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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ban Alert

Jewish Press:

The Internet And The Observant Community

More than 120 rabbis, dayanim, heads of yeshivos and principals of girls schools in Boro Park and Flatbush, met on Sunday, Asarah B’Teves, December 31, to implement a takanah to counteract the sakanah (danger) of the Internet. The meeting was called for by Rabbi Yosef Rosenbloom, Rosh Yeshiva, Shaarei Yosher; Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, Karlsburger Rav; Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, Novominsker Rebbe; and Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, Mashgiach, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath.

The attendees were advised of the steps the observant communities of Lakewood, Monsey, and Skver (Spring Valley) have successfully taken to stem the influence of the Internet. Rabbi Moshe Greenfeld, chairman of the Monsey effort, described the unity of Monsey’s Torah institutions in their campaign.

Rabbi Yitzchok Mermelstein, menahel of Yeshiva Imrei Chaim Vishnitz, shared that the parents of the more than 2,000 pupils in the yeshiva have committed themselves to be part of the shield of protection guarding the community against the Internet.

The Karlsburger Rav reviewed the 60-page directives that were distributed to the meeting’s participants. The Rav elaborated on several of the key steps that are being taken and must be strengthened.

The Novominsker Rebbe recalled that American Jewish history was replete with battles to protect Shabbos, kashrus, Taharas HaMishpachah, all of which are proudly adhered to in observant Jewish America today. However, the Rebbe stressed, the threat of the Internet is greater than all the previous perils combined.

Rabbi Moshe Green, Rosh Yeshiva in Monsey, described the Internet as destroying the religious character of those who trespass there. Rabbi Nochum Gotlieb, menahel, Yeshiva Bais HaTorah in Lakewood, described the necessity of always being on guard. Any child, he reported, can purchase an Internet access device for a mere few dollars and connect any computer to the Internet within seconds. Lakewood, as a yeshivish community, has achieved the greatest success to date, in the battle against the Internet.

Internet Usage Within The Community

Several meetings of rabbis have been called throughout the years to review the threat of the Internet and its inroads into the observant community. At an Agudah meeting of rabbis in September 2003, a report of Internet usage within observant communities was given. Surprisingly, in Boro Park, Flatbush, and Williamsburg, more than 90 percent of the homes in each community had Internet access.

Rabbi Yoel Steinberg of Boro Park notes that usage trends can be tracked. For instance, Google automatically compiles request usages and their origins. For example, should one wish to see how many people are searching for information regarding Satmar, a popular chassidic topic, Google will have that information instantly available at http://www.google.com/trends?q=satmar.

Presumably in response to general news coverage, spikes of interest regarding Satmar are found in 2005 and 2006. Not surprisingly, a large number of those inquiries were registered in New York City. However, most startlingly, the greatest spike was found to have come from Monroe, home of Kiryas Yoel.

The third largest spike came from the Petach Tikva area in Israel, where Bnei Brak is located. These are just small indicators of the widespread use (but not necessarily abuse) of the Internet within observant communities worldwide.

Hat Tip: Hirhurim

Two notes:

1. "Lakewood, as a yeshivish community, has achieved the greatest success to date, in the battle against the Internet". I submit success should be measured by Noshrim (at risk) statistics. Lakewood has the worst.

2. Hyperbole Alert?
  • 60 pages
  • "the threat of the Internet is greater than all the previous perils (Shabbos, kashrus, Taharas HaMishpachah) combined"

20 Comments:

Anonymous Yisroel said...

Leapa,

Great post !! Keep in mind that kids from the lakewood, monsey and skver communities can and do visit their grandparents. Many of them have the internet. When my chosuve son and his family visits us from lakewood, he can't wait to surf the net.

Will they start disallowing children from visiting their grandparents ??

Also, many of the adults from these derfelech when at their work surf the net.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Need Internet Access 4work said...

The Jan.2007 / Teves 5767 issue of "Inside Track: Agudath Israel of America Special Report - No. 36" has, on the last page an item headlined "New Daf Yomi Calendar" and the last sentence reads:

"To obtain a calendar, e-mail torahprojects@agudathisrael.org or fax 646-254-1600."

Internet yes, fax yes, plain old American telephone no?

Better yet, yhy can't I just go to a web site and print out the calendar?

10:38 PM  
Blogger TheProf said...

I will again voice my support of this blog's underlying theme, that the internet should not be placed under a total ban, something that roiv tzibbur einom yicholim laamod, but rather a strong effort be made to educate all levels and ages of our various worldwide communities as to the pitfalls and dangers of the internet and the importance of not falling into the corrupt aspects of the internet. And in establishing a network of educational meetings and seminars, there is the very strong need to coordinate this effort with all of klal yisroel. That means having any tzibur that calls itself orthodox included in this effort. That means having yeshivish, chasidish, ultra modern, medium modern, real modern, neo-modern, et al in each community meet and coordinate their efforts. Hinei mah tov umah noim sheves achim gam yachad if this would happen. Although I won't hold my breath. This is a theme that has been posited here many times, that the answer to the dangers of the internet is not in assuring its usage but rather in educating the community about the dangers and how to avoid them. It's nice to see achdus among the ultra orthodox yeshivish/chasidish circles but how about bringing in the rest of orthodox jewry? (cringe, i'm waiting for the stones)

9:19 AM  
Blogger TheProf said...

