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Monday, May 14, 2012

Had To Come Out!

To comment on the Internet Asifa!

1.  Where were they when everyone was busy prohibiting it 6-10 years ago?  How many were lost/damaged by the neglect?
2.  The fact that they are sold out of tickets shows the need that always existed but was ignored.  See our first post.  (Your loyal blogger can't get a ticket!)
3.  Why did they close the Expo? It is the most useful part!  Much more important than the drushos.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Worth Reading


Monday, May 30, 2011

Maybe We Can Lease It in BP?

Censorship Inc.

Iran Vows to Unplug Internet

[IRANNET] Andres Gonzalez for The Wall Street Journal

An Iranian engineer who helped design and run the country's Internet filters says he subtly undermined some censorship until fleeing into exile

Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship: a so-called national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world.

The leadership in Iran sees the project as a way to end the fight for control of the Internet, according to observers of Iranian policy inside and outside the country. Iran, already among the most sophisticated nations in online censoring, also promotes its national Internet as a cost-saving measure for consumers and as a way to uphold Islamic moral codes.

In February, as pro-democracy protests spread rapidly across the Middle East and North Africa, Reza Bagheri Asl, director of the telecommunication ministry's research institute, told an Iranian news agency that soon 60% of the nation's homes and businesses would be on the new, internal network. Within two years it would extend to the entire country, he said.


The unusual initiative appears part of a broader effort to confront what the regime now considers a major threat: an online invasion of Western ideas, culture and influence, primarily originating from the U.S. In recent speeches, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials have called this emerging conflict the "soft war."

On Friday, new reports emerged in the local press that Iran also intends to roll out its own computer operating system in coming months to replace Microsoft Corp.'s Windows. The development, which couldn't be independently confirmed, was attributed to Reza Taghipour, Iran's communication minister.

Iran's national Internet will be "a genuinely halal network, aimed at Muslims on an ethical and moral level," Ali Aghamohammadi, Iran's head of economic affairs, said recently according to a state-run news service. Halal means compliant with Islamic law.

Mr. Aghamohammadi said the new network would at first operate in parallel to the normal Internet—banks, government ministries and large companies would continue to have access to the regular Internet. Eventually, he said, the national network could replace the global Internet in Iran, as well as in other Muslim countries.

A spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations declined to comment further, saying the matter is a "technical question about the scientific progress of the country."

There are many obstacles. Even for a country isolated economically from the West by sanctions, the Internet is an important business tool. Limiting access could hinder investment from Russia, China and other trading partners. There's also the matter of having the expertise and resources for creating Iranian equivalents of popular search engines and websites, like Google.

Few think that Iran could completely cut its links to the wider Internet. But it could move toward a dual-Internet structure used in a few other countries with repressive regimes.

Myanmar said last October that public Internet connections would run through a separate system controlled and monitored by a new government company, accessing theoretically just Myanmar content. It's introducing alternatives to popular websites including an email service, called Ymail, as a replacement for Google Inc.'s Gmail.

Cuba, too, has what amounts to two Internets—one that connects to the outside world for tourists and government officials, and the other a closed and monitored network, with limited access, for public use. North Korea is taking its first tentative steps into cyberspace with a similar dual network, though with far fewer people on a much more rudimentary system.

Iran has a developed Internet culture, and blogs play a prominent role—even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has one.

Though estimates vary, about 11 of every 100 Iranians are online, according to the International Telecommunication Union, among the highest percentages among comparable countries in the region. Because of this, during the protests following 2009's controversial presidential election, the world was able to follow events on the ground nearly live, through video and images circulated on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.

"It might not be possible to cut off Iran and put it in a box," said Fred Petrossian, who fled Iran in the 1990s and is now online editor of Radio Farda, which is Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Iranian news service. "But it's what they're working on."

The discovery last year of the sophisticated "Stuxnet" computer worm that apparently disrupted Iran's nuclear program has added urgency to the Internet initiative, Iran watchers say. Iran believes the Stuxnet attack was orchestrated by Israel and the U.S.

"The regime no longer fears a physical attack from the West," said Mahmood Enayat, director of the Iran media program at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communications. "It still thinks the West wants to take over Iran, but through the Internet."

The U.S. State Department's funding of tools to circumvent Internet censorship, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent speeches advocating Internet freedom, have reinforced Iran's perceptions, these people said.

Iran got connected to the Internet in the early 1990s, making it the first Muslim nation in the Middle East online, and the second in the region behind Israel. Young, educated and largely centered in cities, Iranians embraced the new technology.

Authorities first encouraged Internet use, seeing it as a way to spread Islamic and revolutionary ideology and to support science and technology research. Hundreds of private Internet service providers emerged. Nearly all of them connected through Data Communications Iran, or DCI, the Internet arm of the state telecommunications monopoly.

