rounds.  This video received a great response when I shared it on the group.

The group has also become a way for journalists and politicians to take the pulse of the local Jewish community, with politicians like Allegra Spender - Federal Member for Wentworth - sometimes responding to posts..

Our community in Australia is feeling very marginalized, misunderstood, disregarded and heartsore and, quite frankly, afraid of what the future holds for Jews in Australia, Israel and the world.

I hope at the very least JOS can be a little patch of virtual land where our wonderful, diverse, spirited Sydney Jewish community can take a breath. and find comfort and support in each other.

Some statistics from the group from the past 28 days:

The Jewish Independent

About the author

Kevin Garber

Kevin Garber is the founder and administrator of the Jews of Sydney Facebook Group. Kevin lives in Sydney and is the founder and CEO of productivity app Zlinky.com.


  • Avatar of Ruth Cohen

    Ruth Cohen20 June at 12:28 pm

    You do a fabulous job. Thank you and your team.

  • Avatar of Sue Werman

    Sue Werman20 June at 01:43 am

    Thanks so much for starting and continuing JOS. It has been wonderful to read the posts in a safe space.

  • Avatar of Hadass

    Hadass19 June at 11:55 am

    Kevin, you do a fantastic job and it’s a credit to you that you are able to tolerate all of us meshuganas. Kol Hakovod!

  • Avatar of Alvin Gentin

    Alvin Gentin19 June at 06:31 am

    Yes I know you have a difficult job here and sometimes you don’t put through my posts, but I feel that I have to expose as much as I can about the threat we face. My grandparents spoke about it, I didn’t believe I would face similar threats. Great group and great job Kevin

  • Avatar of Vera Dunn

    Vera Dunn19 June at 01:27 am

    Indeed, thank you so much for establishing the group and for all your time, hard work and common sense in administration. I have found comfort and connections.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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