Jordana Cutler: An Interview with Facebook’s Head of Policy for Israel and the Jewish Diaspora
KOL: Please give us a bit of background about yourself – what brought you to where you are today both in life and career?
CUTLER: I grew up in a traditional Jewish home and was privileged to attend a Jewish Day School. My parents always impressed on me the importance of supporting Israel. I developed a real love for Israel and decided that I was going to make Aliyah in 2007. My father used to tell me that I needed a plan for my Aliyah and so I went to study at Hebrew University. As my passion had always been in politics, I started working on a political campaign which brought me into a government position. While this was an amazing opportunity, I was excited to move into the tech sector and was very lucky to have been hired as the first policy lead for Facebook on the ground in Israel.
KOL: As a successful woman in a very male orientated world, have you had to make any sacrifices to be where you are, and what advice would you give to women who would like to develop a career as well?
CUTLER: I think we all make sacrifices to develop our careers, but as a woman in the world of politics you have to have a lot of self-confidence because people are constantly questioning you and challenging you. This is even harder when you are under 40 because younger women face much more scrutiny than a male counterpart at the same age. I was very lucky to have a mentor in Ambassador Ron Dermer when I started my career. He never once related to my gender or age but only my ideas and the value that I brought to the workplace. It’s really important to have a good mentor at the start of your career and I would tell any woman to find a mentor to help guide them. A male ally can help give you the confidence and the boost to succeed in a world where men still dominate.
KOL: What challenges have you had to overcome personally in order to get to your position today?
CUTLER: As I am sure many women can relate, the balance of being a working mother is a constant struggle. My whole family lives in the US so making Aliyah and raising children in Israel without that support is a challenge. My husband has been an incredible source of strength to me, constantly pushing me, finding opportunities to me to grow and supporting what we need at home. Without this I don’t think I would have been able to focus on my career, which is something that I love and makes me incredibly proud.
KOL: Social media has gone through a bit of a rough patch when it comes to anti-Semitism at the moment. What policies have Facebook and Instagram taken to battle this problem?
CUTLER: Jews today are sadly being targeted and attacked in record numbers, and the harassment and discrimination many Jews are experiencing offline is often equally acute online. While I can’t speak for all social media platforms, Facebook does have an important role to play in helping combat this hatred on our platforms and to set an example for other platforms. We take this responsibility very seriously. We work closely with Jewish organizations to hear concerns and get new ideas – it was this collaboration that helped us launch a updated hate speech policy where we will now remove more implicit hate speech, including stereotypes about Jewish people as a collective controlling the media, economy, or government.
KOL: Since you’re based in Israel, and we know that the policy makers have been in the Knesset recently. Is there anything you can tell us about this experience?
CUTLER: As someone who works closely with the government and Knesset members in Israel, it is exciting to get back to work after so many election cycles. I have an opportunity to discuss key issues with policymakers who are new to politics, while expanding relationships with politicians who are now serving in new positions. It is exciting to find opportunities to work with politicians to help strengthen small businesses in Israel who have been so badly hurt by COVID, just as businesses have been impacted around the world. One of our goals in Israel is to help businesses go digital and continue growing despite the lack of in-person traffic to shops. This is something that we could do alone, but it is much more impactful with the support of the government and it is exciting to discuss this in my meetings with Israeli policymakers.
Photo Credit: Jordana Cutler