Monday, May 14, 2012

Not an Achdus Moment

If anyone has any doubt about the real intent of this great big Asifa this coming Sunday, this poster should put it to rest. It is about creating the false image of unity. What do the Hebrew words in this poster say? First it says nothing about the  anti-porn message constantly being mentioned by its promoters. (And yes - based on my conversation with an insider porn is the big concern here. Not blogs)

It says K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad – “As one man with one heart”.  In other words - it is about Achdus. The lack of which  I consider to be one of the most important issues facing Judaism. Even the name of the newly created organization behind the Asifa is misleading: Ichud HaKehillos - United Communities.

Understanding the Asifa in this way explains a lot. As I have said many times the issues being raised by the promoters of this Asifa are real. And the fact that they have now by default admitted that the way their concerns were handled in the past was mistaken is definitely a step in the right direction.

But as I also said in a recent post I finally figured out what was so troubling about an event that dealt with a problem that I agree needs dealing with. It was the idea that this Asifa was going to present a unified attitude about the value of the internet. That is clearly how it is being promoted. By characterizing it this way they are saying that all segments of Klal Yisroel would agree to it.

That is clearly not true.  There are legitimate differences among Orthodox groups about the value of the internet. The people sponsoring this Asifa are still on the same page they were on before. If they could they would still ban it. I am pretty sure that is how it will be presented.

I will never forget overhearing one prominent Charedi Rav – a Kanoi to be sure - spitting every time he used the word internet in a conversation he had with a Charedi Baal HaBos standing a just a couple of feet away from me. They still have this attitude. But they now realize that they have wasted their breath in trying to somehow ban it from even their insular environment. So they have come around to the idea of safe use with the aid of filters and various other ideas.

The safe methods of use to be promoted are not that different from methods used by other communities including non Jews. They have many of the same kinds of concerns Orthodox Jews do. Solutions like filters have been obvious to many of us long before now and are already in place in many homes – religious  or otherwise.

So why the need for an Asifa? Why spend ,millions of dollars on promoting the obvious? Because they want all of Klal Yisroel to be on board not only with the need to filter out porn and the like, but to have the same negative attitude as they do. K’Ish Echad U’BLev Echod.

To that end they would love to see their sold out attendance consist of a wide cross section of Orthodox Jewry – from very Modern Orthodox to very right wing Chasidic.  From YU to Satmar. They would love to see a huge number of Kipot Seruga along with the velvet ones. Black hats, fur hats, and no hats (…just Kipot). The idea being Achdus in not only in solutions but in attitude. They want to teach us all to spit (at least in our minds) when we say internet  even while conceding the reality of its permanence in our lives. 

Make no mistake about it. This is a Charedi driven event and they have no interest in presenting a more positive view.There will be nobody standing up there telling the audience about all the positive websites available – or as Dovid Teitlebaum suggested on his blog that the internet can be incorporated into all systems of Chinuch to make learning more exiting. His views have brought him tremendous grief rom the right!

The focus instead will be on Kedushas Yisroel  and how the internet is destroying it.  And though it would be best to avoid it, it no longer can be. Nonetheless it should still be seen as the biggest single obstacle to Kedusha in our lifetime. 

This is not Achdus. This is no more Ish Ehcad B’Lev Echad than an Agudah convention.The pictures in the 5 Towns Jewish News of Ichud HaKehillos planning session in Lakewood says it all. (page 22 - available only in pdf) 

If they really wanted to claim Achdus, these pictures would look a lot different. And no doubt so would the program they will present.Had they invited some Modern Orthodox rabbis to their planning sessions they might have promoted it differently. And no doubt so too would be their program.

Those who will be attending this event should listen very carefully to what is being presented. Will it be the all negative Charedi view of the internet?  I hope not but I doubt there will be anything positive said about it. If there is - I will be pleasantly surprised. 

Everything I have heard up till now spells the ‘spit on the internet’ attitude that Charedim have always had. And the more modern Orthodox Jews attend, the more they will be able to say that this is the unified approach of all of Orthodox Jewry.