Citifield: A Scorecard

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57 Responses

  1. Gershon Dubin says:

    You cannot call it a fielder’s choice if you play a different game than the one the fans signed up for AND you don’t tell the fans about it until they’re in the stadium. That’s mekach ta’us.

    That’s not to detract from Rav Matisyahu who is always awesome (he didn’t bat cleanup as the lead-off batter wanted one more whack) and, here too, was pretty much the only point of light on the program. Not only his speech, but his having done the lion’s share of pulling it together.

    I don’t think it’s been mentioned sufficiently that there was a distinct lack of kavod hatzibur on the part of the organizers, despite the fact that it was batlanish and not deliberate. Whether ending two hours late when most people hadn’t had supper and had to go to work/yeshiva the next day, or not enough bathrooms, or mickey mouse transliteration, or the huge balagan with the buses, it detracts from the message (and the likelihood of being able, as they apparently intend, to stage further asifos)

  2. micha says:

    I do not agree with any of the messages the Aseifa left the attendees (and those of us who watched it streaming) with. And I lament their abandonment of the original goal of giving pragmatic advice on how to live with the Internet while minimizing risk to your soul. And since the best defense is a good offense, I even more lament that the plan never included pragmatic advice on how to use the internet as a tool for growth, learning and mitzvos.

    And with all those complaints, in one way the Aseifa was a huge success.

    We are all now talking about the problem and its solutions. The OU gave Dr.s Jones and Pelcovitz a forum for their ideas. R’ Gil Student over on Hirhurim posted a survey of filters, as have several other bloggers. For 10 years we have heard many speaches about the problems, but this is the first time we have an active discussion among the masses on the subject, among them a few people who are looking for what solutions exist, rather than railing at everyone else who hasn’t yet given them one.

    Along those lines, I don’t have a proposal of my own; just the barest outline of one. An approach more than an answer.

    First, I wish we didn’t need to seek a single answer. For each person, the challenges the internet poses are more or less surmountable. This person is more prone to addictive behavior, that one to hedonism, a third to lashon hara, a fourth tends to scoff at examples of holiness that leave him feeling inferior. Etc… Similarly, with the opportunities it provides. Someone who has a long commute and a tight budget can gain a lot from its many free audio shiurim. Another with a poor memory for detail would learn faster if he could double-check half-remembered Torah sources. Someone else may enjoy hosting guests found on Shabbat.com and others drawn by the exchange of information on other topics to other mitzvos. An observant Jew should be engaging in regular cheshbon hanefesh, accounting of his soul, and have some sense of where he stands in these and other dimensions. The balance of pros vs cons differ for each person. They, and on difficult issues like this one, their rav, should be equipped to come up with answers that bet fit them personally. But in the short run, that’s a pipe dream.

    I think we’re putting too much emphasis on building up the fortress walls. The dangers are great, and so the natural reaction is to avoid the threat. But given that the threat isn’t entirely avoidable, building up the fortress walls is not enough. We also make stronger warriors. Not that we should ignore the topic of filtering and of avoiding situations that tend to overwhelm us. But we need to place in the center programs that build up the yeitzer hatov.

    The Connected Jew, who has the yir’as Shamayim to know the significance of the task he was given and how much weightier it is than the thing before him, tempting him, caves to far fewer temptations.

  3. Daniel says:

    “The speeches and the take-away message will go in a different direction, but the attendees will be smart enough to figure out how to come up with protocols that will work for them, even if different from what was announced on the PA system.”

    This intention of “the managers” only serves to undermine the speakers and indirectly contribute to the cynical regard for Gedolim and “the nature of rabbinic discourse to speak in absolutes.” Did Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman not mean what he said that the piskei halacha from the asifa podium are binding on all of Klal Yisrael, including those not attending? Did Rav Wosner not mean what he said that children from homes with internet access should be banned from school?

    If they meant what they said, anyone who does not follow their “rabbinic absolute” is in danger of losing their share in Olam Haba, as R’ Wachsman warned. (Have I just lost my share in Olam Haba because I read this article and made this comment?) If we were never meant to follow the piskei halacha from the asifa podium, thousands of committed, religious Jews will undermine R’ Wachsman, Rav Wosner and the other speakers, as well as the rest of “the Gedolim,” by ignoring those piskei halacha with a wink and a nod to rabbis who we proudly claim are our leaders but to whom we don’t actually listen.

  4. Shalom says:

    Fantastic play-by-play! I think the Asifa was an attempt to unite everyone on an issue which affects everyone. Unfortunately our communities don’t unite so smoothly, something we all could work on, but H’ sees the pure intentions. There was indeed some fall out, but I think for the most part the organizers made the right decision in compromising for the sake of filling the stadiums. I say that because in the end tens of thousands gathered for Chizuk on this issue and when a crowd that large comes together, besides the message it sends to Shamayim and the effect on the attendees, it sends a message to the entire world, literally. This gathering has already raised the awareness of this crisis multi-fold. Those to the left might argue that the Asifa was a waste of time and money, but they will now be addressing the issue in their communities and their personal lives with much greater urgency. Everyone knew about the problem, and some communities and families were addressing it, but a large portion were passively shrugging their shoulders. The deafening buzz created by the Asifa is creating heavy waves across the entire Orthodox spectrum, and beyond.

  5. YEA says:

    Thank you, Rabbi Adlerstein, for once again providing a voice of reason.

  6. Orit says:

    Wow, now I get it. The “ban the internet” is a good idea, really, if you can live without it…I think someone should also point out that maybe women were not invited because women face different issues. For one thing, women don’t usually use the internet to look at inappropriate pictures.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    I did not attend the Asifa, and some of the contents of the speakers’ Drashos did not sound at all constructive . The interview with R Eytan Kobre was superb and a great Kiddush HaShem in setting forth why social media of all types are a clear and present danger to Ameilus BaTorah.

