Rachel Finston is outraged by anti-Semitism and annoyed by the misrepresentation of Jews in the media and in literature. In response, she created a YouTube channel, “Chamber of Spoilers.” Finston, 25, also works at the Cleveland Park Library and is pursuing a master’s degree in library and information science.
Can you speak a little bit about “Chamber of Spoilers?”
It initially was going to be a book review-type thing, but I also realized it would be a really good venue for my angst about Jewish representation online and how little seemed to be available to me in terms of that. I’ve been a YouTube fan since I was a kid and there are Jewish YouTubers, but there are not a lot of YouTubers that speak on Jewish issues or have a priority on Jewish issues and I thought that seemed like an oversight. There is a lack of information for people who don’t know much about stuff that isn’t stereotypes, and I found that if a real Jewish person is sitting there talking to people, they’re more likely to listen.
I also got into it because I realized that if somebody wasn’t making the content I wanted, I could make it and I thought that was cool. I was so starved for representation as a kid. Kids these days are really lucky to have so many shows to watch. There was always a Chanukah throwaway in a TV show, and of course if there’s representation she’s white and she’s tiny and only mentions being Jewish once a year. I just wanted to make space for there to be a conversation about this.
How do you come up with ideas for videos?
For a lot of them, it’s just what has made me angry this week. I feel like there’s a lot of things to be angry about when it comes to what people are saying about Jews, what Jews are saying about each other. A lot of my videos are about creators who have been anti-Semitic or just anti-Semitism being spewed on a large platform. My process is: Get annoyed about something, read a lot more about it, watch a bunch of videos about it, write an entry-level script and then film.
What do you try to focus on as a librarian?
One of my main goals in my profession is freedom of information and information literacy. One of the huge problems in the world is an enormous amount of information available and people not checking to see if it’s accurate before making points. I want to help people see what is real information, what is not reliable. I’ve had a lot of debates about what’s appropriate for age groups and demographics, but I think having everything available is really important. I find certain books to be objectionable personally but I’m not going to tell anybody not to read them because it’s not my job to determine perceived value.
How do you connect to Judaism through books?
I have found that my reading is often informed by it. I found that it brings me a kinship to books that are centered in Judaism or have a Jewish vibe. There are books that I feel like are Jewish even if they’re not. I’ve always felt a really big connection to Jewish authors. It’s always inspired me to see writers out there doing the work and not having to conform to other people’s standards.
“Spinning Silver.” I think everyone should read it. Everyone Jewish should read it but everyone in the world should read it. Naomi Novik is a genius. Some books that I’ve read recently that I really loved are “Educated” by Tara Westover, which is a really interesting dive into a culture that I’m not familiar with, Mormonism.
I read so many books, sometimes I don’t even know where to start.