It’s Not News Unless It’s Jews News
Shalom Life speaks with founder of most popular Jewish Facebook fan page
Millions of Jewish people across the world are by now familiar with Jews News, a popular Facebook page that has rapidly risen to prominence during the past eight months.
Founded by Eliyokim Cohen in 2010, the fan page really took off this January when it had around 8,000 likes at the time. Today, it surpassed 300,000 fans, making it by far the largest Jewish-themed page on Facebook.
“I never really put much effort into it until this January when I realized how much potential it had. Then I just sort of started spending all my time on it and now we started putting a lot of money into it through Facebook ads,” Cohen told Shalom Life in an exclusive interview from Israel. “My goal is to have the biggest Jewish Facebook page in the world and to unite the Jewish people. We’re very fractured right now and you see that most clearly in Israel.”
Originally from Boston, Mass., Cohen says he grew up non-observant but still had a “typical Jewish upbringing.” He attended Hebrew school on Sundays and says he always loved Israel, although never fully understood what it meant to be Jewish.
“I just thought it was like any other thing, sort of like a hobby,” he said.
While living in the U.S., Cohen attended college at the University of Georgia. Later in his life, he found himself in trouble with drug addiction for seven to eight years and in 2008 was caught in a high-speed car chase from the police.
Cohen spent some time in prison and decided to make some life changes once he was released. He began learning Torah with a rabbi and soon became observant. After also attending yeshiva, he opted to move to Israel.
“When you’re starting Judaism from scratch, you realize that everything about Judaism revolves around Israel. To live in New York or to live in Atlanta didn’t make any sense to me so I wanted to go to the place that makes the most sense as a Jew,” Cohen says.
He has now lived in the settlement of Shiloh, located about a half hour north of Jerusalem, for two years. Cohen now dedicates much of his time toward his goal of uniting Jewish people around the world.
“Ever since I became observant, I wanted to bring Judaism to people that grew up like me. I always loved being Jewish but never knew why. Everyone’s on Facebook, so I wanted to try and find a way to get Jews together, get them discussing things, and share things with them that they’ve never seen before or I thought were interesting, so I started [the page].”
Cohen posts articles and photos related to Judaism on the page all day long, often every hour or so. Once it gets too late in Israel for him to post, Cohen’s friend in California takes over the page for the next four to seven hours.
There are currently over 200,000 people “talking about” Jews News, according to Facebook, and its weekly reach is 7,000,000 per week. The total reach is close to 80,000,000 says Cohen, the largest of any Jewish page.
Future plans include the launching of a website following the holiday of sukkot in early October. Jews News has also partnered up with Aliyah Magazine, an Israel-based outlet aimed at breaking some of the common stereotypes regarding Israeli life and culture within the Diaspora.
Given the efforts he is putting into the page and its current numbers, Cohen expects to hit 1,000,000 likes in the coming months.
In addition to political commentary and religious messages, Cohen is known to share humourous images on his page, often featuring adorable animals and food art.
“I started realizing that if you post pictures, those are things that people look at the most and share the most. They can just look at a picture, which is brainless,” he says. “It takes two seconds. It just sort of snowballed from there. I want to give everybody something they can find interesting from the page.”