  8. Natan Slifkin says:

    Does the concept of putting “proper spin” mean distorting things in order to get a better image? For example, Eytan Kobre says that “we want to listen to what psychologists are telling us”, and we don’t need “the big rabbis with the long gray beards to open the giant tomes.” But let’s be honest; the charedi response has come from rabbonim, not psychologists. There were no psychologists addressing the asifa! (Nor does the yeshivah world seem interested in consulting mental health professionals rather than rabbis regarding the other Very Big Issue being discussed these days.)

    [YA – Why are we being so ungenerous here? Is it impossible that R. Kobre might have his own opinions that are slightly at variance with what was expressed in the stadium? Could he not function as a spokesman for the event even with divergent views, if he were careful enough – like many other that you and I know – to keep those thoughts generally to himself?]

  9. Dan Daoust says:

    Maybe I’m just being a cynic for cynicism’s sake, but that’s never stopped me before, so…

    First of all, is the act of putting everyone through a series of long and unintelligible speeches really no more than a fielder’s choice? The runner failed to score because R’ Wachsman threw him out at the plate, so no harm, no foul? As I see it, what those speeches proved, publicly – and at 45 minutes a pop, one had plenty of time to mull this over – was that politics rules even at our most elite levels. Why did – I won’t mention names – this and that Rebbe really have to be given speaking roles? Why couldn’t they have been satisfied to just write a letter and have it read at the podium or something? Gaivah. That’s the reason, pure and simple. This was a public display of raw and unchecked egomania. To me, that was as much of a takeaway as the positive elements of the asifa.

    Second, you’re basically saying that in spite of R’ Wosner’s ruling, what we all really know – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – is that he’s over there and we’re over here and we’re smart enough to realize that his p’sak is not binding. That requires a little unpacking, starting with an explanation of how that’s not a massive Chillul Hashem. Here we have a major posek giving us his p’sak, live to 40,000 eidim, and we’re all in agreement that we’re free to ignore it because, come on, it’s not REALLY binding. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that we should ignore that p’sak in favor of something workable and realistic. But at what point do we confess that we’ve thrown out the concept of “Da’as Torah”? What if it had been R’ Steinman making that phone call? Still ignore it? What if it were R’ Belsky?

    Yes, R’ Wosner shouldn’t have been the one asked to give a p’sak, but he was and he did. I think there are implications that have to be deal with when we decide we can soften a p’sak of someone of R’ Wosner’s stature to our liking.

    Oy, why did this stupid asifa have to take place…

  10. Abe71 says:

    Rabbi Alderstein: Recognizing that the potential dangers of the internet are real and should be addressed, I still feel that the lack of achdus in Klal Yisroel is a bigger issue; and perhaps there should be an asifa for the purpose of achdus -not issues. I have absolutely no problem with the concept of an asifa targeting some Chassidim and b’nai yeshiva and whatever other segments were targeted-just call it that. Personally, as a non-member of the groups who were targeted by this asifa of “Klal Yisroel” (not sure if my group was technically ‘uninvited’, or ‘underinvited’)I found all the hype around it very alienating. While I am, I suppose, cognizant of the fact that I, an observant Jew, a professional with a higher secular education, a demanding day-job, kids in local yeshivos, rebbeim who speak in Hebrew at public gatherings, who are yirei shomayim with impecable midos, who teach and learn in Yeshivos with a religious zionist ideology, in which I myself learned, a consumer of shiurim (both in person and on-line), and my family, and the kehila to which i belong, are apparently not considered part (or considered a lesser part) of Klal Yisroel by a segment of Klal Yisroel (and yes I know that segment certainly didn’t include everyone at the Asifa, or I hope even most people in attendance), it really stings. I am well aware that the State of a portion of our People is about exclusion -who can we let into our schools, who can we marry, who is michutz l’machaneh, who can we hear speak and in what language. And if the organizers intent was calculated to fill a stadium, to raise awareness, they should be aware that they may have raised awareness about one issue, but, even if unintentionally, they opened some wounds at the same time. Because the “united” part of the Asifa only applied to the groups that were there. But if, to quote Rabbi Wachsman Shlit’a, you cannot repudiate 40,000 yidden, then the take home message to me is that’s psak of Klal Yisroel, then know too that other segements of Klal Yisroel (and by the way, Klal Yiroel should mean evey single persons who is Halachically a Jew) also heard another psak, that WE here are Klal Yisroel, not those who are not here, at least not until they come around to seeing things the same way we do- in black and white and Yiddish. In the trenches of the working World outside the Beis Medrash and some of our more cloistered Kehilos, where many of us work and live our lives, the message that resonated was much more than the pitfalls of the internet. There was real collateral damage from the approach that was taken with this Asifa. May we merit TRUE achdus for ALL Jews.

  11. Dovid says:

    I sincerely admire your effort to put forth a perspective in between the enthusiasts and the detractors. However, I find your positive spins too Berditchevian for my taste.

    Several of the “errors” that you noted were too egregious and too fundamental to the affair to allow for limud zechus. I’m referring mainly to marketing the event as something it wasn’t, and failing to put forth an approach that is practically workable for most people. I’m sorry, but having a figure of Rav Wosner’s stature issue an explicit psak assuring the internet at home, after Rabbi Wachsman had insinuated that whoever does not follow the guidelines of the Asifa has no chelek le’olam ha’ba, is a loss. Perhaps the game had some bright spots here or there, but this was a big loss for charedi Judaism in America. It is hard for us to take “the gedolim” seriously when they issue directives such as these.

    I strongly disagree with your suggestion that “many…understand that it is in the nature of rabbinic discourse to speak in absolutes, even when practical application will allow for far more flexibility and nuance…that not all morei hora’ah are of one mind, and that this psak does not necessarily bind them. They, hopefully, took away the sense of urgency to do something about the problem, even if in a very different way than the bottom line broadcast in the stadium.” There is nothing gained by issuing clear, unambigious directives presented as bona fide piskei halacha if they cannot be taken at face value. What you are in essence saying, in an elegant way, is that the audience might be intelligent enough not to take the speakers seriously. Is that a good thing?

