Sunday night 40,000 Haredi men (just men) gathered at New York’s CitiField. They did not go to see the Mets, but to figure out how to fight the internet:
As bewildered-looking stadium staff looked on, oceans of men in black hats filled nearly every seat in the Queens, N.Y., baseball stadium to hear a series of polemics against the use of the web.
Rabbis cast the Internet as a threat to children and to ultra-Orthodoxy as a whole.
“[The people Israel] has arisen like a lioness protecting her cubs,” said Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, a well-known Orthodox lecturer.
Ironically, many arrived with their smartphones:
Despite the rabbis’ inveighing against technology, many of those in attendance carried Blackberrys, iPhones and digital cameras. At the Carroll Street subway stop in Brooklyn…a dozen men in black hats gathered discussed the directions they had found on the online map site HopStop.
Two things are absolutely true. The internet is here to stay and it absolutely poses a danger to the continuity of Haredi Judaism. Wachsman summed it up:
The Internet, Wachsman said, is “changing who we are…You can see it in the ebbing eyes of the younger generation, of the jittery inattentiveness of our children, in the flippant and callous language and attitude, the cynicism … the unbelievable breaches of [modesty],” in Orthodox communities.
All I can say is that I hope their younger generation’s eyes keep “ebbing” as they are faced with more and more contact with the modern world. I cheer on their jittery inattentiveness to superstition and their rising cynicism of the authority of their credulous elders.
I recently spoke to a young woman in the Orthodox community who told me how upset her family members and teachers are that she has been learning about science and reality. They’d love to keep that knowledge from her. But even tens of hours a week of indoctrination and religious practice are no match for the information that can come from one decent science site or a few good YouTube videos.
The Haredim SHOULD be worried. Very worried.