Volume 18 Number 68
                       Produced: Thu Mar  2  2:30:36 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Jewish Observer article on the Internet (7)
         [Joe Weisblatt, Micha Berger, Yaakov Menken, Ed Bruckstein,
Moshe Friederwitzer, Esther R Posen, Yaakov Abrahamson]
The Name "Issur"
         [Amos Wittenberg]


From: Joe Weisblatt <jjw@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 1995 15:01:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Jewish Observer article on the Internet

In MJv18n52, Mark Schreiber wrote:
> Did anybody else read the shocking article in the Jewish Observer.  The
> Agudath Israel magazine of Adar 5755 (2/95) says that to stop the
> dangerous and indecent internet from perverting the Jewish home we
> should ban computers.
> I think people who don't understand the internet will get the wrong
> impression.  Its irresponsible on their part.

I read the Jewish Observer issue he is referring to, including the
article in question.

I believe his interpretation of the article is completely incorrect.

The article pointed out the dangers of allowing unmonitored net access,
especially to children, and the lack of enforcement mechanisms to allow
a parent to monitor such access.  The article also pointed to benefits
of home computers in general, and of certain internet and e-mail
resources in particular.

It did NOT conclude that computers should be banned.  Quite to the
contrary it left the issue somewhat open ended as a problem to be
addressed by rabbinic leadership, and if my recollection is correct,
specifically DISMISSED the option of banning computers in the home.

--> joe weisblatt

From: Micha Berger <berger@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 95 09:20:11 -0500
Subject: Jewish Observer article on the Internet

It's the ADAR issue, relax!

Seriously, though, to some extent Eli Weisel made the same mistake,
calling for policing of the Internet for antisemites, revisionists and
hate mongerers (y"s). The internet is a city, in population a pretty
large city. Eventually people will realize that every city has its
places to avoid.

20 years ago people mistrusted computers. Legends were abound about
people who had to spend hours correcting "computer errors". (As though
the fact that records were on disk instead of paper makes normal
clerical errors more heinous.) Today, the internet. Normal fear of the

In the case of Agudah, it's even more extreme. The Agudist philosophy
is to avoid threat. And so, it's better not to be exposed to good if
it means also being exposed to evil. TV was a good example, until I
found it harder and harder to find that good. (Yes, I still watch
avidly. Addictions are hard to break.) So, if evil exists on a new
medium, the whole medium must be declared treif.

Micha Berger                     Help free Ron Arad, held by Syria 3046 days!
<berger@...>  212 224-4937             (16-Oct-86 - 21-Feb-95)
<aishdas@...>  201 916-0287
<a href=http://www.iia.org/~aishdas>AishDas Society's Home Page</a>

From: <menken@...> (Yaakov Menken)
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 1995 00:21:25 GMT
Subject: Jewish Observer article on the Internet

Oh, nonesense. :-) The article doesn't say that, nor is it an official
declaration from Agudath Israel in any case. [Overall, it would be
appreciated if some writers would realize that just as there are diverse
opinions within mail-jewish and the broader "Orthodox" community, there
are diverse opinions within the Agudah as well.] It even provides a nice
and totally unsolicited plug for Project Genesis, which I appreciated.

>I think people who don't understand the internet will get the wrong
>impression.  Its irresponsible on their part.

Now I agree, at least about the wrong impressions. IMHO, the article is
overdone. It reflects the opinion of one writer who is justifiably
concerned about the sanctity of the Jewish home. He may be overreacting,
but it behooves us to respond to valid points with something a little
deeper than mockery.

Here is a short clip from the article:
>Most denizens of the Internet are not perverts. Most functions of the
>Internet are justified on constructive grounds. We will try in the
>following sections to explain the major services that the Internet offers
>and how these can be used for valuable functions. We will also demonstrate
>how they can be and are being subverted towards unsavory ends, and how
>difficult it is to marshal defenses against the problem areas.