    As for your comment – “You can’t reject that psak unless and until you come up with something that will work better. The issue is too important to allow naysayers to have a field day, without offering practical solutions. All communities that were not at Citifield are free to reject or even poke fun at what was offered there – so long as they offer serious alternatives.”

    I believe this has already been done, even well before the Asifa. There is already a great deal of awareness about the problems of the internet, schools and communities have been seriously addressing the issues for years, and people like Dr. Pelcovitz and other experts in the field have been working diligently on the problems. Obviously there’s more work to be done, but the “alternative” to avoiding the internet is to learn to use the internet responsibly, just as we must use cars and gas stoves responsibly. And this is precisely what good parents and educators have been doing even before this Asifa.

  12. Chortkov says:

    R’ Adlerstein makes some very good points and no doubt attending the Asifah may have inspired some. For most attending, however, the “nuance” R’ Adlerstein presupposes they walked away with is highly circumspect. The “true believers” in the crowd will take the words spoken as THE Daas Torah while those attending just for the show will pay no heed whatsoever.

    Furthermore, the fielder’s choice of making this a Chasidish event with forced and coerced attendance rather than a true unified event speaks volumes of the event planners’ lack of faith in their own message. And while R’ Kobre’s excellent interview in the Atlantic speaks to the diversity and beauty of Yiddishkeit, there was none of that to be found at the actual Asifah or in its build up. Which makes him nothing more than a great fairy-tail teller.

    So, all in all, i applaud those those looking to find merit in the Asifah, Nonetheless, it unfortunately only further highlights the significant schisms in our community.

  13. dovid2 says:

    “The journals were printed, but somehow never distributed.”

    Any way to get it now? It’s not too late.

  14. dovid2 says:

    “the centrist RCA convened to issue guidelines about digital technologies”

    How can we access the guidelines?

    [I just checked with the committee Chairman. Turns out that parts of the document were never completed. You inquiry has meant a flurry of emails to members, in the hope that they can get it out soon. At the moment, alas, I cannot send the draft version.]

  15. mb says:

    “was brought in as a designated hitter”
    A grievous writers error.
    Citifield is a National League stadium. No DH.
    Benched!

  16. Daniel says:

    I don’t know. In my profession, I absolutely need to have internet in my office, and at home in my homeoffice, and carry a blackberry.

    But is it really impossible to live without it? I’m not convinced.
    Certainly the analogy to television is incorrect–the internet is how we pay our bills, shop, manage subscriptions to everything from car insurance to cell phones to mishpacha magazine. And will increasingly be so. But that doesn’t mean you can’t live without it. It just means it needs a bigger reason to forgo it.

    Shopping for your shoes in the store takes longer and costs more than shoebuy, but it is not impossible. Buying airline tickets without internet is a hassle, but it can be done. Managing your cell phone bill is possible without internet. You really are able to live without it, especially since you really do have access in the library or at work.

    Why do you think the chassidim are willing to hear a message of no internet? Because many of them are successfully living without it. So is it really impossible for a litvish family in Flatbush where the husband is a dentist and the wife is a speech therapist for the Board of Ed to live without internet? I think it is very possible.

    So I’m not at all convinced that this was the wrong message. Maybe this really could be the next TV, that in 30 years no center-right orthodox family will have one. Maybe if we really push hard enough.

  17. Manny Saltiel says:

    “In at least one case, I know that the recommendations will be a joint effort of the rov and laypeople, because my own son was asked to chair the committee.”

    I ask only that the son’s father join his own Rov and come up with a nuanced approach for the kehilla in which he hangs his hat.

  18. Lakewood Kollel says:

    I appreciate Rabbi Alderstein’s review of the event but I also believe he is being too charitable with regard to attributing responsibility for its failures. Rabbi Salomon may well have tried his best to save the event with his speech at the end but he was also the main figure behind the event and its planning, and as such the responsibility lies with him. Even when confronted with the charge that he was being pushed by askanim he fiercely denied it and said that he alone was in charge.

    It was he who booked the stadium for the asifa without first speaking with the American Roshei Yeshiva, and it was he, as Rabbi Alderstein mentions, that framed the issue to the Israeli gedolim and brought back their opinions. It was precisely this approach of his that alienated the non-chasidish leaders here and led to their at best tepid endorsement and at worst their opposition to his taking such a prominent leadership position in setting public policy, something unheard of for a mashgiach. These reactions set in motion a desperate attempt to do anything to fill up the stadium to avoid embarrassment, leading to the fairly ludicrous outcome that we witnessed.

    Nevertheless there is no doubt that even though this was a massive wasted opportunity, many people have reevaluated their internet usage and that must be considered at least a partial success.

  19. dr. bill says:

    two things not mentioned during the asifa – 1) what day it was – yom yerushalayim and 2) the positive values of the internet – online shiurim, spotlighting sexual abuse in our community, etc.

    In a tale of two cities, about 10 miles away, about 500 Jews gathered to support a torah institution whose “virtual Beit midrash” was among the first torah sites online (even before al gore invented the internet) and whose RY confronted a sexual abuser, despite personal threats. Yom yerushalayim figured prominently in the proceedings.

    i will leave the relationship between how one reacts to yom yerushalayim and the internet to readers to ponder; it is IMHO profound.

  20. Tzei U'lmad says:

    [YA – Why are we being so ungenerous here? Is it impossible that R. Kobre might have his own opinions that are slightly at variance with what was expressed in the stadium? Could he not function as a spokesman for the event even with divergent views, if he were careful enough – like many other that you and I know – to keep those thoughts generally to himself?]

    No, if we value emes then the massage meisters simply pave a path of denial, delusion and delay – figuatively showing pebbles in the collapsing dyke. When do we see things cold and clear for the way they are? and forge a path of action based on who we really are, each one of us. There is division and it is widening – that is what needs to be recognized and addressed honestly.

