Haredim vs. Internet

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews Rally Against Internet

 If Al Gore actually had invented the Internet, as he once claimed, he would be the least popular guy in any ultra-Orthodox neighborhood today. It is clear that the fervently Orthodox Jewish leaders despise the Internet and technology because they’re willing to spend over $1.5 million in a rally against the Internet next month in Queens, New York.
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Ever since the Web became popular in the mid-1990s, the Ultra-Orthodox community has railed against it. Ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim consider the Internet as threatening to their strict way of life. They believe it promotes the ills of society and has the force to steer its devout members off the path of strict religious observance.
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In the past, some ultra-Orthodox rabbis have attempted to issue a complete ban on Internet use for their members. In some cases their rulings were motivated by the easy availability of pornography on the Web. In other cases rabbis have forbidden Internet use because they consider it a secular act with secular content that will contaminate their communities. Most Haredi rabbis don’t consider the educational advantages of the Internet and tell their students that using technology is a bitul z’man — a waste of time that could be used for religious study.Many Haredi yeshiva leaders have condemned Internet use in sermons and some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods display posters in the streets promoting the Internet ban. Over the years, there have been attempts in the ultra-Orthodox world to create an alternative Internet so that Haredi adherents could use email and use the Web for religious matters like booking a flight to Israel or purchasing a book.  Special “kosher” search engines and web portals, like Koogle, have come and gone over the years in efforts to offer safe Web surfing to pious Jews in Haredi communities.

The Jewish Daily News today reported that tens of thousands of participants will take part in a huge rally on May 20 (Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan) “in order to combat the evils of the Internet and damage of advanced devices.” Presumably by “devices” they mean mobile technology like smartphones and tablets. A rally organizer told the Jewish Daily News that the rally will be the largest in the history of Orthodox Jewry in the United States. While it was originally reported that the rally will be held in Shea Stadium, the organizers quickly corrected that as the New York Mets’ former ballpark doesn’t exist anymore. The former site of Shea Stadium is now the parking lot for the new Citi Field.

While there’s just no telling just how many ultra-Orthodox Jews will actually show up at the May 20th rally against the Internet and technology, it is a safe bet that the event won’t be live tweeted or depicted with Instagram photos — at least not by the very people rallying against such technologies. Personally I can’t imagine how the organizers will ever begin to promote an event of this magnitude without the help of Facebook or other social networks… or how those wishing to attend the rally will find it without the help of Mapquest or Google Maps!

The website JDN cites one of the event organizers who said: “This will be a mass rally never before seen in the history of  Orthodox Jewry in the U.S. It will be a gathering of  unity of all the Jews living in the U.S., a gathering to disseminate information and a prayer rally for the success of Klal-Israel’s war on the Technology which threatens the sanctity of the homes of Israel.”

The “Gdolei Israel” (leading sages) behind the conference have specifically ordered to schedule it for the eve of Rosh Chodesh Sivan, a day which is considered particularly fortuitous when it comes to children’s education, since the goal of their campaign is to save the generation from the ravages of advanced technology.

The following has been published in the Haredi press, regarding the upcoming event:

A Letter from our Masters the Great Men of Israel Shlita In Preparation for the International Conference in the U.S. Against the Scourge of Technology

It is well known that in recent times through the Internet many serious family-related problems have been created, and it all happens because of it, and something must be done so they won’t be hurt. And since this touches almost everyone, we must assemble together to protect and be protected, and we hope that through this gathering in search of ideas we will be helped from Heaven to save the many, and may it be that we will be successful in encouraging the public not to stumble over this obstacle, and the Lord will guide us in a truthful path. And note that sometimes the suspension of Torah is the very way in which it must be kept.

The letter is signed by Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, Dean of Ponovezh Litze’irim; Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a highly regarded Bnei-Brak posek; and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, Chairman of the rabbinical court of Bnei Brak.

According to JDN, the event’s production costs of some $1.5 million were raised from private philanthropists. (via The Jewish Press)

Photo: Wikipedia
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