A group of fervently Orthodox Jews reportedly set to gather at Citi Field later this month for a conference on the dangers of the internet will have counter protesters.
The secondary protest is titled “The Internet Is Not The Problem,” and has been organized on, of all places, facebook.
The pro-internet faction hopes to fly in the face of a loose confederation of Ultra Orthodox leaders who have reportedly raised $1.5 million to rent out the inside of the stadium on May 20. They will reportedly use the massive space to rally against and discuss the problems the internet has caused the insular community.
“It is well known that in recent times through the Internet many serious family-related problems have been created, and it all happens because of it, and something must be done so they won’t be hurt,” the group, known as the Great Men of Israel, said in a statement translated by the Jewish Press. “And since this touches almost everyone, we must assemble together to protect and be protected, and we hope that through this gathering in search of ideas we will be helped from Heaven to save the many, and may it be that we will be successful in encouraging the public not to stumble over this obstacle, and the Lord will guide us in a truthful path,” they added.
But not all Jews are sympathetic to the anti-internet cause. Ari Mandel, a secular Jew who was raised as a Hassid before leaving the fold, began the counter protest for outside the stadium, because he feels the attention of the Hassidic leadership ought to be turned elsewhere.
“It’s infuriating that these rabbis are so focused on the Internet, instead of far more serious dangers,” said Mandel, who was thinking specifically of the problem of child molestation—which he says someone close to him has been a victim of.
“In my mind, there is one calamity so serious it trumps any other concern: Jewish leadership needs to totally reform how they keep our children safe,” he added.
To Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky of , the internet can be a serious hazard to children.
“Everybody is aware that in one click, you can be in a very dark space spiritually,” he said, adding, “Whether it’s pornography, or crime…racism, hate, or learning how to make a bomb—that’s how dangerous it is.”
Blesofsky wished to emphasize that he is not an organizer of the Citi Field conference—and may not even attend—but does find some common ground with the organizers, who are of different Orthodox sects.
“It’s about educating our children to understand the power of the internet and the danger of it,” he said, adding, “You can’t say that the internet is evil. That’s silly. That’s sort of immature. The issue is you have to use it in a positive manner.”