Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Haredi men attended a rally at Citi Field stadium in Queens, New York, on Sunday. The rally, organized by the rabbinical group Ichud Hakehillos Letohar Hamachane, was convened to alert Haredim on the dangers of Internet.
More than 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews attended the rally on Sunday. MSN notes the irony in the fact that the rally on the "evils of the Internet" was streamed live on the Internet.
The critical attention of the media was drawn to the fact that only men were allowed to attend the rally. According to The Jerusalem Post, women were unable to enter the stadium because of the strict laws requiring separation of the sexes. The Jerusalem Post reports that about 15,000 female Haredim watched the rally live in various locations around New York through live Internet stream.
According to The Huffington Post , in spite of the assertion that the rally was convened to sensitize Haredim on the dangers of the Internet, its main goal was unclear. The Huffington Post speaks of the "muddled roots of this movement and the confusing intentions for the May 20 event."
According to Gawker, the organizers sold out tickets for the entire 42,000-seat stadium. Gawker reports auction of two tickets to the sold out "Internet asifa" on eBay.com. The tickets were purchased at $10 but were offered on eBay at $51. Gawker comments sarcastically: "Talk about a danger of the internet: What a rip-off."
The Jerusalem Post reports that Eytan Kobre, owner of a weekly Jewish magazine in Brooklyn, said at the rally that social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter can lead people from prayer. He said: "I know that Facebook ruins marriages."
But Kobre denied that the rally was calling for a ban on Internet. He said they would like to see the Internet "filtered." According to The Jerusalem Post, he said: “With one click, all of a sudden, you lose control and are whisked away to a world you never intended to see, and it overtakes your life. As a community, we are asking, is it worth it?”
Judy Braun, writing on The Jewish Week, responds with harsh criticism, saying the Internet is terrifying to the rabbis because "it enables open dialogue and an honesty they cannot afford... The Internet is an enormous threat to the ultra-Orthodox world for the same reason it is a threat in Syria, Iran and Russia; a population that is aware is a population difficult to control. They say that they must fight the Internet for it brings moral decay. What they do not say, even to themselves, is that they must fight the Internet so they can conceal moral decay..."
She added: "Sunday night we stood outside Citi Field with our cardboard signs. There were thousands of Orthodox men walking past us. Some looked quickly away, some laughed in pity, some wished they were standing with us. We’ll stand for the first time as a united voice... that we will make as big a Chillul Hashem [desecration of God’s name] as we need to, and for as long as we need to, because there are basic morals and there are cultural traditions and for too long the ultra-Orthodox world has confused one for the other."