Attending the Internet Gathering

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As many readers know, a new organization called Ichud HaKehillos LeTohar HaMachane (United Congregations for the Purity of the Community) is organizing a gathering (“Asifah”) on “Using Technology Responsibly Al Pi Torah” in Citi Field on May 20. Since many people have asked for my opinion on whether they should attend, I will offer my consciously cynical view.

First, we have no clear idea what the message of this gathering will be other than vague catch phrases and rumors. We do not know who is sponsoring it (other than a steering committee consisting of people I don’t know) and what their agenda is. There is no website for the gathering, which in itself is a bad sign.

Second, we don’t know the program. Will the speakers be knowledgeable about the subject or rabbis who know only what they are told by handlers and from some repentant sinners with horror stories? Will the advice be constructive or will the speakers rant and turn people off? Will they focus on the real issues–the increasing proliferation of mobile connectivity and free wifi, and significant privacy issues–or merely discuss filters for PCs, the issue of the day ten years ago? And will they convey a false sense of security with any particular solution rather than recognize that nothing is foolproof and that today’s cutting edge will soon be obsolete?

In my less-than-serious opinion, there is a potential halakhic problem with attending this Asifah. The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 218:2) rules that although you must recite a blessing on a miracle that happens to you, if it doesn’t happen to you and happens to less than a majority of Jews then you do not recite a blessing. If the Gedolim and their handlers are able to convey a responsible and usable message at this Asifah, it will be a nes nigleh (overt miracle). Most readers of this blog will not benefit at being told what we’ve known for at least a decade. However, many Jews will. The question remains whether it will be a majority of Jews. Therefore, attending this Asifah could be a question of safek berakhos (doubtful obligation to recite a blessing) and all those who wish to be machmir should avoid the situation.

The serious point I am trying to make is that the leaders of this community have historically gotten this issue so wrong that they have lost all credibility. The attitude of “trust us and just come” is not only condescending but laughable. That trust has to be re-earned because it was lost many times over.

Will this Asifah accomplish anything positive? Even if the organizers and speakers do everything right, the event still represents everything wrong about the community’s leadership. There is no plan or strategy. A few people (rightly) excited about the issue are putting it together themselves and desperately pressuring everyone they can to attend. This is neither top down nor bottom up leadership. It’s a few guys with financial backing.

And we’ve done this before. A big event accomplishes nothing unless there is follow-up. This follow-up is hard because it must be local, but it is crucial and really all that is necessary. We need school curricula, adult education modules, how-to pamphlets and more–but they must be practical and–crucially–recognize that different standards exist within the broader Orthodox community.

What we don’t need is a bunch of darshanim telling us horror stories to (futilely) attempt to scare us away from the internet and then mavens telling us how to protect our devices in ways that anyone with access to Google can learn to bypass.

(Note that I am certainly not against filters and plan on posting shortly some basic information on the subject that everyone needs to know.)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

49 comments

  1. I agree with Rabbi Student that this rally represents everything wrong with the community’s leadership. A lot of folks think that it indicates messed up priorities; if the community needs a massive rally and communal-awareness-raising, they need to start with making sure kids get an education and that folks report child abuse allegations.

    In that spirit, I’m joining a counter-rally to protest the messed up priorities called “The Internet is NOT the Problem”; We already have 250 RSVPs. I hope others join in 🙂

    http://www.facebook.com/events/320642868009045/

  2. good post.
    what are other conservative religious groups doing? anything to learn (or not learn) from them?

  3. Gil,

    Why do you plan on posting filter options if this is a subject your audience is so familiar with. (And they don’t benefit from attendance.)

  4. I removed a comment that was a blatant ad for a counter-rally. This blog isn’t the place to recruit.

    Abba: Of course. All the good resources were created by the broader community.

    Sam Adar: For others. It’s an attempt to create a community resource because, to my knowledge, no one else has. While that’s probably because the information is so widely available outside the Orthodox community, evidently some people aren’t willing to look.

