Haredim in New York Rail Against the Internet at Mets’ Stadium

Yesterday, Haredim from New York City and along the northeast US coast gathered in Mets Stadium to hear Rabbis speak about the internet.

The event held yesterday at Citi Field was hosted by the Ichud HaKehillos, a union of Haredi synagogues and communities based in New York that also has members in other cities such as Baltimore, Lakewood and Philadelphia.  According to sources and spokespeople for the event, the speakers will not seek to ban internet usage but will attempt to warn the Ultra-Orthodox community of the risk it can cause to many communities’ lifestyle choices.  In the past, the leaders of the Haredi community banned the internet completely and marginalized anyone in the community who did so.

Reports in advance of the event said that well-known leaders of the Haredi community would address the massive numbers of people, such as Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon and Rabbi Israel Portugal, the leaders of the Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ and the Skulener Rebbe.  Those reports also said that women would not be allowed to attend in according with Haredi tradition, although the event would be broadcast to schools and synagogues all over the US.  The most recent number of attendees before the rally was placed at above 40,000 – an overflow crowd that has also lead to the rental of the nearby Arthur Ashe stadium.  However, it is expected that the large number of attendees is because of the compulsory nature of the event with numerous school sending letters ordering parents of students to attend under threat of expulsion.  The cost of the event has been placed at around $1.5 million.

While Haredi Jewish media touted the event as mandatory for all orthodox Jews, many Jewish outlets differed and some scorned the event as not addressing more important issues in the Jewish world, such as the conversion issue in Israel and the high cost of Jewish education.  Those who objected to the event have planned a counter protest with the goal of bringing attention to other issues than the internet.

Report after the rally said that speakers used much of the same rhetoric used in the past, with the internet being condemned and its users to Jewish who assimilated during the “enlightenment period” in the late 1800s.  The speakers also reportedly said that any use of internet without a filter is illegal under Jewish Law.