  21. Charles Hall says:

    “Those who for good reasons or cynical reasons will reject the guidelines articulated in the stadium should realize that if they will not abide by those of Rav Wosner, the ball is in their court. You can’t reject that psak unless and until you come up with something that will work better.”

    My rabbis weren’t consulted or invited. Why am I or my rabbis bound by a decision they had nothing to do with? We don’t have a Sanhedrin today!

    (Full disclosure: This comment is being written on an unfiltered computer owned by Yeshiva University.)

    [YA OF course you’re not! I didn’t say you were. I said that we are all obligated to deal with the issues that were raised, no matter how disappointing the asifa itself may have been to some people. The problem is a real one, and I would say the same if no one would have ever come up with the idea of an asifa. The gathering just created a lot of buzz.]

  22. chana says:

    [YA – Why are we being so ungenerous here? Is it impossible that R. Kobre might have his own opinions that are slightly at variance with what was expressed in the stadium? Could he not function as a spokesman for the event even with divergent views, if he were careful enough – like many other that you and I know – to keep those thoughts generally to himself?]

    I’m sorry, but I have to agree with Rabbi Slifkin here.

    The rest of the interview was pretty impressive, but to say “We want to be very contemporary, to listen to what psychologists are telling us and proceed from there. And yet we’re being characterized as ultra-Orthodox Jews gathering at CitiField for an anti-Internet prayer rally. That’s the story reporters like to fall back on.” is very disappointing.
    Firstly, it is an outright distortion, and secondly,it is an immature attempt to blame the media for broadcasting an inconvenient truth that many of us (apparently including Mr. Kobre) would prefer to cast as bad PR.

    Exactly who at the rally actually said word one about listening to psychologists? And realistically, how many people in the Chareidi world could you honestly say “want to be contemporary”? Perhaps some of the Litvish contingency at the Asifa, but the Chassidim are mostly contemporary out of necessity, from what I could tell. And even if there were a couple more accommodating internet stances presented, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to call some/most of the speeches “anti-Internet”. Given what I’ve heard/read about it, I would probably characterize the Asifa as ” ultra-Orthodox Jews gathering at CitiField for an anti-Internet prayer rally” as well! (perhaps I would precede anti with “predominantly” -but that doesn’t sound quite the same)

    The media won’t take our negative feedback seriously when they truly ARE distorting things if we reflexively blame them for misrepresenting us in cases like this-where they really AREN’T!!!

    [YA – 1) It is refreshing to see a daughter feel outraged by the same things as her father. 2) I know Rabbi Kobre well, and I know what he was given before the asifa, and how the gathering changed course in midstream. I don’t blame him in the slightest for continuing to speak for a POV that he knows IS held from in important parts of the Torah world. Just because the rug was pulled from under him doesn’t mean that his knees had to buckle.]

  23. James says:

    Dr. Bill,

    Yom Yerushalayim? Are you serious? They withdrew a speaking invitation to a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah because he speaks in Hebrew! Despicable.

    You want a good example of how a serious issue is addressed by experts and rabbanim? Try listening to “Maintaining Kedushah in an Overexposed Society” by Rav Mayer Twersky and Dr. Pelcovitz.

  24. mycroft says:

    “(even before al gore invented the internet)”
    Gore never stated that he invented the internet-he was probably is responsible for the internet as any politician. See snopes.com for a good discussion of this issue.
    Personal disclosure in the early 70s I had some computer account problem-went to the operations center of university computer center -saw a map of some universities, labs etc as nodes and asked what the map was describing. The answer a map of the ARPANET.

  25. Shlomo Pill says:

    [YA – 1) It is refreshing to see a daughter feel outraged by the same things as her father. 2) I know Rabbi Kobre well, and I know what he was given before the asifa, and how the gathering changed course in midstream. I don’t blame him in the slightest for continuing to speak for a POV that he knows IS held from in important parts of the Torah world. Just because the rug was pulled from under him doesn’t mean that his knees had to buckle.]

    That may well be the case, but it doesn’t change the fact that R. Kobre’s statements, while perhaps good PR, are not remotely descriptive of what the Asifa was. As Chana pointed out, it is very, very hard to say that the Asifa was anything other than “ultra-Orthodox Jews gathering at CitiField for an anti-Internet prayer rally.” Perhaps that wasn’t what it was supposed to be. And if so, I suppose R. Kobre’s mischaracterizations could be considered to have been made in good faith. But good faith or not, they did not describe what the Asifa was in fact, not did they describe or articulate the Chareidi/Gedolim stance towards the internet articulated (I use that word generously) at the event or in subsequent days. And if if fact the Asifa was not what it was supposed to be, if the views expressed and rulings issued did not evince the view R. Kobre was to told they would, well, there is a reason why that happened. Hijacked or not, the positions actually expressed at the Asifa shows who is really in the driver’s seat of the Chareidi world. And it begs the question: If this is who is in charge, if these are the views that define the movement, how much do we really care to be “in the camp.”

  26. eli says:

    There’s a story about Rav Elchanan Wasserman. He said when someone is when in doubt about something something in judaism, he should look to see what the masses do. Rav Shach used to tell this story with a twinkle in his eye, adding that in his opinion when you see what the masses are doing, do the opposite. Now, an a certain type of person will say that Rav Sahch paskened that when in doubt, always do the opposite of what ppl are doing. I would hope though, that the majority of ppl will understand that Rav Shac is making an “eye” catching statement aimed at getting ppl to do whats right, rather then whats expected. No person had the right to just sa that a certain peak isn’t meant literally, rather we have the obligation to realize when someone is trying to wake up a generation -to whom all subtlety is lost- to accept some responsibility and ascribe some sense of seriousness, by being sensational.

  27. Dave says:

    Great work Rabbi Adlerstein!! The best summary of all the issues. And positive not cynical!

    Here’s a link to the 100 page pamphlet:

    http://www.baltimorejewishlife.com/pdfs/Real%20Solutions.pdf

  28. Guest says:

    As much as I admire Rabbi Adlerstien’s noble efforts to find the good in all events and individuals, a candid look at the assifa sadly reveals profound issues in the Torah world.

