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Dec 31, 2012

New Haredi Approaches To New and Old Technologies

The frum world's approach to new technology is sometimes understandable, but sometimes it is confounding.  

The latest announcements, and there are two of them specifically, coming out of the frum world regarding technology are more of the latter rather than the former.

1. Some organization, or group of people, in Beitar Ilit has been putting out notices around Beitar announcing that because the plague of the iPhone, Blackberry and other similar items that have been prohibited by the gedolim has been spreading through our camp, so much so that people are even pulling them out in the shteiblach and in other public places, without any shame, they have set up this organization to fight against this breach in any way possible.
Some steps they plan to take include things that they intend to shock the foundations of the haredi society, including:

  1. having people appointed in every shul and beis medrash that will approach any person who brings such a device into the shul and will demand that the person leave. Such people will not get called up to the Torah, they won't be allowed to lead services on the day of a parents yahrtzeit
  2. they will report to the schools which parents are holding these devices, so that "there children will not learn with our children", and they will also publicize which schools do not cooperate with them, against the wishes of the gedolim.
The announcement also included a piece about Rav Wosner's psak halacha that anybody with such devices is invalidated from being a witness, and if he were to shecht an animal his shechita would be unacceptable. 
(source: Bechadrei)

It does not mention it, but I wonder if at the bottom of the announcement it also said that all these people are still obligated to vote for UTJ. The haredi community seems to try to find ways to exclude all sorts of people who don't toe the line exactly as some people want it toed, but when it comes to elections suddenly everybody is part of our camp and they must vote for UTJ... See these two good spoofs of the UTJ campaign "Kulanu Haredim" that have been spreading around the past couple of days...

2. The hassidic community of Sanz is now making a move against not just new technology, but also old technology. This also comes out of Beitar, specifically the Sanz community of Beitar. Any parent who refuses to sign a commitment to follow the new rules will not be allowed to send their children to the schools.  

The new rules include a ban on having a computer at home that is not necessary for work purposes or for writing Torah pieces, with no accessibility to the kids protected by a frequently changing password, removing any games and videos form the computer, having absolutely no access to the Internet.
To be allowed to use a computer or email for work, whether at home or at work, a person needs to get a letter of approval from the committee.

Also, obviously, no cellular phones are allowed at all. Not even the ones that are designated as approved, kosher, phones. Somebody who absolutely needs it, or needs a Blackberry for access to email (and nothing else) can get approval from the committee.

Even a land line phone can only be owned if the ability to call inappropriate material is blocked. 

MP3 and MP4 devices are only allowed to be used if the ability to access radio is disconnected, and even then they cannot be brought into the educational institutions at all.

It seems, for some reason, that digital cameras are ok, but the memory cards, usb drives and Disk-On-Keys are all problematic and cannot be used by students. "experience has shown that by involving oneself in these things people are pulled to places they never imagines they would get".
(source: Bechadrei)

I'd suggest that perhaps recently something spilled into the water supply of Beitar, but this is really just taking the general rules of the general haredi community one level further. Old technology, new technology, does not matter. They should still be banning cameras, tape recorders, cars and buses.

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  1. I think there is a clear distinction between smart phones and computers, on one hand, and other technologies such as cameras, disc-on-keys, cars, etc., on the other. Computers and smart phones give you Internet access, with all the possibilities that go along with it - pornography, science, consumerism, zionist and modern orthodox ideas - the whole gambit, choose your poison. I don't particularly agree with their approach to this, because most people will eventually go out into the world and be exposed to these things in any case - and with no prior training or immunity, the eventually exposure can be a great shock - but in any case, there is a logical distinction to be made, once you take the approach that people, and particularly children, need to be totally shielded from inappropriate material.

  2. There is a certain Darwinism approach at work here (ironic, eh?).
    Anyone with any intelligence and self-respect will say to himself "I can't possibly be part of this idiocy" and leave the community. That leaves behind a group that evolves into non-thinking morons endowed with a high quotient of self-righteousness. Eventually these Chasidim will actually become the idiots they are currently stereotyped as being.

    1. Nice theory, Mighty Garnel, but it doesn't take into account the many, many people who pay lip service to the rules but privately ignore them. That's why the rhetoric from the rabbis and assorted busybodies keeps getting more and more shrill - because they know that many, many people are ignoring these edicts. And I wouldn't say these people are necessarily hypocrites, either. I think many of them see the flaws in the system very clearly, but see other communities as being even more flawed, in other ways.


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