This is reality, and we have to deal with it. If I wish to subscribe to
newsgroups, I receive a full listing of everything my local provider
makes available... including such gems as alt.sex.  Under alt.sex there
are subgroups such as stories, which was (according to Time magazine)
recently graced by a post that led to a federal indictment against a
(now former) U Michigan student. And this is but one of over 70
subgroups, several of which are illegal and indecent even by 42nd
St. standards.

Then let's think about Jewish children, especially young teens. Do you
think our sons and daughters won't be tempted to eat such clearly
forbidden fruit?  Another recent news story told of cases where men have
used chat lines to lure 13-year-old girls (and boys) to private
meetings. So the description of the Internet as "dangerous and indecent"
isn't so far off, is it? According to the author, those who study
Internet traffic have concluded that the _majority_ of bandwidth is
spent on pornographic photos and articles (I'd like to see verification
of this)... all of which is now available in your Jewish home for a mere
$20 per month.

The intent of the article was to warn us that there _is_ a danger. It is
quite frequent to find a child who knows far more about computers than
his or her parents. Torah-observant parents simply cannot leave their
children with an unsupervised connection to the World Wide
Web. Torah-observant parents deserve to know that this is the case.

At the same time, the article underemphasized the great _value_ of
Internet-based communications for responsible adults. A little light can
outweigh a great deal of darkness. Should Jewish outreach professionals
flee the Internet, or should they use it as a wonderful new tool to
reach Jews around the world? Should Jewish communities close off the
Internet entirely, or should they use it for the free distribution of
important notices, Kashrus bulletins, prayer requests... you name it?

The article does not point out that in order to receive indecent
material, one must _ask_ for it. While the _names_ of newsgroups may be
available for our perusal, the material therein will not flash up on
someone's screen unless he or she deliberately requests it. We are not
subjected to mass- mailed pornography, merely because we have acquired
strange addresses with '@' signs and dots.

This, in my opinion, is the article's great failing. There was no
balance, nor was there an adequate presentation of all of the positive
benefits available were the Internet to be used widely by responsible,
observant adults. Rabbi Wolpin (editor, JO) asked me many moons ago to
write an article on "Outreach on the Internet." To date, I've failed to
do so (though many people saw my byline in an article in the Fall issue
of the Young Israel Viewpoint). I'm working on a draft now, which I will
gladly share with others for their comments and criticisms. Please
respond via private mail, and maybe I'll get it done...

Yaakov Menken                     <menken@...>  
Director, Project Genesis                      (914) 356-3040

From: Ed Bruckstein <bruckstn@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 10:14:05 -0500
Subject: Jewish Observer article on the Internet

I believe that this is a misreading and corruption of what the article 
said.  It recommended keeping modems out of the hands of kids who might 
get into all sort of nasty stuff available in Cyberspace (Excellent 
advice!, even for non-jews).  It did NOT ban computers!

When one hears what percentage of the Internet bandwidth is used for 
Immodest and indecent postings and traffic, one understands perfectly 
well what they are warning about:  there's some pretty awful stuff out 
there that you would not want a child (nor an adult for that matter) 
seeing or learning about.

From: <martin.friederwitzer@...> (Moshe Friederwitzer)
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 95 10:56:00 EST
Subject: Jewish Observer article on the Internet

I had just read that particular article that day and if anybody got the
wrong impression, I am afraid that it was Mark. I can't believe that we
read the same article. In fact I thumbed thru the whole magazine to see
if I might have missed something; I didn't.

Yoseph Herman, the author of the JO piece , makes it immediately clear on
his first page( 21 top of third column) and I quote: "the dangers we are
mentioning are not inherent in the isolated home computer." Nowhere in the
article does he advocate banning home computers.What he does is make the
point that once someone connects to the Internet (where he says most of
the information is valuable or harmless") one can open channels to
indecent material which is of course unfortunately, true. He goes
on,though to describe the great benefits of the Internet. This does not
sound like someone who wishes to BAN COMPUTERS.

