On May 20 at Citi Field, thousands of people are expected to gather for an underdog cause. It's not the Mets. Rabbis, community leaders and ordinary citizens will gather to discuss the dangers of the Internet. With the Internet having been a popular medium for more than 20 years, the rabbis feel that it is about time they did something to ban it. Repeated efforts over the last 10 years have been fruitless.
There have been suggestions or exceptions for proper Internet use, such as filtering, passwords or just keeping the computer in the family room. However, when every device from your TV to your phone can get you and your kids online, the proliferation of Internet is almost too much to deal with. What is so bad about the World Wide Web that the rabbinical authorities are seeking to abolish it once and for all?
With the click of a button, one can access pornography, chat and websites that contradict religious Jewish thought. However, the Internet is needed for business and school. The very businessmen who sponsor the rabbis use the Internet for business. Even when you swipe a credit card in a store, the processor goes "online" to check your credit. Furthermore, groundbreaking efforts on the part of the Jewish community to petition for Sholom Rubashkin would not have been possible without the Web.
Many religious private schools burden students with books upon books of homework in both Judaic and secular studies. In addition, the typical Hebrew day school ends at 4 or 5 o'clock. Students can find a lot of resources online -- as long as they don't tell the teacher. Some schools have the ridiculous policy of banning the Internet when such a ban is simply unenforcable and unrealistic in the 21st Century.
When one thinks of the mountainous efforts of getting a meeting/rally together for the purpose of abolishing the Internet, you have to ask yourself, "Why?" There are many problems facing the Jewish community: intermarriage, teens-at-risk and divorce. Ridiculous, unenforceable bans just serve to divide the Jewish community. We should be talking about bringing the downtrodden back into the fold, and defending Judaism from negative public opinion.
It is easy to ignore the issues and issue an across-the-board ban on the Internet. Nevertheless, this is not the answer. The Internet issue is a private one that parents should work out with their kids. There are many tools available to parents today for the monitoring of their children online. Parents should also be alert as to who their children's' friends are and what kind of influence they have. A pre-teen was recently abused in upstate New York by a man he met on Xbox Live of all places. While his parents should not be blamed, we all should keep track of our children's online activity. This is not a reason to ban the use of the Internet.
As a Jew, I support Israel, human rights and free choice. The fact that so many leading individuals in our community scream in fever pitch about an electronic box they do not know much about, rather than pressing and embarrassing issues, is in it of itself an embarrassment. We should not be afraid to defend an 8-year-old girl from religious fanatics. We should not be afraid to speak out against sexual abuse in Brooklyn. However, if we ignore these issues, we should be afraid for the Jewish future.