May 18, 2012
Its the hottest ticket in town. Originally available for $10, tickets to the ultra-Orthodox "anti-Internet" rally on May 20 at the 40,000-seat Citi Field in New York City are sold out. For those who simply have to be there, there are tickets online at ebay selling for three times the original amount.
The main goal of the rally is unclear. A report in Tablet Magazine details the muddled roots of this movement and the confusing intentions for the May 20 event.
On Monday in Lakewood, N.J., at a pep-rally for the main event, the need for widespread communal awareness of the dangers of the Internet was connected to a larger struggle faced by the Jewish people in a secular world.
Rabbi Malkiel Kotler, head of the influential Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva in Lakewood, said that the entire community of Israel is obligated to be holy, as commanded in the verse from Leviticus chapter 19: "God spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You should be holy, because I, God, your God, am holy."
One commenter in a discussion about "Kosher technology" on a Lakewood community website connected the temptations of the Internet to the temptations of idol worship 2,000 years ago. And though none of the comments in the thread explicitly mention pornography, it's clear that computer programs like Guard Your Eyes, which is marketed to Haredi Jews, is meant to filter sexually explicit material.
Organizers, though, say that pornography is not the only virtual menace. As the New York Times explained:
Speakers at the rally in Queens will not seek to ban the Internet, but rather to raise awareness about how, unmonitored, it poses a grave risk to the community, said Eytan Kobre, a spokesman for the organizers. The risk, he said, comes not only from pornography, but also from social media and the addictive pull of the Internet, which can limit human interaction, reading and study.
Taking place in the week before Shavuot, a Jewish holiday that commemorates when the Jewish people received the Torah (the Five Books of Moses, upon which all Jewish laws and traditions are based), the rally's organizers clearly think the Internet is one of the biggest threats to traditional Jewish life -- if not the biggest.
Meanwhile, a group of Jews is planning a counter-rally at Citi Field to address the problem of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish world and to advocate for reform.