  5. this asifah is plain and pashut an exercise in bittul torah.

  6. R’ Gil,

    Perhaps I might offer a lesson in advanced cynicism. Given the likelihood that very few people will change their minds either way about attendance based on a pre-asifa analysis, IMHO an advanced cynic would articulate a wait and see attitude prior to the asifa and then articulate a deeply wounded “i had hoped it would be different this time, I am shattered” message after the asifa.

    In any event IMHO the idea of having a clear vision and a consistent message as well as a timetable and action plan is worth repeating to all organizations.

    KT

  7. Gil writes:
    (Note that I am certainly not against filters and plan on posting shortly some basic information on the subject that everyone needs to know.)

    So the Asifa before it happened has a positive affect on your Asifa/Blog

    In any event
    I hope KT’s advice will influence you to publicize a clear vision and a consistent message as well as an action plan to be repeated in your Disclaimers on a steady basis

  8. “I removed a comment that was a blatant ad for a counter-rally. This blog isn’t the place to recruit.”

    I am really surprised. Do you think the counter-rally organizers have the funds to take out paid ads? If the blogs, like this one, aren’t the place to spread the word, where is the little guy supposed to go?

    I’m not an organizer, but I am a member of the Facebook counter-rally page. Its a great, sincere bunch of people. I hope you can reconsider, and restore that post. Without the blogs, like this one, the movement to make the orthodox world a better and safer place for children and their parents never would have gotten this far. Never. It seems like such a simple truth.

  9. The problem is isolationism. I understand the reasons for it: modern western culture is not compatible with Jewish ideas of morality and kedusha.

    But isolationism in Europe was imposed from without–and as soon as the ghetto walls came down, the majority voted with their feet. The same will happen here, and the Internet will be a big part of it–unless the community stops preaching isolationism and starts teaching kids to make choices.

    Filters? Sure–if you don’t want to see offensive content, filters can help. If you want to see it, not so much. If your kids do? Forget it. Anything a 30-year-old parent can do, a 12-year-old kid can undo.

    But this is not only about kedusha. The Internet is a serious threat to Haredi leaders (as it is to any totalitarian hierarchy): it destroys their monopoly on public discourse.

  10. Perfect!

  11. Nachum Klafter

    maybe they’ll have a webcast of the event

  12. The problem is simply that no one has come up with a reasonable solution yet. Gil – you’re right, that the solution includes all this (local) follow-up, which requires time and serious resources. A cynic might say that some of the resources spent on this gathering could have been put to much better use with things that would actually make a difference.

    But listen to some of the YU RYs speaking about the issue – they are just as aware, and though they are more reasonable and understand that the internet cannot be off-limits, they have not suggested tools other than filters, etc.

    Sof davar – we need an increase in Yirat Shamayim, something this generation sorely lacks.

  13. Jenny: Correct, the YU RYs don’t claim to have an answer. They acknowledge the problem and counsel caution and consultation with techies.

    Elliot Pasik: I am extremely concerned about the tone and nature of this counter-rally. I can’t imagine it will be anything other than Gedolim-bashing, with which I do not want to be associated.

    Jacob: I actually do have a plan on which I am finally (slowly) starting to get traction in the MO world. But let’s face it. MO schools are dealing with these issues. Certainly not perfectly but they are at least trying to think it through and create proper educational structures. They face greater battles than Charedi schools because for some incomprehensible reason MO parents often sprovide their kids unlimited internet access.

  14. “First, we have no clear idea what the message of this gathering will be other than vague catch phrases and rumors. We do not know who is sponsoring it (other than a steering committee consisting of people I don’t know) and what their agenda is.”

    For those who still use a telephone, you can get hear an interview with R Matisyahu Salomon about the asifa at the following number:

    1-732-551-3351

    Press 2 and the 1.

