Meet the Pro-Israel Pups of Instagram
Like many Jews since October 7, my Instagram feed has been full of blue and white in support of Israel. I’ve seen photos of solo Israeli flags and of pro-Israel rallies packed with people waving flags. There have been pictures of signs reading “Bring Them Home”—and, now, some with “Welcome Home.” And I’ve “hearted” endless images of long tables with white cloths and surrounded by empty chairs, representing the some 240 men, women and children who were taken hostage. The hashtags accompanying the images include #istandwithisrael and #amyisraelchai.
But the difference between my Instagram feed and those of most people is that in mine, almost every photo features a dog. A dog in a bowtie or wearing a bandana with a Magen David, sitting in front of an Israeli flag or with a small flag in their mouth. A dog in a blue-and-white vest being held at a rally. Another parked in front of a Shabbat table ringed with empty chairs. Special hashtags for these posts include #barkforisrael and #dogsforisrael.
In early 2022, soon after I started the Mazel Pups Facebook Group for people who are Jewish or Jew-ish—however they define it—who love dogs, I created the companion @mazelpups account on Instagram in order to share pictures of dogs “being Jewish.” (I also run the website mazelpups.com.). It turns out, there are many “Jewish” dogs on Instagram—that is, dogs with Jewish parents (none of whom would dare say “owner,” there’s no question that our dogs are part of our families).
“Pawrents,” as they sometimes refer to themselves, generally post photos of their pups going about their daily lives. But sometimes, they pose their dogs in front of Shabbat candles or wearing a kippah, or perhaps next to apples and honey and a round challah for Rosh Hashanah. Some photos even depict pooches celebrating a bark mitzvah.
And, since Hamas’s terror attacks of October 7, many of these Instagram accounts have used their dogs to express their support for Israel.
Two days after the brutal assault in the south of Israel, the Instagram account of Shayna Maydele, a New York City-based Coton de Tulear, which regularly features the dog celebrating Shabbat and Jewish holidays, featured a video of the pup attending a local pro-Israel rally. On October 11, her mom, Heidi Silverstone, posted a picture of Shayna Maydele—whose name is a classic Yiddish endearment meaning “beautiful girl”—wearing a kippah and standing next to a vase with Israeli flags.
“The flags show my Jewish-Israel pride, and the expression on Shayna Maydele’s face shows how we are all feeling,” Silverstone told me. “She is wearing a kippah from the bar mitzvah of a friend of the family, someone currently serving in the IDF.”
Silverstone has gone on to share a number of posts of Shayna Maydele’s continued support for Israel, including a video on November 14 of her watching the March for Israel gathering in Washington, D.C., accompanied by the message “since fluffy dogs were not allowed at the rally.”
Shayna Maydele is in adorable company, as a litter-ful of other dogs are likewise demonstrating their Zionism on Instagram. Standout accounts include Shaylee Rose, a toy Aussiedoodle who has been snapped in front of a Magen David and with signs for the hostages that read “Bring Them Home”; Sprinkles, a dachshund whose mom has posted several pro-Israel images including one of the dog in front of Shabbat candles along with the request “to please light candles for those who are in captivity and cannot light candles themselves.” Sprinkles is followed by a legion of fans—more than 47.6K.
There is also Curtis, a Cavapoo whose post soon after the attacks showed him wearing an Israel Defense Forces T-shirt; Zion, a Pekingese from Brazil who was pictured proudly donning an Israeli soldier’s cap; Emerald (“Emmy”), a chiweenie—that’s a Chihuahua-dachshund mix—who, in one photo, is holding an Israeli flag in her mouth, followed by another image featuring a prayer for Israel; and Berra, a rescue Lhasapoo—a Llhasa Apso and poodle mix—whose account has featured several pictures of him and his mom, Joely, publicly supporting Israel, including at a gathering at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
And then there’s Cooper, the extremely talented and well-trained Australian Shepherd living in northern Israel whose posts have gone viral and who now has more than 18.8K followers. On November 10, Cooper, standing in front of an Israeli flag, uses his snout to turn over two pieces of cardboard. The first reads “Bring” and the second “Them.” Cooper then retrieves a third cardboard sign reading “Home.” In a follow-up video posted November 25, Cooper, in front of the same Israeli flag, lays with a sad face on a scooter with a sign that reads, “Why is he not Home yet” (referring to the children who are hostages).
Not everyone is thrilled with these dogs’ support for Israel. Several dog parents report losing followers after posting images of their pets alongside pro-Israel messaging. Silverstone noted that after she started to post content advocating for Israel, more than 1,200 people stopped following Shayna Maydele’s account, which is now followed by more than 18.3K fans.
“I’m not upset that her numbers went down,” Silverstone said. “I’m upset why her numbers went down. Clearly it was antisemitism. I also received vile comments on the posts about Israel. I delete the comments and block the users. There is no room for hate on her Instagram page.”
Is there anything to be gained from people using their dogs’ Instagram accounts to show their support for Israel? My answer is yes. These dogs’ feeds provide yet another means of pro-Zionist expression—albeit a lighthearted one—and connection for people who care about Israel and who are concerned about the increasing amount of antisemitism in the world.
After all, the dogs may not know what’s going on, but their parents do, and that fills me with a sense of hope and pride. Am Yisrael Chai—the people, and dogs, of Israel live. We will survive. And we will thrive.
Rabbi Robyn Frisch is the director of the Rukin Rabbinic Fellowship for 18Doors as well as the spiritual leader of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in Philadelphia. She’s the mom of two rescue dogs who inspired her to create Mazel Pups on Facebook and Instagram as well as the website mazelpups.com.