The mood changed in the late 1990s, when Islamic hardliners pushed back against the more open policies of then-president Mohammad Khatami. The subsequent shuttering of dozens of so-called reformist newspapers had the unintended effect of triggering the explosion of the Iranian blogosphere. Journalists who had lost their jobs went online. Readers followed.

Authorities struck back. In 2003, officials announced plans to block more than 15,000 websites, according to a report by the OpenNet Initiative, a collaboration of several Western universities. The regime began arresting bloggers.

Iran tried to shore up its cyber defenses in other ways, including upgrading its filtering system, for the first time using only Iranian technology. Until around 2007, the country had relied on filtering gear from U.S. companies, obtained through third countries and sometimes involving pirated versions, including Secure Computing Corp.'s SmartFilter, as well as products from Juniper Networks Inc. and Fortinet Inc., according to Iranian engineers familiar with with the filtering.

Such products are designed primarily to combat malware and viruses, but can be used to block other things, such as websites. Iranian officials several years ago designed their own filtering system—based on what they learned from the illegally obtained U.S. products—so they could service and upgrade it on their own, according to the Iranian engineers.

A Fortinet spokesman said he was unaware of any company products in Iran, adding that the company doesn't sell to embargoed countries, nor do its resellers. McAfee Inc., which owns Secure Computing, said no contract or support was provided to Iran. Intel Corp. recently bought McAfee, which added that it can now disable its technology obtained by embargoed countries. A Juniper spokesman said the company has a "strict policy of compliance with U.S. export law," and hasn't sold products to Iran.

The notion of an Iran-only Internet emerged in 2005 when Mr. Ahmadinejad became president. Officials experimented with pilot programs using a closed network serving more than 3,000 Iranian public schools as well as 400 local offices of the education ministry.

The government in 2008 allocated $1 billion to continue building the needed infrastructure. "The national Internet will not limit access for users," Abdolmajid Riazi, then-deputy director of communication technology in the ministry of telecommunications, said of the project that year. "It will instead empower Iran and protect its society from cultural invasion and threats."

Iran's government has also argued that an Iranian Internet would be cheaper for users. Replacing international data traffic with domestic traffic could cut down on hefty international telecom costs.

The widespread violence following Iran's deeply divisive presidential election in June 2009 exposed the limits of Iran's Internet control—strengthening the case for replacing the normal Internet with a closed, domestic version. In one of the most dramatic moments of the crisis, video showing the apparent shooting death of a female student, Neda Agha-Soltan, circulated globally and nearly in real time.

More Censorship Inc.

Some of the holes in Iran's Internet security blanket were punched by sympathetic people working within it. According to one former engineer at DCI, the government Internet company, during the 2009 protests he would block some prohibited websites only partially—letting traffic through to the outside world.

Since the 2009 protests, the government has ratcheted up its online repression. "Countering the soft war is the main priority for us today," Mr. Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, said November 2009 in a speech to members of the Basij, a pro-government paramilitary volunteer group. "In a soft war the enemy tries to make use of advanced and cultural and communication tools to spread lies and rumors."

The Revolutionary Guard, a powerful branch of the Iranian security forces, has taken the lead in the virtual fight. In late 2009, the Guard acquired a majority stake of the state telecom monopoly that owns DCI. That put all of Iran's communications networks under Revolutionary Guard control.

The Guard has created a "Cyber Army" as part of an effort to train more than 250,000 computer hackers. It recently took credit for attacks on Western sites including Voice of America, the U.S. government-funded international broadcasting service. And at the telecom ministry, work has begun on a national search engine called "Ya Hagh," or "Oh, Justice," as a possible alternative to popular search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Et Tu, Hamodia?

March 12, 2009

As Cities Go From Two Papers to One, Talk of Zero

The history of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer stretches back more than two decades before Washington became a state, but after 146 years of publishing, the paper is expected to print its last issue next week, perhaps surviving only in a much smaller online version.

And it is not alone. The Rocky Mountain News shut down two weeks ago, and The Tucson Citizen is expected to fold next week.

At least Denver, Seattle and Tucson still have daily papers. But now, some economists and newspaper executives say it is only a matter of time — and probably not much time at that — before some major American city is left with no prominent local newspaper at all.

“In 2009 and 2010, all the two-newspaper markets will become one-newspaper markets, and you will start to see one-newspaper markets become no-newspaper markets,” said Mike Simonton, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, who analyzes the industry.

Many critics and competitors of newspapers — including online start-ups that have been hailed as the future of journalism — say that no one should welcome their demise.