    I am not referring to the issue that troubled many prior to the gathering – namely the limited definition of klal yisrael that excludes women, Chabad, Sefardim and the Modern Orthodox – as that phenomenon is simply consistent with the Charedi outlook. Women and men have different roles and are not allowed to attend mixed gatherings, and the other groups are not really part of our mesorah/hashkafa.

    No, instead I am referring to the holes punched in essential beliefs that have been promoted in the yeshiva world. For many years (starting with my days in yeshiva and beyond) we were told of the concept of daas torah. The gedolim guide us, their words are fully authoritative – “Yiftach b’doro k’Shmuel b’doro” – and that in our era it was the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah that played this role. In light of that principle three questions emerge:

    #1 How is it possible that even after the assifa we are still unsure as to who was in charge, Rav Mattisyahu or the askanim (with convenient ties to internet filtering companies)? Don’t the gedolim set the course for us to follow?

    #2 Where was the Moetzes in this process? Were they not consulted or did they not agree? Why was a new organization needed at all?

    #3 After Rav Wachsman’s quote from Rabbienu Yonah and Rav Wonser’s unequivocal psak, how can there still be room for discussion? Do we only listen to the gedolim when their words are consistent with the world we live in?

    Moving on to an even more disturbing item is the utter lack of the Torah world to make a true chesbon hanefesh. If indeed kollel yungileit and Bais Yaakov graduates are succumbing to the lure of the internet (where you choose when to go on and off and you choose which sites to visit) why is there not a critical look at the failings of our system? Isn’t that the response we were always told to engage in when we fall; to be seriously introspective and not simply blame the world around us?

    When the young women of Eastern Europe were going off the derech in droves what was the response of the Gerrer Rebbe and the Chafetz Chaim. They did not enact new gezairos but instead acknowledged that the system was broken and supported the revolutionary new model proposed by Sarah Shnerer. Should not our response have been the same?

    When the Spinka Rebbe is sitting in jail and countless other frum Jews are being convicted of comparable crimes isn’t it time for us to take a hard look at ourselves and our lifestyle? Or is it now the time to stage another rally on behalf of Sholom Rubashkin? (Please note that I am not discussing the fairness of his sentence but merely pointing out how incongruous it is for this to be a cause celebre in our times.)

    One can be impressed by the large number of attendees and by the sincerity and piety of some of the organizers, but ultimately the assifa exposed serious weaknesses that desperately need to be addressed.

  29. YEA says:

    Since Rabbi Kobre is both the official spokesman for the Asifa and a Cross-Currents contributor, why not request that he write a post of his own to explain why the rally he was describing before the event and the rally that actually took place were so different from each other?

  30. YEA says:

    Note that there is an additional asifa scheduled for June 10th in Brooklyn. It is to feature all English speeches for men and women. Speeches will be delivered by R’ M. Solomon, R’ A. Schorr, R’ M.T. Lieff, and R’ Y. Reisman. I suspect that this asifa is in recognition of the fact that the first one was a disaster as far as message, and will deliver the “can’t live without it” side of the original slogan.

    There is a flyer at hakhel.info/

  31. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding solutions short of total abstinence from internet use:

    People need open access to objective tests and rankings of filtering alternatives, for features, efficacy, user-friendliness and cost. The alternatives need not be solely those provided by Orthodox or even Jewish companies. The world of filtration is an expanding and moving target, so frequent testing and re-ranking is needed. Where are the consensus standards and where are the objective evaluators?

    Filtration of sexually explicit material is something all religious Jews would welcome, but some versions of filtration don’t seem to stop there…

    The Jewish internet, including the specifically Orthodox sector, is very diverse. An internet service provider or software package that stops the transmission of authentic Jewish points of view that a narrowly focused (even anonymous!!) vendor doesn’t agree with could be a real danger to free and frank communication about essential concepts and issues. Filtration should never become a means of total mind control that crowds out competing but legitimate points of view.

  32. joel rich says:

    R’YA,
    FWIW according to the bio on this blogsite it’s Mr. Kobre, not Rabbi.
    KT

  33. Binny says:

    Eli,

    Unfortunately, without realizing it you were mevazeh a gadol be-Yisrael without realizing it. And what you say makes no sense. R. Vosner holds that internet is assur, no questions asked. He holds that children who have internet at home can’t be allowed in yeshiva. This is his position. He really believes this. He is not trying to be sensational or speaking belashon guzma to wake people up. He thinks this is the halachah. Why can’t people understand this? The organizers of the asifa knew that this was his position when they asked him to speak. If you don’t want to accept his opinion, then don’t, but don’t belittle him my saying that he was being sensational. He would be offended to hear you say this. He is a great posek. He is not a darshan. He says what he means.

  34. Question? says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein (or any reader who can offer insight),

    One glaring point that seems to have been omitted from your “Scorecard,” the elder litvishe Roshei Hayehsivos of America (aka: The Gedolei Hador)…where were they? Why would an asifa that is meant to present “daas torah” to klal yisroel…not include the Daas Torah from the “Litvishe Velt”? Why would’t Rav Shmuel Kamenestky, Rav Aharon Feldman, Rav Chaim Epstein, Rav Meir Stern, or Rav Dovid Feinstein, etc. be included in the speakers?

    Why is this event repeatedly labeled as an asifa where the “Gedolei Torah presented their Daas Torah, now it is in our hands to listen….”

    Rav Wosner is certainly a Gadol from Eretz Yisroel. But when was the last time there was an asifa in Bnei Brak where Rav Shmuel Wosner, Rav Nissim Karelitz, Rav Shteinman, and Rav Chaim Kanievesky did not speak- rather they arranged a audio hookup for Rav Shmuel Kamenentsky to offer his Daas Torah from the USA for the participants in Bnei Brak?

    Does anyone have an explanation?

