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Will Lubavitch Participate in the ‘Antinet’ Gathering?

I’ve known my good friend and former neighbor on the Lower East Side of New York Baruch Herzfeld for many years. I’ve learned to respect his perception of what’s in and what’s out, and so this morning when I went to mine the web and found his comment on Facebook on the upcoming “Antinet” – the mass gathering of Orthodox Jews at Citi Field for the purpose of banning the Internet – I decided to a.) take it seriously, and, b.) share it with you.

Here’s the gospel according to my friend Baruch regarding the Citi Field ‘Antinet’ gathering:

“I’m no expert on the Jews, but May 20th, 2012 might be the most Jewish event in the history of Judaism. Let me explain: some hardcore fundie Jews are renting out Citifield to protest the Internet (all male of course), however some ex-fundie Jews are protesting the protestors, creating a perfect storm loop of protesting Jews protesting protesting Jews. I would go, but I don’t know which side I’m on.”

On the money. It’s not a simple issue, and years of harbored attitudes are starting to explode here, with so many preconceived notions swinging about, it’s getting hard to breathe.

I’ll give you an example: my colleague Jacob Edelist published one of the first reports in English on the May 20th event. It wasn’t his story, though, as he plainly stated, he was merely translating an original story in the Haredi press, plus the text of one ad, a “Kol Koreh,” a call to action, if you will, by several Haredi rabbis.

Some of the reactions we received accused Jacob of using a flippant tone in reporting the story, and of intentionally making Haredi Jews look bad. It was stunning, how some folks project their own attitudes on what was, essentially, a completely newsy, attitude-free story.

The reason for the brouhaha, as my friend Baruch describes it so well, is that the topic at hand, the scourge of Technology or of the Internet, is just too broad to be dealt with on a yes/no (pass/fail?) basis. It’s like attacking the printing press because of some really terrible books printed over the years, or attacking the telephone as a concept because of telemarketing. Like those two, and like radio and television, the Internet will always reflect our own values in the choices we make while surfing it.

The impulse to prohibit a medium rather than deal with its dangers is a recipe for the squashing of creativity and communication, for the sake of some unclear notion of purity. I’m not sure that our Jewish tradition will smile on that impulse.

Over the years I had the privilege of working for the Lubavitch News Service and experienced first hand how a Haredi person may go about taking from the Internet the good that it has to offer, while rejecting, without much fanfare, the ugly stuff. It’s never perfect, folks fail now and then, which is why we have built-in systems of repair in our tradition.

A long time ago, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, one of the leaders of today’s Lubavitch movement, told me that even when you pick up the phone, you take a chance. By answering the call, you are letting a stranger into your home. Who knows what might come next?

One of the common responses to that dilemma is to hang up, if the stranger on the phone misbehaves. Today we also have Caller ID, which helps determine in advance whether we want to deal with this individual. We all operate our phones every day, quite expertly, and I’m yet to hear an outcry to ban the telephone.

Still, on the subject of the dangers of Technology, no one can beat the great Reb Naftali of Rupshitz, in whose time the Russian government began a project of cutting down forests to make room for well paved highways (the railroad was yet to be invented). The Rupshitzer complained that now the wagons would be rolling safely without incident on the new roads, which was a terrible thing. Because when the roads were lousy, wagon wheels would often break or just come off their axle; the passengers were forced to disembark and wait for hours until the wagon driver fixed the wheel – and a Jew could sit down by a tree, say Tehilim and learn a blat gemorah. With the improvements in the roads, all that would be gone.

Now, that was one fundie Jew!


  • 1. KNOW YOURSELF wrote:

    I agree with the purpose of the “antinet” meeting. There’s definitely a serious pitfall in the frum community with this technology. “Put a young man in front of a brothel – he’s not going to sin.?”
    However, I don’t agree with a general ban for everyone. Just, know yourself. If you have enough self-discipline to avoid the dark side of the net, then, off hand, I see no problem with it. If, however, you do find it to hard to resist, then you must take measures to protect yourself. You may have to, totally, banish the computer from the home because filters can be by-passed. You may even have to arrange, on the job, when you are on the computer,that someone can always look over your shoulders and see what you are doing.

  • 4. Drizin Cousin wrote:

    if I am not mistaken Baruch Hertzfeld is related to the Drizins and their zeide Reb Avrohom M’ayor.

  • 5. BCH wrote:

    I hope Lubavitch will ignore this pathetic event and pay it no heed at all.