“It would be a terrible thing for any city for the dominant paper to go under, because that’s who does the bulk of the serious reporting,” said Joel Kramer, former editor and publisher of The Star Tribune and now the editor and chief executive of MinnPost .com, an online news organization in Minneapolis.

“Places like us would spring up,” he said, “but they wouldn’t be nearly as big. We can tweak the papers and compete with them, but we can’t replace them.”

No one knows which will be the first big city without a large paper, but there are candidates all across the country. The Hearst Corporation, which owns The Post-Intelligencer, has also threatened to close The San Francisco Chronicle, which lost more than $1 million a week last year, unless it can wring significant savings from the operation.

In a tentative deal reached Tuesday night, the California Media Workers Guild agreed to less vacation time, longer workweeks and more flexibility for The Chronicle to make layoffs without regard to seniority. Union officials say they have been told to expect the elimination of at least 150 guild jobs, almost one-third of the total, and management is still trying to negotiate concessions from the Teamsters union.

Advance Publications said last fall that it might shut down The Star-Ledger, the dominant paper in New Jersey, but a set of cutbacks and union concessions kept the paper alive in much-downsized form.

The top papers in many markets, like The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New Haven Register, belong to companies that have gone into bankruptcy in the last three months.

The owners insist they have no intention of closing publications, but the management making those assurances may not be in charge when the companies emerge from reorganization.

Other publishers, like the Seattle Times Company and MediaNews Group, owner of The Denver Post, The San Jose Mercury News and The Detroit News, are seen as being at risk of bankruptcy. Many newspapers — from The Miami Herald to The Chicago Sun-Times — have been put up for sale, with no buyers on the horizon.

Ad revenue, the industry’s lifeblood, has dropped about 25 percent in the last two years (by comparison, automotive revenue for Detroit’s Big Three fell about 15 percent during the same period, although it has accelerated recently), and that slide, accelerated by the recession, shows no sign of leveling off in 2009.

Web sites like Craigslist have been to classified ads what the internal combustion engine was to horse-drawn buggies. The stock prices of most newspaper publishers have dropped more than 90 percent from their peaks.

And magnifying the problem, for many chains, is a heavy burden of debt that they took on, mostly in a spree of buying other newspapers from 2005 to 2007, just before the bottom dropped out of the business.

The Tribune Company, for instance, owner of The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and other papers, filed for bankruptcy in December, largely because of its debt load. The reality is that even though the economic climate is hard for newspapers, without their debt payments the publishers in bankruptcy would still make money, as do most newspapers around the country.

But profits are shrinking fast; taken together, major chains had an operating profit margin of about 10 percent in 2008, down from more than 20 percent as recently as 2004, according to research by John Morton, an independent analyst.

The recent closures and threatened closures point to an ominous new trend. For The Chronicle, The Rocky, The Star-Ledger, The Citizen and others, debt was never the problem and they belonged to solvent companies, but still they have been losing money.

Analysts say that many other major papers have also slid into red ink recently, including The Washington Post and The Boston Globe (which is owned by The New York Times Company).

The steady trickle of downsizing that sapped American papers for almost a decade has become a flood in the last few years. The Los Angeles Times still has one of the largest news staffs in the country, about 600 people, but it was twice as big in the late 1990s. The Washington Post had a newsroom of more than 900 six years ago, and has fewer than 700 now. The Gannett Company, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, eliminated more than 8,300 jobs in 2007 and 2008, or 22 percent of the total.

On Wednesday, The Miami Herald, once the celebrated flagship of the Knight Ridder chain, said it would trim an additional 19 percent of its already diminished staff.

Nearly every large paper in the country prints fewer pages and fewer articles, and many have eliminated entire sections. Bureaus in foreign capitals and even Washington have closed, and papers have jettisoned film criticism, book reviews and coverage of local news outside their home markets.

Many papers are sharing coverage with former competitors in an effort to save money. (The New York Times has also suffered from declining revenue, but has been able to avoid serious newsroom cuts so far.)

For more than two centuries, newspapers have been the indispensable source of public information and a check on the abuses of government and other powerful interests. And they still reach a vast and growing audience. Daily print circulation has dropped from a peak of 62 million two decades ago to around 49 million, and online readership has risen faster, to almost 75 million Americans and 3.7 billion page views in January, according to Nielsen Online.

But no one yet has unlocked the puzzle of supporting a large newsroom purely on digital revenue, a fact that may presage an era of news organizations that are smaller, weaker and less able to fulfill their traditional function as the nation’s watchdog.

“I can’t imagine what civil society would be like,” said Buzz Woolley, a wealthy San Diego businessman who has been a vocal critic of the paper there, The Union-Tribune, and the primary backer of an Internet news site, VoiceofSanDiego.org. “I don’t want to imagine it. A huge amount of information would just never get out.”

