Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Post-Asifa Reflections

Well, the Great Internet Asifa is over, and it wasn't exactly the Kiddush Hashem that some hoped for, or even the type of event that many expected. I'm not entirely clear at to what it was actually all about, or as to how it was intended to accomplish its objectives. Here are some links to some interesting and varied perspectives:

A comprehensive and level-headed write-up by S. about the event: Link

Rabbi Ron Eisemann's reflections on the responsibilities of those at the Asifa to the counter-Asifa: Link

Rabbi Eli Fink's perspective: Link

Finally, here's a fascinating statement by a non-Jew on a report at the Gizmodo tech blog: Link.


  1. I don't know why you like the gizmodo article so much. The guy really has no complaint he just wants to claim "it was like something out of the dark ages ". It really was a pathetic article.

    As they say "haters gonna hate." There was no content there.

    (Your other articles were not pro either but I really didnt expect different)

  2. The Gizmodo article was awful. But my link was, as I described it, to a comment on the Gizmodo article.

  3. Did anyone (other than Rabbi Fink) really think this rally wouldn't be one big "We're the Gadolim and we'll tell you what to think and we think the internet is bad!" event?
    What's most fascinating to me is the increasing disconnect between what the Chareidi leadership pronounces and what their followers are actually doing.
    Rav Yonasan Rosenblum recently posted a piece on how more and more Chareidim are getting real educations and starting to work for a living. This at a time when we are told by the Asifa that the internet is evil, even when used for work yet how many people in that crowd have internet-enabled phones..And Rav Shteinman makes a public pronouncement that if you work for a living you're a horrible person.
    It's like they know they have to change but they have no maintain the public image that they haven't. This Asifa was just part of it.

  4. Rabbi Slifkin- All I can say after reading the comments by non-Jews about such and other things haveing to do with Jews is- Halacha Esav Soneh et Yaakov

  5. @Mighty Garnel Ironheart

    Did anyone (other than Rabbi Fink) really think this rally wouldn't be one big "We're the Gadolim and we'll tell you what to think and we think the internet is bad!" event?

    I think people (myself included) did hold out hope that this would be different. For one thing, the asifa was conceived and organized by someone in the filter business (which raises its own questions of the motivation for the asifa, but that's a different story). Second, the speeches were to have been preceded by an expo of filters and other products from 5pm-7pm.

    The expo ended up getting canceled. An omen, as it turned out. But I think there was something of a hope, if not exactly an expectation, that the speeches would take a more nuanced approach to the issue, given the genesis of the asifa.

  6. perspective said...

    keep in mind that the 4 leading students of r aharon kotler didn't want the asifah but refused to make a fuss against it. i am told that one went into hiding the night before and came back out 24 hours later.

    also, in order to be inclusive the organizers had to water down the program until very little of what was initially planned actually ended up being said.

  7. What I WISH would have happened is if somebody got up and said "Hey, for general knowledge, there's Khan Academy (the greatest site on the web for learning secular info). Why can't we make a Torah version of that where anybody can get a complete Torah education for free?

    Now THAT would have been wonderful.

  8. Does anybody know where I can find a transcript of the speeches. I would like to judge for myself what was said. Thanks.

  9. The Gizmodo article sounded like something written up in a basement -not journalistic,thoroughly biased . Showing those sophomores dressed up as cavemen,and using that as serious comment gave it all away.

    A long time ago , I visited Vienna for a week. The shul I went to,since it was near where I was staying,was right on the night club district-in fact,going home from that shul on erev Shabbos,one doorman invited me in ( I didn`t accept).

    I think that incident,more than anything,shows what Torah sites on the net are like. Yes,the message is true,usually. But the neighhbourhood sends the opposite message. And,you can filter all you want,but the street is still there.

  10. From the accounts of those who attended and blogged about it, as well as from multitude of photos and videos, it seems quite clear that the vast majority of the crowd was chassidish, not litvish. Which simply means that the whole event would have been a fiasco had the Skulener and MS not begged, borrowed and stolen the approval of Ger, Vizhnitz, Beltz, Bobov 45 and, last but not least, Zalman Leib's Satmar. Does this mean that MS has no real traction with, and his ideas really don't resonate with, the Yeshivisha olim, particularly the ballei battim in Flatbush and the Five Towns whose largesse Lakewood relies so heavily upon? Just wondering.

  11. You linked to a Gizmodo article, not a comment on the article. A "statement" is not a comment.
    And do you believe everything you read by anonymous commenters? The guy claims to be an "African-American", but yet is on intimiate terms with Kiryas Yoel, which he refers to repeatedly, and claims a chasid tried to molest him 32 years ago. This you believe?

  12. "Why can't we make a Torah version of that where anybody can get a complete Torah education for free?"

    There are such sites. yutorah.org has enough shiurim that you could get the equivalent of a yeshiva education. And I'm aware of at least two online semichah programs (both run by charedim!).