  15. Some quotes from this interview with R. Matisyahu Salomon that illustrate the negativity:
    “devastating effect of the internet and modern technology on our lives”
    “brought klal yisroel down to the deepest depths it seems to me since churban ha-bayis”
    “put a stop to the great descent that klal yisroel is descending”
    “not an individual problem, a klal yisroel problem”
    “the purpose of the asifah is for sure to give a clear direction”
    “I don’t want to divulge any sort of program”
    “make people realize how terrible the internet is”
    “the best eitzah is every ehrliche yid should not allow it into the home at all”

  16. In all the banter on the Asifah, I am most intrigued by the supporting voices from the women who won’t be allowed to attend, whose comments tend to be focused on pornography.

    I am left wondering if there is a deeper problem of sexual dysfunction/dissatisfaction in that velt and they have allowed themselves to believe that if they can stop pornography, all will be well.

  17. R’IH,
    I’m told that some recent theories on sex addiction focus on highly structured family situations and families where children do not get a lot of attention.
    KT

  18. “I am left wondering if there is a deeper problem of sexual dysfunction/dissatisfaction in that velt and they have allowed themselves to believe that if they can stop pornography, all will be well.”

    That’s a creative theory, but the more pashut peshat is that internet pornography, because it’s so pervasive and alluring, is the perfect scapegoat for all Klal Yisrael’s problems. It’s very convenient and comforting to pin the blame for everything on one problem, and internet pornography has become that issue.

  19. I once saw a vort quoted in the name of Rav Mottel Katz of Telz that the malach told Yaakov he does not have a name because it represented the forces that oppose Am Yisrael. No specific, single identity can be ascribed to the forces that threaten us. We cannot point to one problem and say “this is the single greatest threat to Klal Yisrael.” “Saro shel Esav” cannot have a name because our “opponents” are multifaceted, and there are always a myrid of different problems and threats that we must struggle against. I believe the charedi world’s obssession with the problem of internet pornography is very short-sighted and superficial, trying to assign a narrow, specific “name” to the very wide range of problems that beset our generation.

  20. Elliot Pasik: I am extremely concerned about the tone and nature of this counter-rally. I can’t imagine it will be anything other than Gedolim-bashing, with which I do not want to be associated.

    Gil, you wrote in this post that “the leaders of this community have historically gotten this issue so wrong that they have lost all credibility.” I think that’s more of a gadol-bashing than anything we’re going to say. We’re trying to attract a large group of people to take this cause seriously, so that’s our focus.

    Anyhow, I think your epistemology is wrong. I don’t think your concern that a gadol’s kavod might be hurt a shtickel should outweigh the possible benefits of you endorsing this rally, thus sending a message of how important children are. To be honest, I find it quite troubling 🙁

  21. “There is no website for the gathering, which in itself is a bad sign.”
    How ironic.

  22. “I don’t think your concern that a gadol’s kavod might be hurt a shtickel should outweigh the possible benefits of you endorsing this rally”

    Baruch Pelta: He wrote that he’s operating under the assumption that the counter-rally will ONLY consist of gedolim-bashing.

  23. H G, you misunderstood me mate. He wrote that the reason he’s not attending is because gadol-bashing is something “with which I do not want to be associated.” So that’s why I think his epistemology is wrong. And I addressed the assumption (I agree with you, it is an assumption) that this rally is exclusively dedicated to gadol-bashing.

  24. Gadol bashing? My back goes up whenever I hear the bash word. My working definition of bash means irrational hatred. There’s nothing irrational about protesting Aguda’s handling of child sex abuse. There is great incompetence and corruption. The protests are all about rationalism. The Aguda rabbis are not immune. They are not kings or popes. They don’t hold the divine right of kings, nor papal infallibility. This all seems so basic. Nearly all, and perhaps all of the posts I’ve seen on the Facebook page are intelligent, thoughtful, funny, and productive. I’m actually somewhat insulted, personally and on their behalf, that we’re being pushed aside into a separate category by the Hirhurim blog. We’re not part of the in crowd. So be it.