Not everyone agrees. The death of a newspaper should result in an explosion of much smaller news sources online, producing at least as much coverage as the paper did, says Jeff Jarvis, director of interactive journalism at the City University of New York’s graduate journalism school. Those sources might be less polished, Mr. Jarvis said, but they would be competitive, ending the monopolies many newspapers have long enjoyed.

A number of money-losing papers should “have the guts to shut down print and go online,” he said. “It will have to be a much smaller product, but that’s where we’re headed anyway.”

Industry executives who once scoffed at the idea of an Internet-only product now concede that they are probably headed in that direction, but the consensus is that newspapers going all digital would become drastically smaller news sources for the foreseeable future.

Until then, papers have turned to measures that would have been unthinkable just a year or two ago, including many that are weighing whether to begin charging readers for online access, as The Wall Street Journal does.

Starting March 30, the major Detroit papers, The Free Press and The News, will deliver to subscribers only three days a week, to save money on printing and trucking. The Christian Science Monitor will print its last daily edition on March 27, becoming primarily an online operation, with a printed weekly paper.

“It’s not so much that everyone has a great plan,” said John Yemma, editor of The Monitor. Rather, he said, “everybody is so desperate, they’re looking at every possibility.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bishvil Pikuach Nefesh

Overlooked in all the chatter about the danger of the 'net, IM's, etc, is the Pikuach Nefesh aspect:

Did MySpace save lives?
February 16, 2009 by Valerie Helmbreck


If you hear that health officials are managing a bacteria outbreak using social networks and cringe, you’re officially a geezer.

You’re certified as a person who’s not thinking outside the box.

Ultimately, that’s when using social networks is most effective: When it’s used for a purpose that probably wasn’t intended or even intuitive, but it works.

I have to admit, that when I first read that government officials had used social networks to try and rein in the damage being done by peanuts contaminated with salmonella, I thought it sounded just a little dirty.

I mean, really, managing infections with social networking? I always thought that’s how bacteria was spread!

But the truth is, Federal health agencies relied heavily on “social media” to get the word out about the recent salmonella outbreak.

They’re even hinting that they possibly reduced the number of deaths and injuries caused by the illness with this approach.

Officials with Health and Human Services Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said social media helped them spread the word about the peanut butter recall.

The agencies used widgets, blogs, Twitter, podcasts, mobile alerts and online videos to warn the public that peanut butter manufactured by Peanut Corp. of America might be tainted with salmonella. (To date, eight people have died and 50 have gotten sick from the contamination.)

When officials at the FDA and CDC figured out that the common food in cases of illness from the salmonella was peanuts, they got together to brainstorm about how they’d get the word out about a recall of peanut products.

The FDA created a database of recalled products, which the public could search either by product name or category such as cookies, chips and crackers. The agency then worked with CDC to spread the word of the pending peanut butter recall because FDA did not yet have the IT infrastructure to inform the public as quickly as CDC.

According to Nextgov.com, which follows IT and how the government is using it, here’s a sketch of the plan they came up with:

“Health and Human Services and CDC took the Food and Drug Administration’s recall database and created a widget, a small online application that can be posted on other Web sites, many of which were run by other government agencies and private organizations. The widget allowed users to search FDA’s database of recalled products from Web site operated by state and local health agencies and other organizations.

“FDA also launched a subject-specific blog on its Web site, which informed readers about the latest news and updates on the outbreak. Blog posts included those from health professionals, CDC officials and featured video on how to avoid tainted products.”

Also, at this time, the FDA was doing a video on the anatomy of an outbreak, which they put on hold to do on using a leader at the FDG to talk about how consumers could protect against getting sick.

Health and Human Services and the CDC also posted he video on their Web sites and on the commercial video-sharing site YouTube.

They also set up a Twitter account to let folks know when an item was added to the peanut recall list. “Followers” got instant updates (which was a good thing for institutional food managers to keep on top of, wouldn’t you think?)

The CDC used its MySpace and Second Life accounts to stay in touch with health bloggers, who helped spread the word about the outbreak. CDC has a presence on two of the most prominent social networking sites, MySpace and Second Life. For the peanut butter outbreak and other issues, the agency has reached out to prominent health bloggers to help spread its message.

They also used it to include the “mommy bloggers” who’d be anxious about what to avoid with this kid-popular food.

The popularity of the videos, podcasts and blog entries surprised the agencies. Example: FDA’s recall widget was used 1.4 million times in nine days.

The power and reach of social networking is vast and fast. Using it to help your business or organization often takes thinking outside the normal box of communication tools. But putting social networking back in the box isn’t going to happen soon.

What’s your firm done to use these tools to promote or manage its affairs?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ban Chrysler Cars!!!

