For a part of the Jewish community that is always complaining about a lack of money for important things like education, the Chareidim seem to have no trouble rusting up cash when it comes to useless public relations stunts. How else to explain the upcoming Asifah later today at a large sports stadium that is rumoured to cost more than a million dollars once all the bills are tallied?
The Asifah, as multiple blogs have noted, is a gathering to demonstrate the unity of the Torah-observant community in its fight against the tumah of the Internet and its ravaging effects on us. No doubt there will be inspiring speeches, lots of advice and direct orders, all in the name of "the Gedolim" to round out the event.
But there are two points I'd like to note, before anyone gets too enthusiastic about the potential for good that the Asifah claims it will accomplish.
The first is to point out all the disunity that this call for unity has exposed. No, this isn't a goodwill gathering of all Torah-observant Jews. Chabad, for example, almost didn't get invited. Rumours of various chasidic groups not wanting to show up if other groups were invited are rife. Despite all the "Daas Torah" available for consultation, no one could figure out how to put up a mechitzah so no women will be present. Ask people at Modern Orthodox shuls if they had any tickets made available to them (people in Flatbush seem to be particularly annoyed) and the answer is a resounding "no". And despite the usual statements that speakers will represent all corners of the Torah observant community, no one from Yeshiva University has been asked to contribute. (I'm not even going to mention YCT!)
Yes, it seems that the definition of "unity" for the organizers is "everyone who looks and thinks exactly like us" which excludes any Torah observant Jews who dress and think differently along with all women. As I've said before, if someone ever figures out how to do human parthenogenesis these same leaders will ban women from existence since they'll now be redundant.
The second is to note that this event is essentially useless. The Chareidi leadership has spent the better part of the last two generations fighting a losing battle against modern technology. First there was the war against the television which was mostly lost when people discovered those neat cubboards that you could stick a TV inside and then close up when your Rav or "holier than thou" friends came for a Shabbos meal. Then came the internet which is so pervasive and omnipotent that it did what "the Gedolim" couldn't: it made the television irrelevant and became the new media focus in everyone's lives.
Naturally the first attempt was to ban the 'net, a move that also failed because of the internet's indispensible nature in many people's lives, for business, research, etc. Despite this reality the fight went on. People were told they couldn't have computers in their homes so they went to the library or simply lied to the folks asking the question. People were told they couldn't have smart phones. They went and got them anyway.
And now there will be a gathering where we will all be told which filters to use and the "halachically permissible" circumstances for using the internet.
And it will make no difference, just as every other move the leadership has made.
But what's most frustrating is the cost. Imagine how many teachers could have been hired with the money spent in this useless gathering. How many hungry families could have been provided with decent meals for Shavuous next week? How many kids could get good dental and health care?
Blogs are a favourite target of "the Gedolim" because they represent the ultimate insurrection. Yeshiva students can be dominated. Their families and congregations can be controlled but not the 'net which must drive these folks wild. Instead of addressing the problems that the blogs identify they rail against the identifiers and the technology that exposed the problems in the first place.
The money could have been better spent but it would have left a few egos unstroked. Too bad, eh?