  25. The approach of the asifah (that the response to today’s challenges is to educate everyone that the Internet is assur for anyone without a specific heter and that the unfiltered Internet is treif gamur for everyone) is in a very practical sense bound for utter failure. Yes filters are important for small children, but in 10 years the entire U.S. will be blanketed in free WiFi and Internet capable devices will be cheap and easily obtainable. A kid with a few dollars will be able to buy one at the corner store and access the uncensored Internet. Besides, how long do you think it will be before not having Internet access in the home will be about as convenient as not having a car or electricity?

    The Asifa is not the way of the Torah. The Torah teaches that a person has free choice and is responsible to have self discipline — including wise stewardship of one’s time, and care about what one lets oneself see. Folly and filth has always existed. We should stick to our ageless principles instead of trying to outlaw our age.

    The Asifa approach also results in also massive waste of opportunity for incredible mitzvos. Leaders deliberately keep the masses under their control totally ignorant of computing technology instead of encouraging them to leverage these incredible tools for the good. The same way Apple wants to revolutionize US education with interactive textbooks and iPads in every classroom, we should want to use technology to revolutionize observance of Torah and mitzvos. Look at what Artscroll is doing with the incredible iPad edition of the Talmud that is coming out soon!

    Is this a matter of “eilu v’eilu”, or is this a holy war between the sane and the foolish? Although perhaps not directly related, when I see how sex abuse is covered up in these same communities and under the auspices of these same leaders, it lends credence to the side of the argument that says that these people are either evil or foolish at best.

  26. Covington Beasley

    Although there may be issues with attending, there are no issues regarding the insidious danger of porn addiction. Few perceive the danger. For those that exercise an iron clad will, there is no issue. But the temptation to “explore” begins rather innocuously. How so? For examples: AOL, the Daily Mail routine posts articles regarding actresses and/or celebrities on their Internet pages. One is exposed to the seemingly unstated contest among some actresses and celebrities as to how exposed or undressed they can be in public. AOL recently ran an article on which actresses had appeared nude the most times over the course of their on-going acting careers, with a conveniently complete compiled list of the films in which they appeared.

    Of course the “simple solution” is either filter out AOL or simply do not go there or view their articles regarding actress celebrities. Sounds very simple, except that we become somewhat in-sensitized to these daily exposures which at first seem rather innocuous. “What’s so wrong with looking at a good looking woman dressed in a evening gown on the red carpet?”

    Of course the initial permissions one gives to oneself is unknowingly the top of slippery slope that leads to other permissions: such as secretly viewing the Sported Illustrated swim suit issue online, or a Victoria Secret fashion show then conducting searches of particular models or actresses of interest, and then finding “serendipitously” that there may be videos available.

    Additionally, one should be cautious viewing CNBC. Yes, because they cover and report on porn industry as just another industry. They have no issue portraying/glorifying the highest paid porn stars. However, precisely because such Internet viewing can be conducted privately without regard to the social stigma of being caught at the subway newsstand, one is not aware is that the furtive investigations create an insidiously slow but steady growing lust (craving) for more viewing, more exploration, more visual gratification.

    Rhetorically, when you are in the midst of eating a real geshmach Shabbos meal are you thinking about serving the Rebono shel Olam precisely at that moment? Probably not. You are gratifying a legitimate (kosher) sensual pleasure. Unfortunately, those who “slide the slippery slope” of granting themselves permission to gratify their visual sensual pleasure, they are not thinking of serving the Rebono shel Olam at those moments either. Do they rationalize? Absolutely. The classic rationalizations being: there is no specific direct prohibition in the Torah; being single, healthy and experiencing sex vicariously; to just wanting to see “what this is all about.”

    Unfortunately, at some point the cycle of broader explorations in the quest of providing sufficient gratification with the inevitable lust cravings became addicting. Denial typically follows until one has been defeated several times when actually sincerely trying to stop. Not so easy to break a habit that feeds power drives for sexual pleasure.