  35. Binny says:

    And one more point Rabbi Adlerstein, do you really think that anything positive can come from an Asifa where a speaker is not permitted to speak in the impure Hebrew tongue, and when Zionism is attacked the way it was? Is that really a message that is going to bring anyone but the Hungarian chasidim? I know that the yeshiva people were rolling their eyes when the wicked tziyoinim were mentioned. If people knew what the asifa was going to turn into, the ONLY people who would have been in attendance would have been the extreme chasidim. You can fool the people once, but let’s see if they can pull this bait and switch off again. Unfortunately, the Mashgiach and the rest of them on the dais have shown that they are not serious about the problem. They are in lala land hoping that the internet will disappear. It won’t and they missed a great opportunity to come up with some workable solutions. Just like they continue to ban the State of Israel, and yet the State has succeeded and moved forward ignoring them, so too they will continue to ban the internet but no one will be paying any attention.

  36. eli says:

    binny,

    I appreciate the civil tone with you rebuked me. conversation is, indeed possible with ppl like you. The nature of a psak is that, by definition, its binding on those who accept it. In other words those who consider him their posek. For example the Shulchan Aruch Harav Paskening that gebrochts is assur. Yes thats what the Baal Hatanya holds, and anyone who learns that halacha sees that. Does that make it binding on them? Of course not. had he had his way he would have enforced it, because he really held that. Rav wosner really holds this. He also knows that he can’t issue a Psak that all of klal yisrael will accept. the fact that he announced it to a sampling of pretty much all kinds of chareidi jews, 65.000 strong means he needs ppl to realize just hoe serious he is. I know thats not exactly what i was saying earlier.

  37. Observer says:

    Daniel, in fact many Chasidim officially “hear” the message of no internet – but ignore it in their lives. Some use work access for non-work purposes. Others have it in the house but don’t tell the kids. And some even let the kids know, but the kids often know they need to keep it a secret.

    As for the rest, it’s not as simple as you make out. The issue is not “hassle”, in many cases, but simply the ability to manage. If you are on a really tight budget, the significant amounts you can save on clothes shopping can make the difference between dressing the family appropriately and not. (Of course, some people claim that Rav M. Salomon said that it’s better to live off charity than use the internet, but if you didn’t get that psak from your Rov, doing things that keep you off charity would seem like more than a “nice” convenience.) This applies to all of the issues where the internet can make a significant difference in cost, either directly or indirectly by avoiding the need for travel, babysitting. etc.

    In addition, it’s not just financial issues that the internet affects. For some people, the internet is their best source of Torah materials, believe it or not. For others, connections with distant family are made practical by the internet. (Skype and the like with a web cam are wonderful.) There are many other such issues; it’s nowhere as as simple as parnassa vs entertainment.

    And that’s why it will never be the next TV.

  38. Formerly Orthodox says:

    I disagree with Rabbi Adlerstein that the “buzz” caused by the asifa is a good thing. It’s just another opportunity for Orthodox Jews to look medieval in the eyes of the world. Unless I am mistaken, Chassidim didn’t need an asifa to reinforce the anti-internet attitude they already held. It was an example of “preaching to the choir”. It is a shame that they didn’t get a chance to benefit from hearing about positive use of the Internet from Orthodox Jews on the other side.

  39. Joe Hill says:

    The overriding message across the various speakers at the asifa, was “filters, filters, filters”. I simply don’t see how this differs from the original message.

    Rav Harari-Raful shlita was there on the dais, as were many in his Syrian community in the stands. I don’t know how you could’ve missed Rav Harari-Raful, unless you don’t know what he looks like, as he appeared in many video frames. Also, I simply cannot comprehend how your idea of disincluding the Chasidim to make it more palatable to other groups (MO, etc.) would somehow make it more inclusive. Does inclusiveness not include Chasidim? Especially, as you conceded they are a larger part of Klal Yisroel then the groups allegedly excluded. Aside from the fact that the Litvish Torah world and the Chasidish Torah world have long been allied on the fundamental issues for many many decades now. Certainly since the post-WWII era, and even for sometime pre-WWII. The Litvish are far far closer ideologically with the Chasidish than they are with “Centrist Orthodoxy”. For example, have you ever seen Rav Ahron Kotler’s harsh take on centrist (modern) Orthodoxy? If not, check out his Mishnas Rabi Ahron, particularly volume 3, Hesped on the Brisker Rov. He compares it to Reform. You may wish to dismiss that as being from an earlier generation, but the truth is that the Litvish world and the Chasidish world maintain very close ties.

  40. thinking outloud says:

    So the take home message from the asifa is that if you build a big enough BOONDOGGLE you can get the necessary PR for your cause.
    There’s an old saying in Tennessee … that says, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, You can’t get fooled again; Good luck with the next Asifa!

    (BTW, looking forward to an influx of ‘Asifa’s and ‘Ichud’s in the newspapers, flyers, pashkevilim and mailings, maybe they’ll even push out ‘askanim’ as one of the most overused and meaningless words in our lexicon)

  41. YM says:

    I spoke to a chaver on Shavouos who actually attended the asifa. He said it was an amazing experience to daaven mincha and maariv in a stadium full of Jews and some of the speeches were very inspiring.

  42. contarian says:

    I was in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 20th celebrating Yom Yerushalayim and thus missed the famous Aseifa . Among the issues that were roiling the Israeli Charedi world was the creation of Tov a “new Charedi” Litvishe political party The new Charedim are composed of men who leave the yeshiva world for academic training, jobs and military service. The leaders of the new party claim that the existing Charedi parties do not represent their interests and therefore the need to create a Poalei Agudas Yisroel like institution. This has been met with withering criticism by the entrenched leadership of Degel Yisroel. Yated Ne’eman has gone out of its way to badmouth both the new Charedi phenomenon and the creation of Tov. When elections were in the offing earlier this year, the MKs from Degel Yisroel desperately tried to heal the breach that had opened up between their party and the new Charedim.

