40,000 Orthodox Jews rally to protest the "evils of the Internet"
The largest collection of people gathered in costume to discuss the Internet happened Sunday, when more than 40,000 Orthodox Jews rallied at the New York Mets’ Citi Field to talk about what a spokesman called “evils of the Internet.”
The rally was organized by Ichud Hakehillos Letohar Hamachane (“Union of Communities for the Purity of the Camp”), an Orthodox Jewish organization that tries to help religious Jews avoid violating their faith through online activity. Pornography, in particular, draws much of the organization’s criticism.
A spokesman for the event wrote in an editorial:
“There’s a trail of casualties inside and outside the Jewish community—marriages that have crashed and burned, spouses who have walked away from their families because of people they met in chat rooms or social networking.”
The Internet’s harm to society extends past porn, he added.
“Look at the comments section of any newspaper or blog and you see how the anonymity and the lack of accountability allows people to savage each other with words,” he wrote.
It’s an illustration of how much Orthodox Jews are struggling to incorporate the Internet with their everyday faith. One Jewish private school had such trouble keeping its students from using Facebook at home it began fining them. In 2005, the heavily Orthodox community of Lakewood, NJ, issued a proclamation forbidding Jewish children from using computers connected to the Web, and stated adults could only go online for business and after getting permission from a rabbi.
The rally’s sponsors were reportedly linked with the Lakewood-based Technology Awareness Group, which offers free filtering software for Orthodox Jews to keep them from seeing content deemed offensive to their faith. Attendees received flyers for smartphone apps that locate kosher stores via GPS.
Not everyone agreed with the rally’s message.
Counter-protesters, many of them Jewish, gathered outside Citi Field. They carried signs with slogans such as “the Internet is not the problem.”