    Part of the solution is warning others that porn addiction is real and debilitating; that one loses perspective with respect to realizing: 1) that one is horribly dissipating one’s kesher to the Rebono shel Olam; 2) that one is subject to unintended sichva zera “accidents” as a result of being visually stimulated; and 3) that prodigious amounts of productive time are wasted. ALL for which one must ultimately give account before the Rebono shel Olam on one’s Yom HaDin, something conveniently yet tragically forgotten.

  27. Regardless of who the “askanim” are, R’ Mattisyahu Salomon and the Skulene Rebbe invested much time and effort to create an asifa that brings together diverse segments of Orthodoxy to begin to tackle a difficult problem.

    1 A statement (true or not) such as “the leaders of this community have historically gotten this issue so wrong that they have lost all credibility” is such a derisive statement that it most probably violates several precepts, including “es H-shem E-lokecha Tir’a”. It most definitely adds fuel to the latent sin’as chachomim prevalent in our society and the blatant sin’as chachomim of many of your posters. Thinking this and articulating it on a public forum are two different things and the repercussions include your owning a chelek in their sin’as chachomim (regardless of your intent).

    Additionally, the Talmud in tractate Berachos, Folio 26A, cites a verse from Ecclesiastes: Meuvas lo yuchal liskon, ve’chisaron lo yuchal lehimanos – There are are things damaged beyond repair and things that are missing that can never be counted. The Talmud states that the second half of the sentence refers to “shenimnu chaveirav li’dvar mitzvah v’lo nimneh imahem” when a group bands together for a “dvar mitzvah” and someone refrains from joining in their number. The bottom line is that –aside from askanim and “handlers” – many reputable and responsible leaders have called for this gathering. Whether it meets everyone’s expectations is irrelevant; this is a halachic instance of ve’chisaron lo yuchal lehimanos. Every person that refrains from going because of your blog is partially your responsibility.

    2. If nothing else, the fact that it will bring a large swath of Orthodox Jewry together to agree that a problem exists that will not go away is worthwhile in and of itself. Each attendee, by just showing up, has acted. By dint of his action he shows that he is committed to being a part of a long-term series of trials and attempts at addressing a pervasive problem.

    3. Smut and sex are not the only problems on the web. Unsupervised socializing is not the only problem either. Nonstop surfing is also not the only problem. Equally as detrimental are the cynical blogs that mock everything and chip away at whatever yir’as shomayim and emunas chachomim are instilled in our youth and ingrained in our adults. There are many,; they are poisonous – and they’re only a click away. Surely you don’t deny that “leitzana Achas docheh me’ah tochachos”. Can you honestly say that there is no level of leitzanus in your post? The language of this piece alone – from a reputable site that ostensibly markets a “thinking” approach to yahadus – the derision and the mockery in this piece are a shining example of the poison in the web. No “horror stories to (futilely) attempt to scare us away from the internet” are better than the sarcasm evinced in your post.

    4. Your post assumes that there will be no serious follow-up. Why start off as such a “Debbie Downer” and find all the possible flaws? Is there a To’eles in this screed? Will it inspire any of your readers or will it just help further cement their cynical disdain?

    5. I’m sure that you will have a “dichui” for all that I wrote. Don’t respond, if the response will be dichuyos. I can write them as well myself. Tell me rather why you wrote a piece that didn’t have to be written for your crowd – that most probably would not attend regardless. Tell me why you didn’t try to focus on the positive – instead of trying to tear down the possibility of people trying to work together. Tell me about “me’uvas lo yuchal liskon, ve’chisoron lo yuchal le’himonos”.

    I hold you in high esteem and this makes it all the more painful. I am deliberately not tackling the nitty gritty points you make because that is not the issue. The issue is that Gedolei Yisroel have banded together and have asked us to join them. One may have a lot of questions, many valid questions. However, in the end there will be those that, regardless of misgivings, will be part of a team, will stand up and be counted, and there will be those that are poreish min hatzibbur.

