Chabad 'Likes' Facebook, But Not for Girls

Web-Savvy Sect Bans Teens From Joining Social Media Site

Social Pressures: Chana Lerner, 15, works on her computer as her mother, Yocheved Lerner-Miller watches. The teen’s Chabad high school has barred girls from joining Facebook.
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Social Pressures: Chana Lerner, 15, works on her computer as her mother, Yocheved Lerner-Miller watches. The teen’s Chabad high school has barred girls from joining Facebook.

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published April 09, 2012, issue of April 13, 2012.
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So when several 11th-grade girls were discovered to be maintaining Facebook accounts, thus violating the school’s pledge, administrators searched for other students using the social networking site. Offending students had to pay a $100 fine, which they would receive back at the end of the school year, or face expulsion.

Attempts by the Forward to reach Stock were unsuccessful.

Rishe Deitsch, senior editor of a Chabad newsletter for women, N’shei Chabad, is the mother of a Beth Rivkah sophomore without a Facebook account. Deitsch uses a software program called eBlaster, which lets her view websites visited, emails and chats conducted from her home computer. Her daughter, Mirel, 16, said that the tracking software is an effective deterrent from logging on to time-sucking game sites.

“It stops me from going on the wrong things, because I know that I am going to get a speech later,” she said, adding that she placed on the computer a sign that warns, “Your history may be read by mgmnt [management].”

Deitsch likens using Facebook to learning to drive. Mirel can use Facebook when “she is a full adult,” the mother says. “For Mirel and her friends, it’s like a 9- year-old driving a car.”

Chana Lerner, a 15-year-old Beth Rivkah student, said that she will never use Facebook — not even when she is an adult. “I never have, never did, never will,” she said. “I can’t figure out how to work the site. It’s not modest enough or not safe enough.”

On a recent afternoon in Crown Heights, Chabad adherents were reluctant to talk about the role of Facebook in their lives, with some adults saying they had accounts but that they agreed with the school’s decision to ban the site. Chaim Katz, 18, said that he has a Facebook account in order to stay in touch with family and friends, but that he was discouraged against it when he attended Chabad schools in Buffalo, N.Y. and in Brazil. “There is a bad side to it, too,” he said, noting that some kids get harassed on the site.

Harassment, modesty and procrastination concerns aside, movement leaders know the value of social media for communicating its message. Chabad even hosted workshops on social media at two of its recent international emissary conferences.

“With Facebook I am able to answer questions that people have,” Lubavitch.com’s Lightstone said. “I can create a persona that people can engage with, and it makes it a more comfortable setting to work with people.”

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at zeveloff@forward.com and follow her @NaomiZeveloff


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