The Asifa: An Overwhelming Success

Any assassin worth his salt knows this very well: If you shoot a king you must kill him (Emerson). Fail and you’ll only make him stronger. That’s the scene these past couple of weeks in Haredi circles.

When the Internet Asifa began to make it’s way through the public consciousness, it stirred up quite a hornet’s nest. After a while it became clear that this was the hill the “usual suspects” had decided to die over. Why, you may ask?  An Haredi gathering for Haredi men to promote Haredi ideals, why should non-Haredim care? More on this later.

As the Asifa gathered momentum, opponents were not idle. They were galvanized, energized, at the opportunity to engage in the ever-entertaining sport of Haredi bashing. Not content to narrowly define the battle as a showdown over the internet, they expanded it to include every aspect of Haredi life that did not meet with their approval, which is basically all of it.

No bullet would be left in the chamber, no arrow in the quiver during this engagement. Charges ranging from the banal (Haredim are stuck in the past) to the concerned (It won’t work), from the sublime (What about the great Torah learning on the internet!) to the absurd (It’s all a scam) were hurled night and day with incredible passion bordering on hysterics. People whose opinions were neither solicited nor desired offered it with the authority of the Sanhedrin.

Nor did they rest post-Asifa. Having failed to prevent the people from going, the rhetoric grew even louder and shriller. Jumping on an admittedly (and regrettably) lackluster program, the pundits prophesied doom, predicting everything from the masses ignoring the message of the Asifa to the end of Daas Torah.

Surveying the Haredi landscape, I am happy to report that, once again, the online punditry has missed the mark. The response to the Asifa has been truly overwhelming. In the past two weeks we have seen many follow-up asifas in diverse places such as Flatbush (this Sunday) and Monroe, Boro Park and Lakewood as well as out of town. Many more are planned. We have seen homes get rid of the internet, businesses install filters and a general awareness that the time has come to get this right.

Organizations dedicated to helping people secure their computers and other devices (at no charge), have reported thousands and thousands of people installing filters, blocking browsers and generally enthusiastic about complying with internet guidelines.

What makes this so remarkable is that even the Rabbonim and Gedolim behind the Asifa did not expect such a positive, quick and decisive reaction on the part of the tzibbur. The attraction of the internet is well known, this is precisely the challenge it poses! To see people self-censor, people who are quite reluctant to surrender control over any aspect of their lives, is truly a Kiddush Hashem. The organizers of the Asifa embarked on their endeavor expecting a great deal of internal push-back, little of which has materialized. While there are those that have had more difficulty complying than others, the message of the Asifa has been received. The Internet is no longer the Wild West. It needs to be safeguarded and controlled, just like any dangerous substance.

Few have stayed unaffected or apathetic. Those who never had or needed the internet were encouraged to keep it that way. Those who had filters were encouraged to get better and stronger ones while cutting down on recreational use. Many who had put off installing proper filters have now gotten it done. And those who refuse to safeguard their own and their families’ spiritual future now feel guilty about it, which can lead to tikkunim in the future (and also explains their lashing out).

There are two big takeaways from this saga:

1) That such a benign event, a gathering by Haredi Jews and for Haredi Jews, should arouse such passion and emotion on the part of outsiders is quite telling. It reinforces that, despite our failings, we are doing our job. The job of the Am Hanivchar is to be a light onto the nations. Sometimes that light illuminates and sometimes it burns, depending on the attitude of those affected by it. Be that as it may, the light is strong and vibrant.

2) The echo chamber of the internet is precisely that, an echo chamber. A Martian reading blogs on Mars in preparation for coming here, would be completely clueless once he arrived. The discussion online is not only unrelated to reality, it is often precisely the opposite. They make Baghdad Bob proud. And like an echo chamber, the sound builds off itself to project immense power but that’s all it is, a projection. They present the facts as they want them to be rather than as they are.

The process continues and so do the attacks. That is the nature of things in this world. Good will always engender a response, will always have obstacles placed in it’s path. It has been and will always be that way. Those with the understanding and the courage to resist the easy path and do the right thing will one day be amply rewarded by the one whose will we are attempting to do, Hashem Yisborach.