    I don’t want to be a poreish min hatzibbur and I have a funny feeling that you don’t really either.

  28. After reading R Gil’s two posts, I remain skeptical as to the short range and longe range goals other than what is called an afternoon devoted to “preaching to the converted.” In last week’s Parsha, the Netziv points out based on a Rashbam in Bava Basra that while Teshuvah from Arayos is relatively easy, Teshuvah for the transgressions with improper weights and measures is almost impossible ( i.e. imagine a class action lawsuit with a class of plaintiffs beyond calculation). One looks in vein for an Asifa on the importance of proper ethical conduct in business as opposed to Asifos Tehilim that follow in the wake of such episodes and the mistaken notion that Chilul HaShem is discussing the issues, as opposed to the glare of publicity forced on the perpetrator.

  29. Covington: If one were to substitute ‘alcohol’ or ‘sex addiction’ wherever your references to porn addiction are made, I believe you will have the same dilemma. An addict — any addict — needs help, and will surely self destruct unless they get it. Banning it for the Jewish community because many have become addicted will work, at this point, about as well as Prohibition.

    Shaul: Of course you don’t want to hear any responses! Your opening is sufficient: “It’s the Mashgiach and the Skulener Rebbe….what else does one need to know?”

    Sorry, but there are too many of us fully observant, even right-leaning, souls who have grown tired of checking our brains at the door. You succinctly quoted a Posuk from Chumash, one from Nach, a gemoro, and a ma’amar Chazal….and you still miss the point: what is this asifa about? The Rabbonim of the Shuls in which I daven are urging all to attend, but is giving me a thoughtful answer as to why this is necessary too much to ask? When did being frum mean that one hasn’t a right to have his questions considered, and answered?

    Finally, Rabbi Solomon is on record this week as stating that the best way to deal with this problem is to not have Internet access at all. Given this position, I must ask you two questions: 1) Does this position sound to you like the Mashgiach invested ‘much time and effort’ to arrive at? Certainly, he spent time considering this problem, in advance of his development of the asifa, no? And 2) Given his position, and the fact that you follow this blog, precisely which tzibbur is it that you have no desire to be poiresh from?

    Daniel

  30. I urge you to give a listen to Rabbi Benzion Klatzko’s take on all of this on his “Hollywood’s Rabbi” on Radio Hidabroot
    Here’s the link (begins at 9:00 on the player) http://www.radiohidabroot.com/index.php/component/hwdvideoshare/viewvideo/1104/april-30-2012?Itemid=364

  31. Very good article. I didnt expect this. I should come back here more often. [Used to be a regular years ago, but never made the jump to the new format.] A couple of troubling points to add to what you wrote:

    1. The organizers ostentatiously refer to this asifah, many times over, as a meeting of “all klal yisrael”. Is that not absurd? I myself heard more than a few jokes from guys in the local Young Israel, wryly noting that they are apparently not part of klal yisrael. [loi mivoi the 80 percent of Jews who are not frum.] Modern Orthodoxy, or even the wide range of non MO jews who are simply clean shaven and dont wear hats, is simply non-existent in their ads. It’s noticeable, distasteful, and grounds to ignore the whole thing.

    2. Is this event set up merely as a launch party, complete with celebrities (= rosh yeshivahs) for some well-connected organizers to sell their internet protection devices? It sure looks like it.

    3. How is it that something that just a few months ago was “assur”, is now somethng “we cant live without?” Calls into question just what it means to be “assur”, doesnt it?

    I totally agree the internet is very dangerous, for all the usual reasons. But this asifah looks like its just a souped up version of the wedding takkonos of 15 years ago, in which every rabbi found some sort of excuse to say it didnt apply to him personally.