    When I came home, I realized that we in America desperately need a vibrant Poalei Agudas Yisroel to represent the ‘earners’ among us. Take the issue of the internet and the Aseifa. My Rav came to the conclusion the he must support the Aseifa because something had to be done to protect the latent perverts among the ‘learners’ from themselves. He instructed his Kehilla to attend the rally.

    The Aseifa jeopardized the livelihoods of tens – If not hundreds – of frum families who depend on “earners” who work in the outside world. I do not mean business owners , but those earners who are the last to be hired and first to be fired. Hiring managers and human resource departments will now look less favorably on the candidacy of Orthodox Jews in today’s brutal market and when the companies have to retrench they will look less kindly on the anti-internet employees on their staff. I do not blame the companies . Who needs Tsoros? Who needs employees who will refuse to connect to the internet or – worse still – preach to others about the evils of the internet.?

    I do not believe for one moment that the plight of the frum earners appeared on the radar screens of any of those who made the decisions about the Aseifa.
    Where is the Poalei Agudas Yisroel when we need it? Chaval Al Deavdin….

  43. Jewish Observer says:

    “Chabad was not there. No Sephardic participation was evident. The centrist Orthodox were completely absent. Are these groups not part of Klal Yisrael?”

    – and had all the diverse Orthodox groups been represented, could we even then say it was all of klal yisrael? what about non frum yiden? are they not part of the klal? I do not mean to suggest they need to be part of such an event – just picking on something in frum vocabulary that we may want to be sensitive to.

  44. Dovid Kornreich says:

    That’s funny, my internet filter is blocking access to the link to Mr. Kobre’s interview in the Atlantic.

    [YA – Mine too! I had to have him send me the text! He thought that was funny…]

  45. DF says:

    The asifash should be viewed through the klappei chutz/klappei pnim (inward/outward)dichotomy favored by R.YB Solveitchik. Klappei chutz, to the world at large [or the fraction thereof that knew about it] the event was undoubtedly a kiddush hashem. Sure, there are those who saw this event, as such people will see anything religious, as an attempt at mind control. But the majority would see this as a positive initiative to at least try to fight the harms of the Internet, a danger everyone acknowledges. So, that’s a big Kiddush Hashem.

    On the down side, between us (klappei pnim) we know there was a lot of politics that went into this, that not everyone agrees on how to handle the internet, that not everyone subscribes to the Gedolim concept, and a host of other issues. Like others have said, there was no shortage of things to be cynical about. I’m also not sure there’s any value to the vaunted “buzz” factor. Advertising executives (mostly older people) are eager to promote buzz about their product, but few are seeing such buzz have any lasting impact, and even fewer see such buzz translate into dollars.

    My take is that the event could have been a big success, were it not bungled by the choice of speakers and the mismanaged marketing campaign. Other than that, i’d say it was a net positive. I only hope there isnt unintended collateral damage, in the sense of “been there, done that” when the siyum hasha rolls around.

  46. Bob Miller says:

    I see no evidence that anyone is more aware now of the actual internet dangers than before. A rally is not an informational campaign. If the rally results in a constructive campaign, not only outpourings of emotion and dictation, that would give it some validity after the fact. If not, the people who started off on either side of the fence will finish there, too.

    [YA I haven’t made any special effort to look, and yet I still find evidence that it has made a difference. I know of shuls that are exploring standards suitable for their members, and cities planning their own gatherings that will be oriented towards practical solutions. With all the flaws, I find it hard to argue that the asifa did not generate some needed pressure to work at solutions.]

  47. Jewish Observer says:

    “My take is that the event could have been a big success, were it not bungled by the choice of speakers and the mismanaged marketing campaign. Other than that, i’d say it was a net positive. I only hope there isnt unintended collateral damage, in the sense of “been there, done that” when the siyum hasha rolls around”

    – I agree with the spirit of your comments. I just don’t think that impact on the siyum hashas is all that important compared to any collateral damage to overall emunas chachomim at the hashkafic nlevel.

  48. Jewish Observer says:

    “One glaring point that seems to have been omitted from your “Scorecard,” the elder litvishe Roshei Hayehsivos of America …… Does anyone have an explanation?”

    – I had the same observation, and it served to only strengthen my emunas chachomim. My theory is that the RY’s had all the same apprehensions about the program’s soundness as have been expressed here and dids not want to stake their reputations on it.

  49. mhalberstam says:

    As usual, you have succeeded in trying to make some order out of the chaos the interent asifa has left in its wake. I am concerned about some specific issues which I fear will not really be faced by many. For years now the leadership of Klal Yisroel (which is by the way a serve defining and self serving term designed to exclude whoever one doesn’t like) has been following the derech established in some pre- war European Kehillos of defining ourselves and our Yiddishkeit to emphasize how much better we are than others. We have to bite the bullet on this.
    Do we really have to accept that the signatories of the Takanos of the Hungarian Kehillos, which included Gedolei Yisroel, but which were at least at noteworthy for who did not sign them, have the right to define, FOREVER who has a right to call himself a Jew and what it means to be one. Are we so ashamed of our Yeshivos and our children, and our parents and their sacrifices, that we are prepared to accept at face value that someone with a longer coat is frummer or more choshuv in the eyes of HKBH. Why? How did this happen? Who gave any organizers of a rally the right to saddle us with this decision>? More important how can it be that no thought went into this.

    This situation will continue, unless and until people with a modicum of intelligence who are equally entitled to their point of view speak out loudly and forcefully.

    The Internet is not a problem. It is a device which illustrates the problems with the way we have chosen to live. This requires a massive cheshbon hanefesh that every Jew needs to undertake. Believe it or not, most Jews who are Shomrei Shabbos and who study Torah are ready to be challenged But not by those who have shown that they do not respect them or their values.

    [YA No argument from me on this, but I don’t think it fair to blame the organizers alone. Witness the fawning and uncritical reception of the asifa in all of the popular charedi press, broadsheet and glossy. Maybe that is your point. We have all become cookie-cutter robots, and have only ourselves to blame.]