"Detroit, MI - People who buy Chrysler LLC vehicles next year will have the option of turning their cars and trucks into wireless Internet hotspots.

(Officals) said people will be able to use laptop computers in their cars and trucks just as if they were in an office or home.

(Officals) said the wireless system will work while vehicles are moving so they can be used by passengers."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Postermania XIII - Or Addressing Scourges of the Past Century Now

Free translation of above:
"Unfortunately, we are close to perceiving that the nesuyon (temptation) of this generation is the computer with the internet (internet phone). The haskala (Enlightenment), Zionism, and Communism rolled into one do not approach the level of of abandonment of faith and the destruction which this bitter device can effectuate. This is the cause of shmad (leaving our traditions) of the current generation, not to be wished on us or on you..."

(Harav HaGaon Rav Berel Katz - Av Bais Din of Bais Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lebanon War Over High Tech

According to a Wall Street Journal May 22 feature (here or here) the entire mini war in Beirut two weeks ago was over a high tech fiber optic communications network.

A rudimentary version of this network was what enabled Hezbollah to make such a good showing against Israel in 2006.

So now we can add to the causes of war such as land, oil, and prejudice, high tech.

Something we Torah True Jews should have no knowledge of or connection with.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pray Station

Here's how a producer at CNN entertainment reacted to a mincha minyon at the CES show: http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/blogs/marquee/2008/01/pray-station.html


The clueless at AP inserted the following sentence in the obituary for R' Shmuel Berenbam, reprinted in the NYT which should know better:

Describing the Mir: "In contrast with other Orthodox and Hasidic traditions, it shuns all music, song and dance in the belief that secular learning is useful only for earning a living."

Now Leapa may dance when studying secular topics - but he knows he's an odd duck.

Or maybe the only secular knowledge the NYT recognizes is opera and ballet?


Monday, December 31, 2007

Net Penetration Among Chareidim

Bezek: 19 Percent Of Meah Shearim Residents Connected To Internet

December 31, 2007 According to a report Monday by “Globes”, the number of Chareidim who have Internet is rising. Their report is based on information given to them by BEZEk.

Meah Shearim: 19%
Bnei Brak: 17%

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Israeli Filtered Internet

The leading chareidishe communities in Israel are apparently on the verge of backing a new filtered internet access system which works through existing service providers.

It will be a whitelist system based upon a personal or professional profile, and software and ISP based.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Mishpacha has bitten the bullet and written a truly well rounded article on chareidim and the 'net. (Here)
Rabbi Moshe Grylak's 'Point of View' at the beginning of the issue also makes a lot of sense.

The only problem is, none of what he says correlates with the public statements attributed to the Gedolim and the Kol Korahs.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Entitlements and Oil

Thomas Friedman of the NYT writes a perceptive column about Israeli productivity and innovation entitled "Israel Discovers Oil" (available here for non-subscribers).

In it, Mr. Friedman, no lover of Israel, waxes about young Israelis committed to innovation and expanding Israel's economy, a source of riches that does not wane.

He quotes Israel's leading venture capitalist: “Today, every Israeli Jewish mother wants her son to be a dropout and go create a start-up”.

What do our chareidi Jewish mothers (and fathers) want?

  • Do they want our children to make a creative contribution to Israel, our Orthodox community, and the world and expand wealth?
  • Do they want the Agudah & Co to keep pressing for added entitlements to the point where the Israeli economy is hobbled?
  • Do they want those not destined to be a Chazon Ish to have only the option of melimdus or safrus?
What indeed?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


The source of the previous post is a 'community calendar' posted every Thurs-Fri all over Boro Park. At left is a scan (torn off, I'm sorry) with contact phone numbers.
Can I make this stuff up ??
On another note, if the sponsor was seeking a zchus for the niftar, would not a supervised internet cafe or even sponsoring filters or a filtered ISP connection for a few 'yingerleit' accomplish more for yiddishkeit and the niftar? Or a kosher cellphone? Perhaps he should ask the Rabbonim who are occupied with Gittin, or a few yiden who are in the supposed unfortunate 80% what would be a more concrete help to them ?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Postermania XII

Posted Erev Shabbos Shelach, June 8 (Translated from Yiddish):

The fact is: Eighty percent (80%) of Gitin (Jewish Divorces) .... are products of a computer at home, or a cellphone or i-pod in a pocket.

This is the dry fact. It is attested to by all Rabbonim which do Gitin.

Dear Young Person (Yingerman): If you do not want this device to throw you out of your house, throw it out first!!!

Leapa is checking with some heimishe divorce lawyers to see if the 'dry fact' is that their business has increased by a factor of four in recent years.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ban Avis Rent-A-Car

Avis is now offering WiFi in their rental car fleet. (Here)
Hansom cab, anyone?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bad Blogger

Unfortunately, a busy blogger is a bad blogger. I'll try to catch up with you all soon, including my (emotional) reaction to the Boro Park internet asifa.

