Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Agudah, Internet and K9

We have discussed in the past the necessity for the Agudah to maintain a web presence. In modern times, when the internet is the medium of choice with which to disseminate one’s message, the steadfast refusal to embrace today’s technology will unfortunately relegate Agudah membership to the older age bracket.

As the younger generation comes to grips with I-pods and I-pads, Twitter and Facebook, Blackberrys and Treos, the older folk must learn to channel the new technology to further their goals.

When printing was invented in the 15th century, most of the first customers were Jews. When newspapers proliferated in the 19th century, the Yeshiva communities quickly created their own to counter the Maskilic publications. When the telephone was invented, it was only a matter of time before Dial-A-Daf was created. Even the automobile can be used for good and bad. What is it about the internet that requires a blanket Issur?

Primarily, the answer seems to be the indecency which abounds on the internet. The Agudah has railed against that, but also against blogs many of which undermine rabbinical authority.

Whereas people laughed when Agudah banded together all those years ago to outlaw television, nevertheless they were remarkably successful. However, the internet differs with TV in one major aspect. While TV is mostly viewed as an entertainment tool, the internet is rapidly becoming a necessary life tool.

The answer then seems to be a filter. A simple download of an internet filter can have one protected in a matter of minutes. Although no filter is fool-proof, the inconvenience of attempting to bypass the filter should serve as a valid deterrent. One of the better free products is the K9 Web Protection filter offered by Blue Coat. This product allows the novice to easily configure the filter to meet their particular needs.

The Agudah can then launch their website with their online version of the JO, their Mincha Minyan map and all of their programs. All they need to do is issue a disclaimer, somewhat akin to the music industry saying “This website may only be accessed by those who have a filter installed".

Inspired by: Hirhurim


  1. The problem is that the Agudah, having made such a tumult against the Internet for so long, has climbed up a tree in this issue and can't back down.

    Look at the RCA's website. Heck, how many chareidi and near-chareidi yeshivos have websites that disseminate Torah?

    The banning of the internet could be compared to the banning of the printing press or the first camera because of the potential indecent use.

    A tool is a tool. It's the user that makes all the difference.

  2. I deleted a comment which questionably broke the rule of this blog. Please repost. Thank you.

  3. It's a good post, but it's a little more complicated than all that. "The Jews" did embrace the printing press, and Orthodox Jews did establish newspapers, but both of these were criticized and unwelcome by many as well. This is not at all unlike the internet itself. The Agudah is/ was just taking the Luddite position, which also has a precedent.

  4. I don't think that the Agudah is necessarily anti technology, if that is what you mean by Luddite. More probable is that the Agudah's leaders have heard many stories of what the Internet has wrought on families.

    I recall one of the first gatherings against the internet where Rav Mattisyahu Salomon recounted an exchange between himself and a parent. The parent blamed the internet for his son going OTD and lamented how he may not see him in the afterlife because the son may be going "down there" and the parent assumed he was going "up there". RMS responded that he may see be seeing him afterall, since if he allowed him access to the internet, it was he who was to blame. I'm paraphrasing a bit.

  5. Of course the Agudah is not literarly anti-technology, but they've taken a Luddite position on this one, not merely a principled stance.

    The problems wrought by the internet are real and they are legion, but if it is not already impossible to reasonably navigate life in the Western world without it, it will be in 5, 10 or 20 years. Although I realize that "the Agudah" will eventually make it's peace with it (and in that sense they aren't real Luddites) it's going to require a lot of creativity to reverse the position. In the meantime, they could have had a web site to rival YUTorah and so forth. Instead they're not only communicating via means circa 1992, but they've even moved backward with the loss of the Jewish Observer.

  6. Fred, I'm with Avrumi on this one. Agudah in my understanding is not "Luddite" in any manner, shape or form. They and their membership readily avail themselves of new technology in many ways. They have nothing per se against the computer, but as I've heard quoted in the name of one of their Moetzes members..."just don't connect it to anything". An insular community will obviously have an issue with technology that infiltrates their home. Filtering is the antidote to infiltration.

  7. What do you mean about a music disclaimer?

  8. The Jewish music industry puts a disclaimer on their records/tapes/cds/dvds Please do not play this **** on Shabbos or Jewish holidays.


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