The Zionist Conspiracy

A clandestine undertaking on behalf of Israel, the Jets and the Jews.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Latest Lakewood Takana

I have been informed by a Lakewood resident that last night a takana (decree) was issued by prominent rabbis in Lakewood:

that only homes that can have internet in it are for business purposes only. In order to have internet you must go to the designated Rabbis, explain to them your needs, if they see fit, then they will give you a 'license' to have internet, while you will have to block out certain sites , you will be taught certain 'tricks'. If a family is caught after the elapsed time with internet in their house, ALL THE CHILDREN WILL BE EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL.

The person who sent me the e-mail appears to view this takana positively. I have expressed my negative sentiments to this person.

My feeling is that this takana will cause even many residents of Lakewood to feel cynicism toward their rabbis - something that, unfortunately, many charedi Jews outside of Lakewood already feel.

To be sure, the Internet is far from an ideal medium from a Torah perspective. There is surely much that is objectionable on the Internet. While my own view is that there is also much that is worthwhile, I can respect a rabbinic view that sees the Internet very negatively and advises against its use and urges strong precautions so that children and teens cannot access problematic material.

But as usual, it's not enough for the Lakewood rabbis to simply express their opinion - even strongly. Instead, they use coercion, in this case, the threat that all of a family's children will be expelled from the community's schools, in effect shunning the family entirely from the community.

So as was the case with the decree banning attendance of Lakewood BlueClaws minor league baseball games, the rabbis use the method of collective punishment, in which children are punished for the purported "sins" of their parents by being denied a Jewish education.

Having recently read Natan Sharansky's book, The Case For Democracy, about the distinction between fear societies and free societies, I am beginning to think of Lakewood as - in some ways - a fear society. Of course, the people there can move if they choose, so the analogy is far from a perfect one. But the dominating influence that several zealous rabbis hold over people's lives, and the constantly increasing list of prohibitions that expand on Jewish Law, combined with the threats of community censure and isolation if one is caught in an act of non-compliance, do resemble what is experienced in totalitarian societies.

In a superb interview by Steven Weiss of Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky, author of the banned Making Of A Godol (now published in an "improved" edition), R. Kamenetsky, in response to a question about R. Natan Slifkin, whose own books attempting to reconcile science and Torah were banned too, stated that "the true present 'gedol hador' of American Jewry, my brother R' Shmuel of Philadelphia, gave Rabbi Slifkin a haskamah - and he doesn't get scared off by zealots."

Indeed, rabbis and laypersons alike must not get scared off by zealots. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible for most inside the charedi community to fight the zealotry and remain a member in good standing. As long as prominent Lakewood rabbis continue to impose their imported extremism on Lakewood's observant Jews with acquiescence from other charedi rabbis in Lakewood and elsewhere, the sad trends will continue.

The only good thing about this latest ban is that it may reduce the number of Lakewood residents who read my blog posts that are critical of their rabbis and then send me hateful e-mails and comments.