Meantime, the Center for the Jewish Future at RIETS has released a 'learning packet' for Shavuos night which looks interesting for that point past midnight where the Yevomos combinations and permutations are no longer as captivating and entrancing as they should be.

Here it is: http://www.yutorah.org/showShiurLite.cfm?shiurID=718421

And in case I can't get back to you so fast, Good Yom Tov!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Exercises in Role Playing

At a Tuesday night meeting of Vaad Hanholo (National Officers) of Agudath Israel, NY City Councilman Simcha Felder recommended that the distinguished assembled read an article on him available on the internet.

He said, dryly, "I know that the internet is forbidden . . . but if you have a friend . . ."

Later in the same meeting, Rabbi Avi Shafran explained the various components of his job. One small part: "We check countless sites . . . I mean, publications . . ."

Monday, April 30, 2007

BP Asifa

This Thursday and next there are major meetings for parents sponsored by "Mosdos HaChinuch" on the subject of the internet.

The speakers at this week's meeting for women are Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman and Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mishpocha Seems to Share Our Values

Here is a piece in Foreign Policy Magazine about, of all things, Mishpacha Magazine and how it is an enlightened Chareidi publication.

And speaking of Mishpacha Magazine, they actually have a functioning web site here , with real articles.

Well, Mishpacha's articles are sometimes sappy. But their heads are screwed on straight.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Post From the Holy Land

In an effort to maintain the holiness of the Holy Land, a chassidic leader who took the lead in the implementation and mandation of the 'kosher phone' in Israel now has a team working on a 'white list' filter.

The implementation will be neither hardware nor software based. All parents of students in mosdos hachinuch (educational institutions) will be required to provide proof from the phone company that either (1) their home has no ISP attached to its phone line, or (2) the one allowed 'white list' ISP is the only one attached.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Chareidi Pressure Cooker

I. Preface
Many years ago, when the internet (and yours truly) were relatively young, I felt that this useful development (the 'net) would help us chareidim more easily separate the wheat from the chaff of today's world.
For example, one could read articles (sometimes using print mode) without viewing the provocative advertisements.

One could even check out something relevant or urgent in a paper like the NY Post (which I do not recommend) without being forced to flip through the Page 6 entertainment section , which is never appropriate. One could watch the 5% (or 1%) of television that most intelligent people agree is worthwhile without being ground down by the lowering of standards in the secular universe.
I was therefore surprised and disappointed at the movement to prohibit the net in our community which started about 9 or 10 years ago, but gained momentum about 5 years ago, and I've been talking (or bloviating, depending on your perspective) about it ever since.
I am now taking 'pen' in hand, however, due an accelerating phenomenon which shows a serious defect in our educational system. Moreover, this phenomenon will injure us and our children in our ability to utilize the internet and still raise our families with the chinuch we prefer.
The phenomenon is the (largely chassidic) proliferation of blogs expressing attempting to discredit Torah and Halacha, and simultaneously detailing the blogger's flagrant violations of Jewish law.

II. History
By and large, our chinuch system in the chareidi world germinated from the shock and tragedy of the Second World War. Moreover, I think in our heart, we all realize that our chinuch has created a frum 'Fiddler on the Roof' version of European Ashkenazic Jewish history which is factually incorrect.
Judging by the photographs I have seen, my own family, farbrente chassidim who sacrificed to spend Yom Tovim bei der Rebbe (an elderly aunt once confessed to me that until my uncle became weak in his 90's, she had never spent a Shavuos with him and didn't know what menu to cook on Shavuos) nevertheless were mostly clean shaven. Statistically, Jewish election results in prewar Europe certainly do not show the predominance of religious parties that the 90%+ of shomrei shabbos would suggest. Everyone understood that progress is good for the Jews and for Judaism.

However, after the terrible destruction and tragedy of World War II, Daas Torah, from Litvishe right through Hungarian Jewry, compensated for the loss, each hewing to his own view of what was the most important principle, and then driving that principle ahead pedal to the metal to try and reconstitute what was lost.
Rav Aharon Kotler and the Chazon Ish stressed sacrificing all involvement in the world for Torah. The Satmar Ruv stressed the evil of Zionism, and not sacrificing the clothing and customs of der heim. The Lubavitcher Rebbe attempted to roll back 100 years of assimilation in the new home(s) of the Jews, and the Bais Yisroel looked into the future and preempted the temptations of today's world.

