Friday, May 11, 2012

School censorship or the internet - Lev Bais Yaakov School

Shouldn't this be up to parents and not schools?

How do you feel about your child's school dictating that your kids can't use the internet?  This is happening in NY, Chicago, Baltimore, LA and elsewhere.

On May 20 2012 a group Orthodox rabbis to discuss the dangers of the internet.  Who's discussing the dangers of these orthodox rabbis? (See below)

School Censorship Against the Internet

Stadium Seating for Internet Morals


A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews have rented out Citi Field for a meeting later this month intended to draw thousands of men to discuss the dangers of the Internet and formulate a communitywide response.

The event, set for May 20, has been publicized internationally within the Orthodox Jewish press and tapped into a world-wide debate over how to reconcile modern life with the Internet's perceived moral dangers.

It is a concern that transcends the Orthodox community, organizers note.

"We're hoping to come together as a unified community to address a challenge that in the last number of years has begun dawning not just on our community and the larger Jewish community but society as a whole," said Eytan Kobre, 52 years old, a spokesman for the event who is also the North American editor for an Orthodox magazine, Mispacha.

"Hopefully we'll fill the role that the Jewish people have tried to fill from time memorial, which is serving as a beacon to the world and as a force for the transformation of the good in society," he said, adding that the event has already had sold out the 42,000-seat stadium.

But the meeting, which some published reports have estimated will cost nearly $2 million, has drawn a series of sharp attacks—for its men-only policy, for instance, and for its cost, criticized as extravagant at a time when many families are struggling.

The Hasidic rabbis wanted women to attend, but "logistics did not permit for it," said Mr. Kobre, noting that in this community "a religious gathering of this nature is gender-separated."

A live video-feed will be streamed to six locations around the metropolitan area for women to watch, he said.

Other critics say the event is a smokescreen for religious leaders seeking to consolidate control over their congregations by limiting access to outside information.

A counterprotest—dubbed "The Internet Is Not the Problem" and expected to draw hundreds—is scheduled for across the street from the stadium event. It accuses Jewish leadership of scapegoating the Internet while avoiding a more pressing problem: child abuse.

"You can spend all the time and money protesting the Internet and you can't get worked up about child molestation?" said Ari Mandel, who said he left the ultra-Orthodox community about six years ago, joined the Army and recently returned to civilian life.

Mr. Mandel, 29 years old, organized the counterprotest after learning last week that a young family member had been molested. "We were outraged," he said. He is mobilizing supporters through a website and Facebook page for the protest.

Organizers said they were disappointed to learn of the counterprotest.

"Whether it's a legitimate issue or not, and I'm willing to posit that it is a legitimate issue, are they really going to make progress on it by holding a counterrally?" Mr. Kobre said. "It seems like a cheap political circus. It's sad. It's unfortunate."

Organizers stressed that the intent of the Citi Field event wasn't to ban the Internet but to promote its responsible use. Speakers will be recommending that all Orthodox families install filters on their computers, and block out all social-media sites including Facebook and Twitter, said Mr. Kobre.

He cited recent reports in mainstream newspapers and magazines depicting families of all faiths grappling with the issue, particularly how to speak to children about Internet pornography. "I expect that any member of society in good standing would be pained by that sort of thing," he said.

Still, he acknowledged that Orthodox standards could well exceed secular ones: He included People Magazine as an example of a website for recommended filtering.

The event at Citi Field isn't the first time the ultra-Orthodox community has grappled with the Internet.

Earlier attempts by Orthodox religious leaders to ban the Internet in congregants' households have largely failed, many said. But efforts to restrict it continue, including contracts at some religious schools requiring parents to promise that their children won't be allowed Internet access, under threat of expulsion.

Accusations have surfaced that some schools are requiring male students and their fathers to purchase the $10 tickets and attend the Citi Field event.

"That's kind of coercive," said Dr. Michael Salamon, an Orthodox psychologist on Long Island. "What we're getting is a lot of arm-twisting."

Akiva Marks, a 47-year-old software designer who moved to Israel from New Jersey several years ago, said he considers himself ultra-Orthodox and wasn't unaware of the dangers posed by certain websites. He recalled helping his 8-year-old daughter with a research project on the presidency and typed in instead of '.gov.'

"I quickly shut down the browser," he said.

But several years later when he was required to sign a school contract stating that his daughter would have no access to the Internet, "she thought it was ridiculous," he said.

He praised the goal of the conference but questioned whether it would be successful. "I think that it's become more and more indispensable to most peoples' daily lives," said

"The community needs to be educated and understand the things to avoid," he said. "But I think that those who are organizing it don't bring the right skills to do that and by trying to solve the problem without the right skills they'll alienate those who need a solution."

He noted that as a result of medical advances in recent years, the most respected Jewish scholars can live to be up to 90 years old. "We benefit greatly from maintaining their wisdom among us that much longer," he said. "But it's a little harder for them to analyze Internet issues."

"I think the fears are legitimate, absolutely," he said. "I just think the approach is wrong."

Mr. Kobre said that the organizers are technically savvy, though he did not know who would be speaking at the event.

Even accepting the meeting at face value, Dr. Salamon said he questioned whether blocking out content was the best solution.

"You don't deal with it by talking about pure filtering—you deal with it by teaching about how to deal with what may pop up, even with the best filters," he said.

"Pornography has always been out there; marital problems have always been out there," he continued. "They are not necessarily made worse by technology."

Some rabbis said they were initially skeptical of the event, but have become convinced of the organizers' good intentions.

"My position on it has evolved a lot," said Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, 30, who leads a congregation in Venice Beach, Calif., and runs a popular religious blog. Initially he worried that the Citi Field event would reprise earlier efforts to ban the Internet. But after speaking with organizers he became convinced that they were determined to teach people how to use the technology responsibly.

"I'm hopeful that this event will somehow make the Internet kosher for those who have always felt it's prohibited," said Mr. Fink.

Write to Sophia Hollander at

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