Copied from an article:

Jeff Diamant reports on a New Jersey Orthodox Jewish community's ban on the Internet for kids: Like so many Americans, Mesh Gelman relies on the Internet for work. But in a move that's likely to complicate his business in international trade, the Lakewood, N.J., man plans to unplug his home computer from the wired world, shutting out all that's good -- and bad -- about the Web. Gelman's reasoning is simple: His religious leaders have told him to do so. The father of four is a member of Lakewood's tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community, whose leaders have declared that Internet access should be removed from homes with school-age children to better protect them from the bounty of sexual images online. It is more than a suggestion. The community's policy -- formed with the principals of the area's 43 yeshivas, or Jewish private schools, and unveiled in late September -- decrees that any student with home access faces suspension or expulsion on the grounds that even one Internet-corrupted student could sway others.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous david said...

What is your evidence that Lakewood has the worst at-risk statisics?

12:55 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

David:

Anecdotal, from 'at risk' professionals and mechanchim.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous david said...

Leapa,
That's the problem in taking these statements as facts. I would put more credence to these statistics if there was even a rudimentary analysis in the number of at-risks vs. number of people in the population vs. the rate of increase in the population.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Leapa said...

You are right. Now, where do I find those stats?

Otherwise, we use what we have.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous deerson said...

thats totally irresponsible how can you base anything on worthless antedotal impressions. better to do nothing and say nothing than use bogus information.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

Deerson: Using data based on observations of community mechanchim is 'totally irresponsible'?

I thought that is what a responsible chareidi does.

Aren't we supposed to take mechanchim seriously?

Moreover, do you or David have any contradictory evidence>

10:31 PM  
Blogger Moshe Y. Gluck said...

The spike in Kiryas yoel doesn't mean much, because the graph in Google is normalized to reflect the ratio of that search term relative to the total number of searches. Since there are so few people in Kiryas Yoel using the internet, a relatively small amount of users made the spike. In other words, if there were 10,000 searches total from Kiryas Yoel in 2006, and 1000 of those were for the word "Satmar" it will rank much higher than New York City with 100,000 searches for "Satmar" out of a total 100,000,000 searches.

2:24 AM  
Anonymous deerson said...

yes the mechanchim may have an educated guess but it boils down to a guess. i doubt rather highly whether these mechanchim did a national in depth analysis of the problem of frum jewish kids at risk. My hunch is that this data is a few Rebbeim who were shmuzing off the record. I am leery of your elevating the actual reality of a given situation on the ground by using catch phrases that give a false impression to the reader. The word data is a step away from the word facts. of course you can slink away and claim this was just raw data without any real substance. The damage was done by relying upon poor source material which is totally non proffessional. oh but i forgot this is a blog and therefore you are allowed to do anything without consequence.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

How about the mechanchim that are reporting what they see? If they say their observation is the Lakewood has a high at-risk occurance, do they face any more consequences than the 'irresponsible' blogger?

For that matter, how about national speakers? What are their consequences if they use a bit of hyperbole here and a little false minimizing there?

8:59 PM  
Anonymous deerson said...

sorry leapa you can hide behind other people who are thin on credibility you are still sticking out from behind the background. you have a readership of 112 hits a day. i don't think you can compare yourself to mechanchim whose personal statements might have been taken out of context or never meant to be used as a quoted source. and concerning the national leaders who minimize the situation, who exactly are you taking pot shots at this time. if you have an axe to grind against on chinuch issues. a blog is the last place to make a constuctive contribution to the problem of children at risk.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

Blogs have achieved results, both in our community, and in the broader one. I post about this regularly (see below).

As far as context, Leapa's credibility is important to him, and you definitely have the right to disagree and argue. That's why I leave your posts up.

9:23 AM  
Blogger TheProf said...

It seems that the term "data" may have a different meaning depending on who it is that is accumulating and reporting the "data". If some shiksa reporter working for the NY Times et al interviews 8 mechanchim from 8 yeshivas and reports her findings as "data", the world accepts it as such. If Leapa, who I know for a fact, has daily interaction with several mechanchim from different yeshivas, reports his anecdotal "data" as such, why isn't that accepted with the same attitude as any other reporting? Do we have a double standard in believability because the secular media has "credibility"?

3:43 PM  
Anonymous deerson said...

Prof

what does your personal relationship with Leapa have any relevance to a discussion on credible source material as basis for indicting an entire community and its educational policies. This type of issue needs an in depth analysis to address the issue. Real research with real statistics
something not to be found in the new york times or any newspaper. its called intellectual integrity.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

Deerson, did the 'banners' of Lakewood approach the internet with the same intellectual integrity or statistical rigor you demand? I would certainly like to see their comparative data.

In fact, when and on what problems does our community use a rigorous intellectual approach to problems? There are many high decibel speeches during which I silently ask "can I see your data, please?".

9:56 PM  
Blogger TheProf said...

Deerson, do you have any rational reason for never reading the entire content of my posts? Are you so closed minded that you refuse to address issues correctly. I brought my personal relationship with Leapa only to say that his collection of data has as much integrity as the average secular media reporter who collects data the exact same way as Leapa and the world take the data as having the intellectual integrity you desire. And if you do recollect my various posts you'll see that my personal relationship with Leapa has never precluded me of sharp disagreement. I think us in academia call that intellectual integrity.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous deerson said...

prof

if you are part of academia surely you should appreciate the difference between true scholarship which has substance and the daily media. i would think Leapa would want to have a higher standard than the daily media.

ps chill out

9:15 PM  

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