  50. lacosta says:

    >Where is the Poalei Agudas Yisroel when we need it?

    —- i wish i had the reference to an old article in the Jewish Observer as to the treachery that PAI represented—- by not being rigidly 100% subservient to moetzes daas torah—- which predicted their ultimate demise…..

  51. Dr. E says:

    The Asifa was billed as an event that would seem to have a single and practical message. Not at all surprising, in light of the political dance the organizers had to play to make everyone happy, it fell way short. The chemistry in the clubhouse did not seem to be there and the Manager did not come up with a lineup for the game that had any cohesiveness. So, it was at best a long fly ball held up by the wind, which was recorded on the scorecard as just another out.

    The organization of the event was logistically sound. While the secular press was amazed by the civility of the event, I would think that the team management might have expected a Kiddush Hashem of a different form. So, while the ball left the park, it was a hit that traveled 450 feet from home plate, but in foul territory.

    On the roster, there was a plethora of players who could not (or would not) speak English, the only difference here was that this was not Spanish or Japanese, and there were no interpreters to filter the reporters’ questions.

    After the game and the direction that the team has taken recently (evident in a drop in the standings over the past 5 years), even most of the most diehard “homers” were inclined to consider rooting for the other local team. They have been disappointed in the direction that the team has taken since being purchased by new foreign ownership. Yes, there were fireworks, but they were akin to the display after the game on July 4, after the home team just lost both ends of a double-header.

    For the post-game interview, these are the top 5 questions that an inquiring and uninhibited press might ask some of the stars:

    • Have you ever owned or operated a computer, with or without being connected to the Internet, with or without a filter?
    • Do you pay the bills or manage the financial affairs in your household?
    • Are you aware of the importance of the Internet (and social media) has played in obtaining employment over the past 10 years?
    • What do you think about the use of the Internet for Torah study and shiurim (e.g., looking things up, Daf Yomi, Halacha, remote chavrusa learning through Skype)
    • What role do you think the Internet played in planning, publicizing, and executing such a successful Asifah?

  52. L. Oberstein says:

    My nephew went because his rabbi told him everyone had to go and they gave out free tickets in his shul in Brooklyn. He did not get much from the Yiddish speechs but he said the chassidim did. They thught it was a great success. My wife commented that the fact that after the Holocaust there are 40,000 such Jews is a miracle. It is jarring that in 2012 in the USA, Rabbi Solomon had to apologize for speaking in English and describe those of us who speak English as our first language in a condescending way, not that he was belittling us,but that his audience does not think we are real Jews and he had to excuse us as “Mevakshei Hashem”,like people who speak English are nebech, Yidden who just aren’t really part of the inner circle of true Jews. This is not to say they are arrogant as much as to say they are living in a bubble . My personal dealing with Chassidim have always been very positive , they are charitable and good people,but they are not normative American orthodox Jews.Thus, their taking over the issue made the rest of the community feel out of place.

  53. langer says:

    the exclusion of women requires reflective analysis.

  54. Aaron says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein you shock me.

    Rabbi Wachsman clearly threatened all who do not follow the dictates of the Ichud Hakihilos with everlasting Hell. (ein lo cheilik l’olam haboh). This would include the vast majority of Klal Yisrael that uses filtered Internet access for non-business purposes. Yet you refer to him “as a clutch hitter who delighted his fans”.

    Rabbi Eytan Kobre told every media outlet that would listen to him that Chareidim are not luddites, and they do not want to ban technology. He insisted that the Asifa was about using technology responsibly. Page 80 in the Asifa booklet clearly states that “we have come tonight to launch our new war on technology”. I truly fail to see how misleading the secular public can possibly be a Kiddush Hashem.

  55. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    A sampling of inspiring reading from the Asifa booklet:

    “Baruch Hashem, we have reached this point. אילו קרבנו לפני הר סיני ולא נתן לנו את התורה דיינו – Just gathering together with tens of thousands of concerned Jews to make the commitment and proclaim “ נעשה ונשמע – We will act!” is the most empowering step in our newly launched War on Technology.”

    “The only real “solution” is to ban all access to the internet. And that, in fact, is what each of us who can do so must do. A yeshiva bachur, kollel fellow or a melamed Torah, all of whom are not required to have internet for their job, should not own or come in contact with any devices capable of accessing the internet — with or without filters.There is no excuse for using the internet where it is not absolutely necessary. Anyone who need not expose himself to a dangerous and highly contagious disease is forbidden by the Torah to do so, even if he takes all possible precautions.”

    So what in the world is Kobre talking about?

  56. Dr. E says:

    Aaron

    Similar to the intended a priori message, that printed program never saw the light of day.

    Based on the Asifa and its aftermath, “Daas Torah” seems to have spoken and that’s the end of it. But, maybe not. For Agudah types over the past 15 to 20 years, the Daas Torah formulation has really been the mainstay differentiating factor between them and the Centrist and MO worlds. Now when you talk with many off-the-record, some are finally reevaluating the Daas Torah construct as a “moving target” which makes them uncomfortable as well, being citizens of the real world. As such, there has been quite a bit of internal conflict after the agenda was bulldozed.

    The way in which this cognitive dissonance is being resolved is sounding strikingly similar to a POV that until now was ideologically untenable, based on institutional, ideological, and social affiliations. Perhaps, even the Agudah types will revert to the (recently novel) concept of “ask your local Orthodox Rabbi”.

    So, maybe if the Asifa were just to accomplish this, “dayeinu”. Such is the law of unintended consequences.

  57. Silky says:

    Last Sunday, there was a “mini-Asifa” in a shul in Flatbush. Women were invited and attended in droves. The difference there was that the speakers were local rabbis who understood the people. They were able to speak in ways that their message could be taken. It was short and practicle. What the large asifa did, was to raise the understanding that something had to be done. It paved the way for this asifa.
    I hope we all can rise to the challange and give nachas to HaKodosh Baruch Hu.

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