III. Results
In retrospect, it is clear that Hashem sent us very special individuals, most of whom had few or no children, to aid the Jewish People in recovering from the trauma of WWII.
However, in our generation, lacking perhaps the type of leadership, or the historical clean slate which enables leaders to set a new course, we are basically reinforcing, reinforcing, and re-reinvorcing what the last generation emphasized - sometimes without rhyme or reason. It stands to reason, and there are hints from that first generation of leaders as well, that the course on which they placed us was not to be followed either ad infinitum or
ad nauseam.
The result of this misplaced emphasis is that our generations become punching bags - being constantly instilled with mantras and ideologies which, unlike our Torah itself which is eternal, were ad hoc remedies for specific historical contexts.
This leads to an inner conviction that, rather than the educational milieu being misplaced, the Torah and yiddishkeit which the education claims to represent is untrue. A tragedy.
And the tragedy deepens. When people are taught ideologies which they don't believe but must obey, an inner pressure borne of frustration and cognitive dissonance seeks release.

The pressure eventually becomes unbearable, and blows up .

IV. Blogosphere
Now we have reached a point where every week there are one or two new blogs from Williamsburg, Kiryas Joel, Stamford Hill, and the like. These blogs are well written, the writers intelligent, but they are almost boring because the posts pretty much fall into two categories:

1. The superstitious nature of the Jewish people, and the lack of scientific validity for Chazol and Torah Sh'biksav, not to mention minhagim.
2. The exciting (and comical) adventures of eating bacon, going to nightclubs, and conversation with goyim and goytas.

First of all, both chazal and common sense dictate that there is a deep logic to the fact that the theological and experiential are pinned together. Logic would indicate that point 1 leads to point 2, but experience as well as Chazal would indicate that point 2 is the ignition for point 1.

But why now?

Why are all these free spirited shtreimel heretics deciding to vent all at once - especially since some excellent blogs espousing the same points have been around for years, and newbies can post on them whenever?

Leapa's take is that the boiling point has been reached, and the whistle is starting to blow.

The more philosphically minded might feel that spiritual development has peaked, in line with the historical paradigm of the Or Someach summarized here. There may be some truth to that.

But a repressive education plus a repressive community in a permissive society is a balloon in a vacuum.

What has changed in the last ten to twenty years?

1. The 'vacuum' has increased (society is more permissive in an 'in-your-face' way) leading to more feeling of deprivation

2. Our society has built much higher walls to try to shut out the outside world (just look at the rule list for your child's cheder), again leading to a feeling of repression and deprivation.

3. Our success and the nature of our leadership has obviated the postwar drive to rebuild and create.

V. Suggestions

1. Chinuch is more than information, and certainly more than prohibitions. Even though the last sixty years of success involved building higher and higher walls against the outside world, the at-risk youth phenomenon and what we see on the internet indicate that we have reached the point of diminishing returns with wall building.
Now the time has come to teach and delineate how to cope with, and if necessary battle with, the yetzer hora, and not just deny it or try to tiptoe around it. The fact is that most if not all young adults will encounter goyim and/or newspapers, and increasingly the internet. Not giving our children the tools to deal with it is a cop-out and a scam.
For those who pin the cause of the holocaust on declining levels of observance in pre-war Europe, this argument for saving America's (and Israel's) youth should hold even more water.
2. Melamdim can not just teach. In fact, they can not just take responsibility for what they consider the ruchnius of the talmid without dealing with the interface of the student and the outside world. Melamdim incapable of dealing with this should either bring themselves up to speed by familiarizing themselves with the future world of their students, or retreat back to kolel.
3. Melamdim should also be responsible for teaching the rudiments of science which seemingly contradict Judaism and our answer to science without poking fun at science. (Hat tip to R' Hershel Fried)

If we are as committed to continuity as the previous generation, this is the true route to preserving the legacy of our fathers and earlier Gedolim and following the trail they blazed to protecting and rebuilding yiddishkeit.

Note: Due to Yom Tov I am posting this as a first draft so that those who have internet access at work can view it, and I may still change it or add to it.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sell Chomez Online

If you're in a last minute jam, or tight for money, this may help:


Chag Kosher V'Someach !!!

(another useful internet service for yiddishkeit)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Without Comment

Below is a quote from a Cross-Currents piece by Rabbi Yaakov Menken on kiruv:

While within any group you will find people with outlandish ideas, it is very clear that the Orthodox leadership would have none of it. Ahavas Yisrael, love of all Jews, is the order of the day. If you can, in fact, find someone who thinks otherwise, he or she is merely evidence that the charedim don’t follow their leaders as readily as the media insists we do.