  32. Fotheringay-Phipps

    At this time, I myself don’t intend on showing up to the asifa, but I agree with some of the comments above regarding this post. It not one which Gil Student should be proud of, IMO.

    However, in his defense, it should be noted that OJ traffic on the internet is vital to the success of this blog, on which GS’s public standing rests, so he is heavily biased WRT this issue. It’s hard for a person to rise above that.

  33. shaul shapira

    [Just to be clear, I’m not the ‘shaul’ above. I am anonymous at the beginning of the thread.]

    “The organizers ostentatiously refer to this asifah, many times over, as a meeting of “all klal yisrael”. Is that not absurd? I myself heard more than a few jokes from guys in the local Young Israel, wryly noting that they are apparently not part of klal yisrael.”

    It’s a name for a convention. Just like Yated calls itself the newspaper of Torah Jewry. These diyyukim are getting on my nerves.

    Further to your point see R Bechoffer:

    http://rygb.blogspot.com/2012/05/i-erred-in-my-assumption-that.html

    Personally, I plan to go; I definitely think it’s worth a try. I’m somewhat amused by the backlash- often coming from people who claim the Gedolim are irrelevant anyway.

  34. R’FP,
    why not be don lkaf zchut that this is what R’ Gil actually believes?
    KT

  35. FP – You can say Gil Student is biased because his standing is based on the internet, just like you can say the rabbis supporting this are biased because their degraded state is based on the internet. I dont think this is bias, or if it is, then the word “bias” simply means “response based on experience” and is hence meaningless. [I happen to beleive this is true in many cases where society speaks of “bias”.] It’s a case of people having seen the gains and the detriments (as the case may be) of the Internet, and reacting accordingly.

    Shaul – if it is indeed merely a convention, then its an false and obnoxious one. It would be like YU calling itself the yeshivah for people who think for themselves. But anyway, it’s not a convention. The ads took pains to include pictures of chassidim and misnaggdim, plus one or two token sefardim (the Uncle Toms of that group.) I dont think the organizers are THAT stupid, to not realize what their own propoganda was saying. I think they just are so caught up in their own little world, that they dont realize there are big and broad worlds out there beyond their own. Dumb ignorance, in other words, not malice.

  36. Fotheringay-Phipps

    JR: “why not be don lkaf zchut that this is what R’ Gil actually believes?”

    I’m sure this is what GS believes. That doesn’t mean he is not motivated by bias.

    And as I see it, I was being dan l’kaf zechus in saying that. Because to write a post like that without bias is worse. Bias is human nature. No one is above bias.

    And there’s no way someone who rose to semi-prominence and continues to get a considerable amount of publicity, societal influence, and (probably) cash from OJ internet traffic is not going to be extremely biased in favor of continuing and expanding that traffic.

    DF: “just like you can say the rabbis supporting this are biased because their degraded state is based on the internet.”

    You can say that too, with some justice. Though you’d be silly to think these people would be otherwise approving. They are also opposed to all sorts of the same issues (pornography, secular influence) even when it doesn’t involve them being degraded.

    “I dont think this is bias, or if it is, then the word “bias” simply means “response based on experience” and is hence meaningless. [I happen to beleive this is true in many cases where society speaks of “bias”.] It’s a case of people having seen the gains and the detriments (as the case may be) of the Internet, and reacting accordingly”

    What I’m referring to here is properly called bias. Aka “self-interest”. Nothing to do with experience.

  37. There will be other people at that rally:

    “And so, on May 20, Yoelly, me and Ari, along with defenders of children from every walk of life, religious and secular, Jewish and non-Jewish, male and female, old and young, will gather outside Citi Field to raise awareness about the need to develop reforms to keep our children safe. Neither God nor Judaism is being attacked in this protest. This is strictly a message to rabbinic leadership to work harder to keep our children safe by ensuring those who abuse children are reported to the appropriate authorities, that families are supported to stay together even if they make differing religious choices and that children receive a basic education.”