Mr. Herman then goes on to explain, for those unfamiliar with the
Internet, of what can happen when it is used by people with sick minds. He
also writes in very positive terms, about Project Genesis run by Yaakov
Mencken (R'fuah Sh'lamo) on the internet. Does this sound like someone who

At the end of the article he makes suggestions about how we might protect
our families from the internet material we find objectionable. ( Mark
surely finds nothing wrong with protecting children  from some of the
filth that is available). Mr. Herman tells about some of the providers
that have a Parental Control option enabling parents to block their
children from accessing entire facilities on the internet. He does
acknowledge that this is difficult since many of the children are more
familiar with computers than their parents. That of course is a fact and
has to be discussed rationally.

Mr. Herman does write that the easiest solution would be to ban computers
from the home but does not advocate doing so. On the contrary he
immediately goes on to argue that the internet is of great benefit to the
orthodox community. He posits that some access to the internet is
desirable; the whole question is "how to draw the line allowing our
families access to the good parts (of the internet) while avoiding the
unsavory parts". He feels that we should get guidelines from Torah
authorities, something that strikes this parent and grandparent as wholly
reasonable. I have found it common to hear immediate negativity toward
things brought up by the Agudath Israel. I hope it wasn't any prejudice
against the messenger that caused Mark to garble the message- an
important, if uncomfortable message, in the end. Kol Toov   Moishe

From: <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen)
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 21:13:52 -0500
Subject: Jewish Observer article on the Internet

I read the identical article mentioned and I did not notice a suggestion
to ban computers.  My interpretation of the article was that the author
was pointing out that alot of "non-kosher" material (that would
hopefully be considered non-kosher by all readers of this forum
regardless of their left-wing, right wing, centrist, modern or
non-orthodox allegiance) is available via the internet.  The article
contained a number of suggestions to solve this problem but did
indicated that there was no censorship of material available on the
internet and no way of stopping a minor from accessing this material.

I was surprised that this wasn't common knowledge but then again us
computer literate folks tend to take computer literacy for granted.  I
also was thinking that this kind of information is available over the
telephone with 900 numbers etc.


From: <yaakov.abrahamson@...> (Yaakov Abrahamson)
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 1995 03:34:54 GMT
Subject: Jewish Observer article on the Internet

Please do justice to the Internet article in the latest issue of the
Jewish Observer; one cannot say that either the intent or the substance
of that article mean to ban computers from the home.  It clearly and
repeatedly states the true benefits from the Information Superhighway,
and means only to alert the unsuspecting about some real dangers to the
spiritual health of the young.  The search for acceptable, workable
guidelines concerning moral issues was admirably balanced in that piece;
please reread with calm.  Kol Tuv.


From: Amos Wittenberg <awittenberg@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 16:13:21 GMT
Subject: The Name "Issur"


Ben Rothke asks in V18#59 for the origin of the Yiddish name "Issur".
That name is really "Isser" and is derived from Yisro'el.  A Yiddish
version of Yisro'el is Isserl which *sounds* like a diminutive but of
course is *not*.  A hypercorrectism leads to the dropping of the final
lamed and a new name is born.

The name is often used together with Yisro'el: Yisro'el Isser.  The
R'mo's last name was Isserles = son of Isser.

No connection with 'issur [= Hebrew "prohibition"].

Amos Wittenberg
 ... <awittenberg@...> ...

[Other people similarly identifying the name as Isser:
 Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
 Mervyn Doobov <mdoobov@...> quoting "HaMadrich", The Rabbi's
Guide, by Hyman E Goldin
 <shoshani@...> (Michael SB Shoshani)
 <EDTeitz@...> (Eliyahu Teitz) quoting the Oholey Shem, a source used
for writing names in gittin. 


End of Volume 18 Issue 68