Late last year, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis banned the popular blog Voz Iz Neias and even went so far as to try to have it taken down. Now, FailedMessiah.com reports that the Agudath Israel of America’s Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah has issued a ban prohibiting its adherents from using the Internet without a filter. The groups also recommends installing third party software that sends a record of all the websites visited to a monitoring agency, which would then report that usage to a designated party.
This is the strongest ban of Internet use by Haredi rabbis in the U.S., however, Israeli rabbis banned Internet usage over a decade ago. Miriam Shaviv explained in the Forward: "Israeli rabbis first came out against Internet use in January 2000, when more than 30 Haredi leaders forbade Internet connections at home. Back then, the main concern was the easy availability of online pornography. The ban was not particularly controversial, as Israeli Haredim had long accepted a similar ban on owning television sets. Many Haredim, however, circumvented the ban by using 3G phones, which allowed Internet access — until the rabbis forced them to buy ‘kosher-certified’ sets in which the Internet feature was disabled. Others frequented Internet cafés. Still others brought computers into the home for work purposes, a practice that the Rabbinical Commission for Media Affairs — established by leading Haredi rabbis to set policy — was forced to permit in 2007, conceding that the Internet was essential for many businesses."
The latest ban on the Haredi community in the U.S. reads as follows:
We are all aware of the grave danger internet has brought to the kedusha (sanctity) of the Jewish home and the Jewish family. Internet has made the worst kind of media, offensive images and other issurim chamurim (serious transgressions of Torah prohibitions) readily available to both children and adults.
Internet usage should by all means be avoided in homes and, wherever possible, also in business offices. In any event, chidlren should not be given Internet access. (In circumstances where children are compelled to use the Internet, this should be done only under the strictest parental supervision.)
Shaviv, foreign editor of Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, concluded her Forward op-ed arguing that "Haredim are going to stay online. The community’s leaders may be able to retain some measure of control, by allowing and cooperating with ‘kosher’ Web sites. Alternatively, they can continue to issue ultimatums their followers will not meet, condemning themselves to irrelevancy."