Tangled Web, Part 5: Internet's Lure Gaining On Orthodox Youth, Expert Finds

By Josh Robin (NY1)
August 10, 2012

Much like a parent teaches their children how to cross the street, at least one therapist is suggesting Jewish religious schools teach kids how to properly surf the web. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

Philip Rosenthal, a technology addictions therapist, says business couldn't be busier. That business? Treating Jewish Internet addicts.

"I have people who are completely addicted to online pornography, I have people who are addicted to too much gaming," Rosenthal says.

Internet addiction isn't, of course, a problem just for Jews. But in his niche market, Rosenthal sees a unique challenge.

Rabbis, like those at the influential gathering at Citi Field in May, are telling their congregants to stay away from going online. It may be well-meaning, but Rosenthal says it's actually making things worse and quoted a proverb to make a point: Stolen waters are sweet.
"By building the wall higher and higher and higher to keep people out, the more you create the desire to peek over the wall and see the other side," Rosenthal says.

On the other side are many influential religious leaders. They, like Rosenthal, counsel people whose lives have been destroyed by the Internet. Their message: Buy a web filter, or even software that lets a rabbi or a friend see the sites that you've visited. Or best of all, they say, stay away from the Internet entirely.

Eytan Kobre helped plan the anti-Internet Citi Field event in May. He calls the Internet the greatest spiritual and moral challenge to mankind. Ever.

"It's so vapid, so empty, so nothing. There's like nothing there," Kobre says.

"Why start up with a wild animal if you don't have to. Let sleeping lions lie, that's for sure," says Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel of America.

Rosenthal, himself religious, says people who want to go online will always find a way. He wants Internet safety part of religious school curriculum.

"This is not Jonestown. You can't expect people to just line up and drink the Kool-Aid. It just doesn't go that way, we're not that kind of a society," Rosenthal says.

And he stresses the problems aren't unique to fellow Jews.

"I sort of make a joke about it. It doesn't matter whether you're an Orthodox Jew, a Reform Jew or even a Catholic Jew. The problem is there," Rosenthal says.