Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The reverberations from last week’s Internet Asifa are still being felt. I was going to move on, but I keep reading things that are hitting me in the face.

Over the three day Yom Tov we just had - I had an opportunity to read many of the reactions to the Asifa in various periodicals. As could be expected there was everything from outright praise at the glorious moment of unity achieved - to criticism along the lines I and many others have been making.

The biggest criticism is that the Asifa was not what it was advertised to be. It was advertised as a solution to the problems of the internet - how we can use it safely.  In a published interview Eytan Kobre’s description of this event prior to its taking place as a way to deal with the reality of the internet was as misleading as could be. I doubt that it was intentional. He probably believed the hype. I’m sure that this is how it was explained to him in all sincerity.

But viewing it post facto it was instead just more of the same old… same old: The internet is Assur. Among the things gleaned from that gathering by the exclusively Charedi and Chasidic speakers were the following:

People who use it even for business even with filters are Reshaim (as per R’ Don Segal).  If one does not follow the Psak of the Gedolim as they make edicts when Rivvivos Yisroel (thousands upon thousands of Jews) are gathered they lose there portion in Olam HaBah (as per R’ Ephriam Wachsman’s application of Rebbenu Yonah’s Sharrei Teshuva).  One is not permitted to even enter a home of someone who has unfiltered interent - and those children whose homes have even filtered interent should be barred from  Yeshivos (as per R’ Shmuel HaLevi Wosner).  Description after description of what went on there leaves little doubt in my mind. Nothing has changed.

So what happened?

The search for Achdus happened. In trying to get every segment of Yiddshkeit (as defined by those who organized the Asifa) on board they had to make compromises. Chasidic Rebbes have not conceded to the realities of the internet. Nor have Israeli Rabbinic leaders. They were the speakers… and they were the sought after Daas Torah.

It is my personal belief that Rav Salomon and the original organizers had intended this to be as advertised: solutions to the problem and not just a rehash of all the condemnations of the past. I don’t think they realized what they were bargaining for or the price they would have to pay. According to everything I read - speaker after speaker did nothing but condemn the internet!

Nor was there any true Achdus of observant Jews. Unless one considers Achdus to mean a sea of bearded man clad in black comprised mostly of Chasidim and other Charedim from Yeshivos like Lakewood. True – the audience was peppered here and there with an occasional ‘blue shirt’.  But the vast majority of attendees were wearing black hats of one type or another. And by black hats I mean Hashkafic black hats. One need only look at any photograph of the crowds or interviews with some of the attendees to see that.

It is an insult of the highest level to call this event unifying. Where were the modern Orthodox Jews in the audience? Where were even right wing modern Orthodox speakers like any of the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University? Or someone like Rav Gedalia Schwartz, the Av Beis Din of the RCA Bet Din (the BDA)?

The only unity was Charedi unity. Only that is not how the speakers referred to themselves. They did not say Charedi unity. They said unity… Achdus!  For them as long as Chasidim and other Charedim were there, Achdus was acheived!

And how were the massive crowds achieved? A lot of it was by force or intimidation (as per Rav Avrohom Schor’s ultimatum to his Shul members and the description by one Kollel member about his Rosh Kollel’s threat of expulsion if his Avreichim did not attend). I can only guess that there was a lot more where that came from. Yeshivos and Kollelim were clearly empitied out by Roshei Yeshiva and Roshei Kollel for purposes of attending the Asifa. It’s hard to know just how many Charedim would have attended had they not had a ‘capitve audience’.

The bottom line for me and others who seek true unity among Orthodox Jews is that in the view of the rabbinic leaders and organizers of this Asifa – if one is not Charedi one is so outside their radar, that intermarrying with us is an insulting suggestion.  No matter how big a Talmid Chacham one is or how obseravnt of the Mitzvos one is, if they are not part of this ‘Kehilla’ they will not consider our children for marriage to theirs. Think not? Read on.

Rav Chaim Feival Schneebalg of Khal Avreichim in Monsey was interviewed by Ami Magazine. In explaining the purpose of the Asifa he asked a rhetorical question. “If someone redt you a Shiddach, a Chashuva Mechutan, a fine Yid, except there is one problem, that he had a huge television in his livingroom, would you enter a Shidduch?” “Of course not, you would even be embarrassed that the Shadchan Redt you such a Shidduch.”  He goes on to make a comparison to the interent. But that is beside the point.

Rav Schneebalg’s statement is very revealing. He dismisses virtually anyone who was raised in a home more modern than his. It doesn’t matter how religious or learned the potential Shiddach is, nor how religious or learned their parents are. If one was raised in a home with a TV… don’t insult me by suggesting that Shiddach for my son or my daughter!

I suppose he feels that the bad influences of TV have tainted the soul of that Shidduch. Although it is not an exact comparison - this Rav’s attitude is reminiscent of Ploni Almoni’s attitude with respect to Rus, the Giyores we just read about on Shavuos. He did not want to taint his pedigree. He therefore would rather go through an embarrassing process of Chalitza than fulfill his obligation to marry her.

Not so Boaz. He was the Gadol HaDor of his time. He didn’t care that she was raised with a television in her home. He married her anyway.

This is apparently the Charedi world of today in its most extreme incarnation. It seems that moderate Charedim who might not feel this way are being harangued into thinking like this. Wonderful Shidduchim are rejected for reasons that are given far too much weight. True – backgrounds should be considered as part of an overall package. But outright rejection of a Shiddach without knowing anything other than there was a TV in the home?! Please!

It is precisely this mentality that Rav Shteinman ridiculed in a recent YouTube video.  He was asked by some officials at a Charedi school in Israel if they could reject a student because the Hashkfos of the parents weren’t exactly the same as what the school called for. They were described as religious – even Charedi – but a bit too open minded. Rav Steinman’s response to them?  Pure Gavah! He repeated it several times and admonished them for their exclusionary attitude. He considered them to be extremely haughty and way too self important.

I doubt that Rav Schneebalg would see his statement that way but is there any other way to look at it?

I am appalled and insulted by this attitude. I understand why they considered this a unifying event. But in my view it wasn’t. Instead calling this event a demonstration of Achdus makes it one of most divisive events in my memory.