  13. R. Slifkin, that comment was indeed interesting.

    Peretz - Gizmodo excels in snark; they're the tech equivalents of shock journalists. The site is actually under new editors who are moving to distance themselves from their previous excesses. Paul Miller of TheVerge is also doing a piece on the asifa (I was interviewed by him for background) and I expect you'll find it far more respectful in tone. But the bottom line is that, even if the gizmodo piece was deliberately harsh, that is the way many? most? certainly a lot of non Jews and non-religious Jews view this. "Look at the crazy religious nuts railing against the Internet! Hahahahahaha!" Frankly, while I respect the notion of trying to control or limit exposure to negative influences, it is simply ludicrous for people who don't understand the Internet to pretend to guide others about it. Even after reading all about the asifa, I'm still not sure what the problem actually is. Is it porn? Cyber-bullying? Facebook (and if so, *why* they are afraid of Facebook)? Blogs like this one? RichardDawkins.net? Evite? YU.org? Pintrest? JewInTheCity.com? Amazon? ESPN? Monster.com? Jdate?

  14. How many of you have read the comments after the Gismodo article.
    Written by an Afro-American. It certainly sheds light on societal problem between the "Heimish" and the outside world.

    N. Kabak

  15. I have yet to read a gizmodo article that wasn't horrible

  16. check out this post asifa article:


  17. Avrohom LeventhalMay 23, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    To me, sadly, the asifa was a lost opportunity.

    To have a gathering of 60K (a "captive audience") would have been a
    wonderful time to address serious issues such as child/domestic abuse, the
    soaring divorce rate, poverty and why are children are running away in

    If nothing else it could have been a chance to instill the true warmth and
    pride of the Am Segula.

    Yes, the Internet contains dangerous pitfalls and can expose us to evils of
    every sort.

    It is also a tool for people to make parnassa, reach the masses with the
    Dvar HaShem and do chassidim from miles afar.

    The expression says "guns don't kill people, people do". The same applies to
    the Internet.

    What we do (and don't do) with the Internet depends on who we are and how we
    value ourselves. People who turn to the ills of the Internet are seeking and
    searching for an answer or perhaps an escape.

    If we could instill self worth into our children, ourselves and our nation
    there would be no need for the fantasies and escape that drugs, alcohol and
    the Internet provide.

    For the millions that were spent on the asifa I could have changed the lives
    of countless families by bring them out of poverty. Other organizations
    could have spent that money for worthwhile projects for youth, communities,
    shalom bayis, etc.

    Instead 60K, people were presented with a challenge that frankly, in 2012,
    is insurmountable.

    The Internet is here and is here to stay.

    Let's work together to instill the confidence in ourselves and our nation to
    find the good within and B"Ezras HaShem we will have the tools to face any
    and all challenges that the world brings

  18. @Avi Greengart.

    I think they`re concerned on a few levels. The one,and it`s a concern they share with many people,is the access to porn and damaging relations . Second,they don`t like sites such as this, and that atttitude annoys me no end. If people have dissenting opinions,then we should be able to discuss them,and not be labelled apikorsim,or kefirim,or whatever else is in their arsenal.

    Thirdly,the erosion of our attention spans,our ability to think deeply is deeply concerning.I read a book recently, The Emperor of all Maladies. In one anecdote, a researcher was trying to solve a certain problem,with no success. One morning,he walked to work,across a bridge . He was caught in a snowstorm,and ,if you have ever had that joyful experience,it involves putting your head down and trudging for what seems an eternity. The mind finds something to focus on,and he focussed on his research. He found a solution during that walk.

    The ipods,smart phones and all those toys are making that concentration more and more unlikely.WE ,or many of us, are now carrying on our person, bright shiny objects to provide instant amusement.

  19. Just don't let the Chareidim read the following article on Gizmodo:

    How to destroy the internet

  20. Paul Miller's article on the asifa for The Verge is here http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/22/3035274/against-the-future-inside-the-jewish-anti-internet-rally, and well worth a read, both for his respectful outsider's perspective, and an anecdote from the subway where a chasid manages to create a chilul HaShem while performing an act of chesed! (A smile would have made ALL the difference.)

    Peretz Mann - I'm not sure what the issues are because the Rabbonim cannot articulate them. The Internet is infrastructure for a wide variety of services - some of which are now essential - so banning it simply won't work. But since the people making the pronouncements have never used the Internet, they can't define the problems, which is a prerequisite to addressing them. For example, if the problem is access to well argued pro-atheist sites, then perhaps the antidote is to actually teach hashkafa in yeshivot. If the problem is exposure to enticing popular culture for students who are not excited by gemara, then perhaps the antidote is to focus on the joy of other mitzvot besides talmud torah.

  21. Avi Greengart said...

    "For example, if the problem is access to well argued pro-atheist sites, then perhaps the antidote is to actually teach hashkafa in yeshivot."

    How exactly will teaching hashkafa respond to well argued pro-atheist sites?

  22. Apparently Rav Wosner has "evolved" his views on the internet:

    (The "evolved" quip is a reference to the US president's stance on a certain hot topic.)

  23. Wow, a big thank you to Avi Greengart for recommending that article. The verge really pwned gizmodo on their coverage and journalism. I'm so sick of cheap lazy journalism and puff pieces in major magazines and supposedly credible news sites. I really enjoyed the verge article and discussion in the comments that followed.


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