NEW YORK—So it turns out that the event held Sunday in New York's Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, that attracted more than 40,000 ultra-orthodox Jews to a rally against the dangers posed by the internet, mostly notably by porn, was really just a marketing event for a company that sells internet filtering software to the community?
What a great idea. Why didn't I think of it?
Brilliantly, the event also mimicked internet filtering by not allowing women into the stadium, though they were allowed to watch offsite through special feeds over the... internet. In another filtering metaphor, not one of the rabbis from Hasidic communities around the world who spoke at the event mentioned the word "porn" by name. According to The Jewish Week, it is prohibited by Jewish law.
Stern warnings were delivered in no uncertain terms, however, including by Rabbi Yechiel Meir Katz, known as the Dzibo rav, who "compared the threat of the internet to the dangers that Zionism and the European Enlightenment posed in the past to traditional Jewish life."
He cautioned, “A terrible test has been sent to us that has inflicted so much terrible damage” on haredim. "In previous challenges we knew who the enemy was," he said. "Today, however, the challenge is disguised and not discernible to the naked eye.”
It's an odd statement, considering the evil whose name cannot be uttered is one that appeals precisely to the naked eye, but perhaps Katz like many other speakers was also referring to the internet as a whole, which, in addition to stealing the innocence of youth by means of pornography (or so they say), also (so they say) insidiously steals time away from young people who should be studying the Torah.
As far as what to do about it, the answer also seemed to be a unanimous one. According to Jewish News, "To a man, each of the rabbis who spoke said that Jewish law forbids Jews from browsing the internet without a filter that blocks inappropriate sites."
What a wonderful coincidence that this message of hope was also consistent with the claim made by the New York Times that the rabbinical group sponsoring the event, Ichud Hakehillos Letohar Hamachane, "is linked to a software company that sells Internet filtering software to Orthodox Jews. Those in attendance were handed fliers that advertised services like a 'kosher GPS App' for iPhone and Android phones, which helps users locate synagogues and kosher restaurants."
It's a match made in heaven.
Photo: May 20 rally at Citi Field, courtesy of city councilman David G. Greenfield.