This was brought home by an email and personal account that both came to me today.
The email arrived from a writer for HaModia, which is—as you probably know—as “ultra” Orthodox as a journal can be. By contrast to the Yated Ne’eman, HaModia has stronger ties to the Chassidic community, which should make it still more insular. Yet this writer’s “beat” is the world of Kiruv. To be sure, he can’t cover Project Genesis (as that would entail conceding that the Internet has a positive side), but he still talks about the world of Jewish outreach on a weekly basis.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Last October I posted on our reliance on the immodest 'Youtube' for haimishe videos since the prohibition of the internet discouraged us from making our own 'Youtube'.

Well, two enterprising Jews, Jonathan and Bridgette Raven (probably not from the communities most 'concerned' with tznius) have made a 'kosher' video sharing site called Yideoz.

Kol Hakovod!

Let's support them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Worth Noting

Rabbi Aharon H. Fried has an incisive 30 page article on secular education in our community here.

And Torahweb has a video from a frum Rockland County Sheriff's Department cyber officer here. (Warning: the preceding video is graphic, and primarily relevant to parents of children over 10 years old.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Worth Pondering

3 years and one day ago, Spain was attacked immediately before an election by Islamic terror, subsequently deciding to elect a government which immediately pulled out of Iraq. That should have solved their problem, right?

"Spanish officials and experts say the country is potentially in more danger now than ever before as extremist groups reorganize just beyond Spain's southern coast.
...senior officials say radicals in Morocco and other parts of northern Africa, many with ties to Spain, increasingly take their cues from Al Qaeda. . . .
Maghreb-based networks remain the most serious threat to Spain in terms of Islamic extremism, law enforcement officials said this week. They said militants had begun to set up a centralized command and a string of training camps in southern Algeria and northern Mali, and have launched recruiting efforts targeting their brethren who live in Spain.
"We are seeing the Al Qaeda-ization of the Maghreb militants, and that is the evolution that most worries us," a senior counter-terrorism official in the Spanish Interior Ministry said in an interview.

So, despite the bungling of the war, and the attractiveness of pulling out, it sort of confirms the logic of 'fight them there, not here', huh?

Hat tip: James Taranto

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hope This Never Sounds Familiar

In Chaotic Gaza, the Internet Is a Target - (Bloomberg/Chicago Daily Herald)
Soon after a firebomb exploded at 3 a.m. and destroyed four computers in the Al-Shawa Online Internet Cafe in Gaza, owner Alaa al-Shawa clicked onto his e-mail at an undamaged machine.
The first message was from the bombers, explaining that establishments such as his were keeping Muslims away from prayer and providing pornography. That's why it was hit.
"This just shows how confused these fanatics are," said Al-Shawa, 27. "Even they use the Internet to circulate their statements."
About 45 Internet outlets have been bombed since Dec. 1, according to Gaza police.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Syria Appoints Jewish Acting President

(LNN*) [Damascus ] [I2-26-07] In response to Israel appointing Druze Majali Wahabe Acting President of Israel, Syrian President Bashar Assad is appointing currently unemployed former Israeli President Moshe Katzav as Acting President of Syria. Current Israeli Acting President Dalia Itzik is leaving Israel for a week long visit to the US. Mr. Assad is leaving Syria to further pursue his medical studies in London.

President Assad's secretive Alawite sect is considered similar to the Druse religion.

The state run Syrian Arab News Service (SANS) announced:

"The Syrian Arab Republic believes in peace and reciprocity. If Israel can appoint a Druze as Head of State, Syria will appoint a Jew."

"Mr. Katzav speaks a fluent Arabic, and has presidential experience, as well as experience making way for successors in an orderly fashion on short notice. This will prove useful when President Assad returns from his healing pursuits. Moreover, the press treatment of President Katzav in Israel may indicate that he will adjust well to the historical behavior patterns of the Assad family dynasty."

Further details to be announced on Sunday.

(*Leapa News Network)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Rabbonim Challenge

At a recent simcha, I guardedly verbalized my own position on the internet after listening to someone (who is on the net all day) expound on how terrible the internet is. I said the problem is that we're not facing the 'net with reality glasses.

He challenged me: "Tell your Rebbe* or your Bais Din what you are telling me".

I demurred, saying the Bais Din is not always free to say what they please (because in our community many Bais Dins serve at the sufferance of a Rebbe).

He then challenged again: "Ask any Bais Din, then. Or ask Rav Rosenbloom, or whomever - any Yiras Shomayim Bais Din"


I have heard that the Stoliner Rebbe and R' Chaim Kohn, formerly of Machon HaHoyroa and KAJ have realistic views of the internet. Jnet also has a secret Bais Din who presumably have some acquaintance with the subject.

Who else?

*(My Rebbe, if indeed I have one, is over the ocean, and not the shmoozy type, at least to me. Further, Rebbes do not have the same obligation to answer that Rabbonim do.)

orthodox jews and the internet.