Over all one can ask, was this event a success or failure? The answer I think is that depends by what measure we use.
To the general public this could have been seen pretty much as a Kiddush HaShem. While I’m sure that many non and secular Jews unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the larger Charedi world, and may not have handled it this way, the idea of holding a mass conference to deal with the dangers of the internet speaks volumes about how much we care about those dangers.
I am fairly certain that the vast majority of the American people agree that these dangers exist and that things like filters should be used. And they also realize that even with all filters there can still be problems. They can only admire such a unified attempt to deal with it.
In a vacuum that would all be true. But once you start dealing with the details the Kiddush Hashem starts to become a bit more murky. First there is the way they presented the internet as the great Satan. Then there is the fact that women were barred from attending – even though they could have been seated separately – albeit without a Mechitza. Then there the religious edict by Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner -a world class Posek in Bnei Brak. He forbids using the internet at all in the home and advocates expulsion from Yeshivos of children who have it in their homes.
And then there is the way people were persuaded to attend. We already know that Rabbi Avrohom Schor threatened his Shul members with ‘expulsion’ from his Shul. We know that Yeshivos high schools and Beis Yaakovs forced their parent bodies to attend. And I just received an e-mail from someone who learns in a Kollel. His Rosh Kollel also threatened expulsion from the Kollel for those who didn’t attend the Asifah!
This is a far cry from a Kiddush HaShem if you ask me.
But the topper is the small group of small still voices who were across the street protesting the fact that victims of abuse have always gotten short shrift. And this time was no exception. The name of this protest group “The Internet is not the Problem” really speaks volumes.
These people are speaking from the heart. Although I’m not particularly fond of the title the fact is that a segment of Klal Yisroel is crying. They are crying because they have been mistreated. That a gathering of this size can be held shows the power in the hands of the organizers and their rabbinic backers. Had they done an Asifa of thos proportion about dealing with abuse, think what kind of Kiddush HaShem that would have made.
Instead they were ignored at best and smirked at by passersby as they proceeded to their seats in Ciiti Field.
How sad it is that the cry of a victim continues to go unheard. How sad it is that so little has been done for these victims. And that their abusers are protected. In some communities victims, their families, and witness are intimidated.
So there is a long way to go. No one said it better than Judy Brown. But there is on person who does understand. He is Charedi. And in my view a hero. Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman has impeccable Charedi credentials. He was at the Asifa. He had nothing but praise for what he heard there. But he left early to stand with the victims. He gets it!
We can us a lot more like him. Those who have given up on Charedim, let them read what he wrote.