Impressions of the Internet Asifa – #1

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Notice the police facing the crowd. However, as Rabbi Wachsman reached the crescendo of his speech expressing the dangers of the internet (especially to children) many of the policemen and policewomen suddenly turned their gaze toward the rabbi with the long white beard…

Among the many lasting impressions I came away with from the Internet asifa at Citi Field was the image of non-Jewish policemen and policewomen turning to face the dais in centerfield as Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman delivered one of the most passionate parts of his speech.

Throughout the event, police ringed the field, looking up at the stands as part of the special security measures. There were even snipers on the roof and NYPD helicopters circling above. No beer or alcohol was sold at the event; the police were not looking for unruly, drunken, brawling fans who might charge the field. Rather they focused their gaze up into the stands for possible terror threats – and, baruch Hashem, there were none, thanks in great part to their efforts.

Rabbi Wachsman’s English is flawless and eloquent: “Like the fly who enters the web of the spider,” he explained, “little strands of the spider’s web that don’t even equal a fraction of the weight of the fly [attach themselves], but another strand and another strand and another strand [get attached], and before he knows it he’s caught in the web, in the net….”

At times his voice was so powerful that it rose above even the roar of commercial jets that periodically flew overhead: “The internet is about the moment. It’s about the instantaneous; about the artificial, about the superficial. It’s about if you’re bored you click on something else. It’s about being fleeting and empty. Even secular educators and psychologists have been decrying the children are being turned into click-vegetables!”

As he continued he gradually increased the pitch of his voice: “You can see it in the ebbing of the light in the vacant eyes of the younger generation, of the jittery inattentiveness of our children, in the flippant and callous language and attitude, the cynicism … and the unbelievable breaches of [modesty]….”

Then he reached his crescendo.

“Many say we are too late,” Rabbi Wachsman lamented. “[But] even if, c’v, we’ve lost the 20- to 35-year-olds – and I don’t believe it’s so – we don’t have to lose 0- to 20 [year-olds]. We can put a stop to it now.”

And this is where he suddenly raised his voice to a new decibel level: “I’ve seen with my own eyes people giving children of 11-years-old Blackberrys, and iPhones and iPods! Are they out of their minds?!” he thundered. “What are they thinking?!”

At this moment, I swung my binoculars toward the policemen and policewomen on the field and noticed that most of them had turned to face Rabbi Wachsman, this man in the long black frock sporting a long white beard. They seemed mesmerized (like everyone else). His message hit home for them too.

That’s when I understood the far-reaching effects of this gathering; that the message was not only for us, but “to illuminate the world,” as Rabbi Wachsman said in his opening.

Remarkably, the media coverage conveyed virtually none of the real content of the event, none of the universality of its message. It was as if the problem wasn’t a big deal, didn’t exist or that they couldn’t give credit to the observant community for coming together in such an unprecedented way in order to try to make a stand. If anything, the media seemed more bent in using the gathering as a springboard to launch their favorite barbs at the religious Jewish community.

The disparity between what went on inside the stadium and the way the media reported it was incredible. In my next “Impressions” entry I hope to discuss that.

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