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16 thoughts on “The Asifa: An Overwhelming Success

  1. You have completely jumped the shark with your last few posts. Comparing the opposition to Baghdad Bob, when everyone watched the Charedi establishment promise one thing, deliver another, and call it a smashing success? Seriously?
    But even beyond that, calling this a smashing success is typical of the Charedi establishment. Did it accomplish some of their goals? Undoubtedly. That would be hard to dispute. By that metric, it would have been impossible to fail.
    But what people who are accustomed to earning their keep understand is that everything comes with costs. Yes, there are I dunno, for argument’s sake, 5,000 people getting filters who wouldn’t have otherwise? Everyone’s awareness was heightened, the way it was during each of the past four “awareness campaigns” for a few weeks? Agreed. But at what cost? The financial cost alone was in the millions. How many poor people could it have fed? How much could that money have done for Bonei Olam? How long could it have lasted if it were spent with some sort of forethought, budgeted for advertisements, local, more tailored asifas, COMPUTER TRAINING FOR FRUM SCHOOLS?
    The inarguable fact, although you’ll never concede it, is that non-affiliated people who don’t care one way or the other now think that we’re crazy. And like it or not, public perception links the asifa in Williamsburg to raise money for an accused molester to the posters that ask women to step out of the way when men are coming, to the asifa that didn’t allow women. I am on the brink of feeling uncomfortable to wear my yarmulka when I meet people who I know are reading the news; even more uncomfortable interviewing for jobs with a yarmulka. Yes, I know you don’t care. You’re thinking, someone who thinks twice about wearing a yarmulka because of such stories doesn’t matter to Judaism anyway. And the ranks of people who don’t matter to Judaism swell, and the definition of legitimate Jews shrinks, and you continue to think that you occupy the moral high ground.

    • Add another zero. 50,000 and more.

      The poor people fed is a red herring. I expect you to never eat out again and donate the savings to tomchei shabbos.

      The linkage you mention , to the extent that it is made, is by people who never liked us and never would. Hard to placate suh people so we don’t.

      I’m sorry you feel that way re: yarmulka. I meet with secular Jews and non-Jews every day in my line of work and I’ve never encountered any negative reactions from them. Most have a very low opinion of the media and know to take it with a grain of salt.

      I would love for all Jews to be comfortable with what Haredim do, however we cannot compromise our principles so that it be so.

      • 50,000 is a crazy number. The poor people fed is not a red herring. First of all, I live pretty frugally, and I agree that frugality would be a wonderful value for the frum community to inculcate. But the only way that such a thing would make a difference is systemically OR by not blowing the money in one night.

        The linkage I mentioned is certainly exploited by people who never liked us and never would, but there are many people who just don’t know, and who form their opinions based on the media. Like I said above, I know you don’t care. These people don’t matter in Boro Park, where all the non-Jews have well formed opinions one way or the other. But they matter in other places and in other settings. If I had a job, and I met the same non-Jews day after day, or I met with groups of people as a member of a group, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. But as it happens, I constantly meet new people, I am in one on one settings all the time, and it is awkward.

        And you don’t have to compromise your principles. The idea that Charedim as a unified group stick to any defined list of principles is laughable in the first place; each group has its own mishegasin. All you have to do is choose principles that are less offensive. Protect the children, for example, instead of the molesters.

        • You make sense until you descend into baseless attacks and slander. That you cannot make your point without it is a shame.

          Mishegasen? Ah I see a chosid who wears a thick gartel is a meshugane, but tens of millions of screaming idiots deliriously happy that five people they don’t know made millions of dollars and won a championship, now that’s normal. Olam hafuch.

          • Which attack is baseless? You don’t like the word mishgasen, okay, use “unique focus”. You obviously can’t deny that the frum leaders protected molesters at the expense of kids, can you? So forget what you consider personal attacks and respond to the valid points.

            • The ones who have are wrong and despicable, but they are no more then a handful, which exist in every community. The rest of the community is guilty of not speaking out, not a cover-up. There’s a big difference.

              • I have no complaint about the community initially. The people who helped cover up abuse are rabbonim, and a large percentage of rabbonim helped to cover up abuse. Even those who weren’t actively complicit should have used their influence to make a statement – e.g. if Yeshiva Zichron Gamliel (YZG) is protecting a known abuser, then the RY of Beis Paltiel might be excused for not intervening. But he should refuse to sit on a board with YZG, and when asked, he should speak against it with the same zeal that he employs in bashing Zionism, Lubavitch, and the rest of the Yeshivishe straw men. Why is that so hard to understand?

  2. And don’t get discouraged by the pundits, even the ones who jump all over your blog!!! Let them stick to eating red herring!

  3. Continue to highlight the accomplishments of this Asifa which highligts the quench of frumme yidden to get rid of a Yetzer Horah and practical steps taken to reach this noble goal.

    • Will do. Heard about an Asifa done by Rabbi Wallerstein’s Orh Yitzchak Yeshiva, hardly a bastion of right-wing Haredism. Was a great success.

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