  38. FP – true enough that there would probably be rabbinic oppostiion to the internet even if they were not personally targets, but by the same token Gil Student would probably oppose the asifah* even if he werent personally an internet star. So a moot point.

    (*I hasten to add the obvious, that opposing this particular asifah does not mean one is obvlivious to the problems of the internet.)

  39. TO MY FORMER YESHIVA H.S. STAR STUDENT;
    YEASHER KOCHACHA. YOU HIT EVERYTHING RIGHT ON THE NAIL.
    PERSONALLY, ILEARN A HUGE AMOUNT OF TORAH ONLINE CONSTANTLY.
    YITZCHAK M……….

  40. Fotheringay-Phipps

    DF: “by the same token Gil Student would probably oppose the asifah* even if he werent personally an internet star”

    I don’t kmow what he would hold about the asifa but I’d like ot think he would be better than this slimy post. But maybe not. Whatever.

    I leave him and you and the others to ponder the immortal words of Theodore Roosevelt:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  41. I thank my rebbe (ymg on May 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm) for his encouraging words.

    We can all just wait and see whether this asifah will be a fiasco. I am certain that it will be an assertion of Lakewood hashkafah as representative of all of Klal Yisrael. I don’t think for a minute that R. Matisyahu Salomon has bad intentions. But I think he is wrong and is presenting a Lakewood/Bnei Brak hashkafah, while demanding that all of Klal Yisrael come to hear him tell us that ehrliche Yidden shouldn’t allow internet in their homes but if they want to be bedieved Jews they should use filters. I firmly believe that this is the wrong message and will be counterproductive.

  42. Fotheringay-Phipps

    I agree with eerything besides the last sentence. And even that may turn out to be true. Time will tell. But that doesn’t justify the original post.

    I imagine that it may be the right message for some people and the wrong message for others. For the most part, his approach to the internet is consistent with his approach to secular culture and related matters, and is inconsistent with the approach of MO Jews (& even LW Charedi) to those matters. I don’t think anyone expects MO Jews to cease being MO Jews. Nonetheless, you try to be inclusive. (Note that these organizers are facing criticism for being exclusionary while also facing criticism for trying to include people.)

    On a related note, some MO who are gleefully pointing out that various RY did not endorse the asifa seem to be unaware that for the most part this is because these RY object to the “we can’t live without it” part of the message and want a harder line. For my part, I think it’s admirable that RMS has been willing to back away from his original uncompromising line. (At the time of the original Lakewood ban, organizers said they would be flexible in the future in line with future developments.)

    Anyway, in sum, I would certainly reserve judgment about this event, but the flippant and smarmy tone and over te top certainty of this post were unjustified.

  43. Anyway, in sum, I would certainly reserve judgment about this event
    =================================
    Agreed, I hope that something good comes out of it. Similarly I am disappointed that the wedding takanot did not take hold, I think the world would be a better place with them while we tried to educate people that he who has the most toys doesn’t “win”
    KT

  44. By definition we have to reserve judgment of this planned event, b/c it hasnt happened yet. Here’s hoping [against hope] it doesnt take the same foul approach of the unctuous ads which preceded it, about which we can already pronounce judgment. No better than the Kupat Hair garbage.

    Anyway, good post.

  45. Meir Weingarten

    Gil, excellent post. kol hakavod

  46. Does anyone know if the Kosher Hot Dog stand will be open?

  47. I agree with R Gil’s comments of today at 2:30 PM.

  48. The first Shaul had it right, and now that we’re after the event, we know it was not a rally to sell filters, etc. While by and large the speeches were a waste of time (mostly due to the organizers’ refusal to “PLAN”), the fact is that people were affected for the better from the whole thing (e.g. the mass numbers of people calling verizon, etc. to remove internet from their phones), and if klal yisroel will learn to keep kids off the internet entirely, as well as limit their own use of it to need rather than want (at least to some degree!), we may minimize the problem to a manageable level.

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