Gentiles at the Gates

The Internet Changed Everything in the Hasidic World

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published October 25, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Once, life in Brooklyn’s Boro Park was simple. There was the inside and the outside and an impenetrable wall in between. Then came the Internet, and everything changed.

In the beginning, we did not fully understand. The computer seemed to be a rather innocuous box: glass screen; dark plastic, flat keyboard, and a cursor that moved with the touch of the strangely named “mouse.” We couldn’t have known that lurking within was the darkness of the entire planet.

At first we did not dwell on it. The World Wide Web was a gentile invention, and as with all gentile inventions, how good could it be for the Jews? So when I began working from home a decade ago and needed Internet access to do so, I knew that I would need a heter, special permission, from a rav.

My rav said no, absolutely not. When I explained how difficult this made work for me, he said maybe, he’d think about it, perhaps and finally okay. But only for six months. After that, he warned, the heter was null and void, and the world and its Web, or whatever it was called, had to go. He also told me to keep a careful watch on my then-husband to make sure that he did not watch impure things.

I did watch my husband. I watched him watch the Internet. It was fascinating, the Internet; less so my husband. When we clicked on the screen, magic happened. When we wrote words in the blank box, things popped up on command. Six months quickly passed. I emailed, researched, browsed, and the outside world, once dark and flat, grew in dimension and color, a faraway mythical villain that I could suddenly see and touch.

I no longer remember if we called the rav back for permission. The Internet stayed.

Once, life in Brooklyn’s Boro Park and Williamsburg, and in Lakewood, N.J., was simple. We knew who our enemies were. Our world was divided neatly into good and bad, and everything stayed where we’d placed it centuries before. We, the good, were here, and the rest of the world was there, on the other side of our impenetrable walls.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.