Scary Thoughts

Greg, of the Presence blog, found us last week:

Via Hirhurim comes Cross-Currents, a new blog featuring some heavyweight Orthodox Jews, in both the rabbinic and political spheres.

Things are starting to get interesting. While Orthodox Jewish use of the Internet as a means of social expression and communal interaction began with those on the fringe (meaning, people like me with somewhat skewed theologies, or the kollel-wives-cum-posekim over at, expect the mainstream, beginning with organizations like to enter the conversation. I’ll wager organizations like the OU or Star-K will have blogs (or blog-like pages) up by the end of 2005. Overall, this means a net increase in the quality of ideas and dialogue available, but I wonder how long before the censorship and stigmatization common to the traditional, offline Orthodox world sets in to the point where it is no longer worth it to participate in the conversation. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in three years time, your kids could get suspended from school for what you write on your blog.

First Scary Thought: I find myself in a blog among Orthodox heavyweights. Which is true, although my reason for being here is because I first had the idea to create a blog of this nature, and knew how to set up the software. Oh yes, and I do enjoy writing about “issues of the day.” But the truth is that the diverse writers here are, as those who know them will tell you, a truly outstanding group, and I’m lucky to be allowed in. This is no exercise in false humility. Ask Greg — he worked for me one summer. He knows. 🙂

Second Scary Thought: is mainstream? Hmm.

Third Scary Thought: The Star-K and OU will follow? Well, FWIW, I would say he’s no more than 50% right. The OU with its Institute for Public Affairs may well develop a blog. I can see that happening. But I don’t see the Star-K blogging their Kashrus alerts, or anything else for that matter. Blogs are designed for more casual writing. Muskal Rishon — first thoughts, where you can and will go back and revise (or retract) what you said later. You can’t retract a Kashrus alert so easily. And that’s probably why most truly “mainstream” bodies do not have blogs. That’s true outside the Orthodox world and outside the Jewish world. Will that change in the new year? Perhaps. But I’m not betting on it.

Fourth Scary Thought: Censorship? Stigma? I’m holding some thoughts on this for tomorrow. I want to think about it. But I disagree with “Yehupitz” who wrote in Greg’s comments that fear of censorship is “why the overwhelming number of Ortho-blogs are anonymous.” The fact is that most bloggers of whatever kind use nicknames, whether or not you learn their names afterwards. I even had one all picked out, and used it in some of my early posts. The real reason for nicknames is simple: most bloggers began as bloggers, and wanted to both avoid harassment and also to share ideas and develop their identities free of “real-world” associations. We abandoned the idea of nicknames, because we assembled contributors whose names already carry a great deal of weight outside the blogging world.

We’re trying to combine the immediacy of blogging, with the serious thought represented by these writers. It will be an interesting venture.

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2 Responses

  1. DMZ says:

    I actually discovered this place as a result of Greg’s blog. He’s quite the writer himself, and a real heavyweight, being on Shomrei’s board and all!

    I do share Greg’s thoughts on censorship problems. How do you balance the stringent laws of lashon hara with the fact that problems in the community don’t get solved until they’re fully in the public eye? The truth is, even the whole anti-spouse-abuse campaign got hammered by people swearing up and down that it was lashon hara.

    Or, to put the problem more succinctly: how do you handle lashon hara while speaking out for social change? As another blogger, I would really appreciate your thoughts, R’ Menken.

  2. The censorship issue is so real, and such a potential problem that it scares me.
    Most people who discuss and think about their problems in emuna and.or in practice find answers.
    Most who don’t, wind up hurting themselves and others.

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