  • 7. the real lubavitch wrote:

    this is a serious issue. outright apikusus, damaging pictures and more.

    the rebbe was a fanatic, non-compromising jew. he refused to compromise on even one single yid.

    the rebbe was not living in a bubble like modern orthodox, who preferred to bury their heads in the ground, ignoring the dangers. we now see where most of their kids are; either fry, or chareidi.

    no, the rebbe was pragmatic. realistic. he saw the issues, and dealt with them head on.

    thats why im going to the gathering. because its the most lubavitch thing to do.

  • 8. Naftali Michalowsky wrote:

    Journalism is dead. The event is named ‘Asifa’. ‘Antinet’ was coined by detractors. The article’s use of the term is effectively a lie. The event is described as “the mass gathering of Orthodox Jews at Citi Field for the purpose of banning the Internet.” That isn’t true but it doesn’t matter–it’s but the author’s good friends comment on Facebook. Damage done.

    Friends. The Asifa is about the dangers of the internet. And it’s about how to manage the internet. Which is why the speeches will be preceded by a 3 hour trade show for the kosher internet security industry.

    By now it is as well known that internet use must be managed carefully as it is known that it can’t be banned.

    Please, do what’s right and find out about what you can do to protect your families and yourselves.

    Will there be a Lubavitch presence? Don’t know; but there are askanim working on it. It doesn’t matter. This is life and death.

  • 10. Milhouse wrote:

    #9, “yes” the antisemite 0bama fan, says it’s stupid to have a rally to express concern over a serious problem. Of course he would laugh, since he’s probably not even Jewish and certainly has no respect for anything holy. So he probably thinks there is no problem with the internet, and anyone who so much as worries about it is a dinosaur, one of those superstitious people who believe in the “Bible” and “Divine law” and “holiness”. Anyone who does believe in these things understands that there is a problem, and there are no simple solutions, so it makes sense to have a gathering at which different people can express their views and proposals on what to do about it.

  • 11. agree with 7 wrote:

    its so true!
    the modern orthodox, as well as chabad light, are certainly the more delusive, among communities i know.

    i just had a conversation today with a chabad light guy. he could not answer simple questions, like what he expects his kids to come out like with with him serving as chief role model at home.

    its laughable that they scoff the frum chassidish people for being “in a bubble”.

    like i said to my chabad lite friend “lets meet in twenty years time…”

  • 12. let-s be honest knife could be a weapon wrote:

    I’d love to come but can’t to much work.. I’ll see if I’d like original protestors’s arguments I’ll take their side.. can somebody videotape and upload it to youtube. ;)

  • 13. DR1440 wrote:

    was Lubavitch for sure invited to this?
    Some other Chasidim told me they heard that we were not invited. ?? anyone know?

  • 14. the real question is wrote:

    Why wasn’t Lubavitch invited like all other Jewish communities? Are we not a part of Klal yisroel’?

  • 15. Anonymous wrote:

    How can you be so misleading> The author should read the pamphlet and he would see they are not trying to ban the internet. They don’t agree with this at all. They are educating you how of the importance of protecting yourself from the internet. Their motto is ‘internet – you can’t live with it, you can’t live without it’. It is everything but what the author makes it out to be. I don’t know how such an outright false article got published?

  • 16. Moshe Epstein wrote:

    I’d love to see a hechsure on all approved websites, blogs, Facebooks, etc. I’d gladly register my website. Michael Luach

  • 17. Lubavitch was purposely not invited wrote:

    a delegation went to see the Satmar Rebbe to convince him to attend with his chassidim. He brought up the point that Lubavitch wasn’t invited and they couldn’t give a coherent answer.

  • 18. Naftali Michalowsky wrote:


    We are invited and encouraged to attend, which is why flyers were posted to the Crown Heights shuls this past Shabbos. Whether Lubavitch will have an ‘on-stage’ presence is, I believe, the subject of ongoing askanus.

  • 19. @17 wrote:

    Lubavitch was NOT invited.
    You can run after them if you feel the need to… Enjoy.
    But until they come to our Rabbanim and invite us like the rest of klal yisroel, we should NOT go.
    Enough is enough.
    Any Shliach that has a Lakewood guy come into his Shul should send him on his way, according to Malkiel, he’s not allowed to answer amen to our minyanim anyways.

  • 20. Politics don-t break families wrote:

    to 19

    What if I have brother who’s a Lakewood type? Should I no longer host him for Shabbos, or vice-versa?

  • 21. Milhouse wrote:

    #20, Of course you should host him, but use non-mevushal wine. Then if he’s really of that type he will stop coming, and you will know where you really stand with him.


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