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June 14, 2012 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-06-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Haredi anti-Internet

rally at New York's

Citi Field on May 20

Why the ultra-Orthodox are correct about the dangers of the Internet.

W

criticizing the speakers for a shortsighted
hen I first heard that a rally
understanding of technology, I explained
was planned for haredi (ultra-
that these haredi leaders are correct. And
Orthodox) Jews to protest the
they are. The Internet most certainly jeop-
Internet, I didn't think it would attract
ardizes their way of life. The Internet will
much attention. After all, the Internet has
cause haredi Jews to sin and will tear away
long been under attack in haredi com-
at the fabric of their modest lives.
munities, and their rabbinic leaders have
The way the haredi communi-
forbidden it in the past.
The event on May 20 at Citi Field in New ties have maintained such strict
adherence to their understand-
York (home of the Mets) drew a massive
ing of religious life is by erecting
audience of more than 40,000 men, with
an overflow crowd tuning in to a live video borders to protect themselves
feed at the neighboring Arthur Ashe tennis from outside influences. Within
a controlled, ghettoized environ-
stadium. Women were not allowed entry
to the event, but many viewed it, ironically ment, self-control is not required
as much as it is in a free and
enough, on the Internet through a live
open society. The Internet virtu-
stream broadcast.
ally removes the ghetto walls
The speeches, mostly made in Yiddish
and nullifies the borders of the
with English subtitles on the stadium's
haredi neighborhoods. Thus, the
large video screen, condemned the
perils of the Internet are real to
Internet and warned that its impure con-
this community.
tent poses a serious threat to the haredi
Many assume that when
lifestyle and the modesty that the Torah
Haredi leaders speak of the threat of
demands.
the Internet to their adherents, they are
The day after the rally I was contacted
by Ben Sales, a reporter for JTA. He wanted referring to pornographic content. I don't
my opinion of the event and a quote about believe this is the case. The haredi com-
munity is well versed on the availability
how I understand the role of the Internet
of content filters that will sift out such
in Jewish life. My sense is that he pre-
sumed I would criticize the rally's organiz- immodest material. In fact, most of the
speakers at the rally forbid their followers
ing group for not realizing the gift of the
from browsing the Web without a filter for
Internet or how it has improved our lives.
Rather than disapproving of the rally or inappropriate sites.

8 June 14 • 2012

iN

Filters take care of removing indecent
photos of a sexual nature and images of
immodestly dressed women. What an
Internet filter will not remove for the hare-
di Web surfers, however, is other mate-
rial their leaders consider to be explicit.
Content that challenges their core beliefs
and structured way of life are
of most concern to the rally's
organizers. If haredi Jews
cannot exert the self-control
needed to avoid content of an
immodest nature, they can
rely on the filters. However,
they will still be subjected
to "intellectual porn" — the
thoughts and opinions of
Jewish scholars that will chal-
lenge their thinking.
Scantily clad women can
be seen by haredi Jewish
men on their way to Queens
when they look at billboards
on the side of the highway or magazine
covers on sidewalk newsstands. However,
Torah commentary written by modern
Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rab-
bis is only accessible to them through
an unfiltered and unmonitored Internet.
Blog posts, op-eds and doctoral theses are
the pernicious enemies that scare haredi
leaders most about the Internet. Viewing
pornographic imagery may lead haredi

disciples to sin, but unfiltered use of the
Internet leads them to virtually leave their
isolated community and could cause them
to go off the path, venturing outside of
their real-life community as well.
Most of the haredi critics of the Internet
recognize that the Internet is necessary
in today's world and cannot be banned
entirely. The speakers at the Citi Field
rally readily admitted that both men and
women in their communities rely on the
Internet and other forms of modern tech-
nology for business as well as for personal
use (banking, shopping and as a medical
resource).
The real threat of the Internet to the
insular haredi communities is that the
Internet quashes the walls to the outside
world that they have so steadfastly erected
over the generations. The free flow of
information that could undermine the
haredi way of life is the real concern. In
that sense, the Internet certainly poses an
ever-present danger. It will be interesting
to see the effects of the Internet on this
community in the coming years. ❑

Rabbi Jason Miller, a local Jewish leader and

entrepreneur, is president of Access Computer
Technology in West Bloomfield. He blogs for

the Huffington Post and the Jewish Week, as
well as his personal blog http://blog.rabbijason.
com . Follow him on Twitter @rabbijason.

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