Friday, December 30, 2005

New Satmar Shul video

Check out this new video from Satmar Shul.

Download and watch video

Watch streaming video

Watch streaming video higher quality


Thursday, December 29, 2005

BMG issues retraction over extravagant Chinese Auction

After much criticism over the extravagant Chinese Auction being made by the Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, the Yeshivah has issued a retraction and cancelled the Chinese Auction. BMG had sent out a massive mail campaign aimed at bringing in money for the Yeshivah through a Chinese Auction. However by the sight of the brochure alone and its cost, this idea did not seem to fit in with BMG's ruchnias-only concept. Therefore critics named the Yeshivah hypocrites for offering such pure gashmius as a means of bringing in money. The Hanholah obviously heard the outcry and has published various statements saying that the Chinese Auction is cancelled and that all monies collected this far will be returned. Now if they could only do the same about all the car leases.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Orthodox Jews are risk takers

It is seldom said that religious types live dangerously, but it seems that they may do when it comes to crossing roads.

The New Scientist magazine recently reported a study conducted by Tova Rosenbloom of Bar-Ilan University that suggests devout Orthodox Jews are three times as likely to be risk-taking pedestrians than their neighbours in secular communities.

According to the magazine, Rosenbloom began to suspect that religious beliefs might play a role after hearing complaints about pedestrian behaviour in the ultraorthodox community of Bnei-Brak. To find out more, she and her colleagues watched more than1000 pedestrians at two busy intersections, one in Bnei-Brak and the other in a largely secular city. They totted up the number of times a pedestrian either jaywalked, walked on the road as opposed to the footpath, crossed without looking for traffic or crossed without holding an accompanying child’s hand.

They found the inhabitants of Bnei-Brak were three times more likely than the others to break these rules.

Rossenbloom thinks an ultraorthodox faith might contribute to this cavalier behaviour by making people respect religious more than state-law. However, she did not rule out the possibility, that religious people might simply have less fear of death.

Equal rights for parasites!

DONAL Windsor, writing in The New Scientist, explains that “from an ecological aspect, parasites rule ecosystems. Parasites, by definition, harm their hosts as individuals. But they are beneficial for their hosts at the species level. As just one example, when a free-living species becomes too numerous, a disease breaks out and culls the population. Parasites regulate ecosystems and thereby enable their host species to survive. Without parasites, ecosystems would spin out of control and our biosphere would collapse.”

Which certainly gives new meaning to Tom Wolfe’s reference to investment bankers as “masters of the universe”.



Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Satmar Rebbe senile

Worshippers warring for control of New York's largest Hasidic
congregation say a scheming cabal has cloistered the senile rabbi and
is using his signature to loot the place — and they say they have
medical records to prove it.

Prescription records filed in a lawsuit show that Grand Rebbe Moses
Teitelbaum of Brooklyn's Satmar congregation has been taking
Alzheimer's medication since 1998, a year before he decided the
succession question that has embroiled his flock in bitter fistfights
and legal battles.

Followers of Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum — the older brother passed over
for control of the 40,000-member congregation — say the records prove
that followers of younger brother Zalman have been manipulating
mentally incapacitated Moses like a puppet.

"Anything they're proclaiming in the name of the rebbe, either he
didn't do it or, if he did it, he wasn't able to do it," said Joel
Weiss, editor of a Hasidic newspaper and follower of Aron.

Weiss said Zalman's allies manipulated the rabbi into choosing Zalman
as head of the congregation, embroiling the congregation in shady
financial deals.

Weiss pointed to an ongoing federal court case in which a school-
supply company accuses Zalman allies of looting the company to enrich
synagogue officials to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Weiss said that nearly a decade ago, the rebbe began repeating
himself in public and forgetting key portions of rituals. "The
embarrassment was bigger and bigger," Weiss said.

Nonsense, said Zalman allies.

Until he had a stroke in August, the rebbe was "fully functional,
attending meetings, leading services, performing circumcisions and
weddings," said Mark Friedman.

A judge in a recent family court dispute over care of the rebbe
visited the Bedford Avenue home where he is cared for by a personal
secretary, paramedic, 24-hour butler, chauffeur, cook and attendant.

The judge "observed the rabbi studying and walking," according to
court papers. The judge also asked the rebbe if he was satisfied with
his care. "The rabbi responded in the affirmative."

Not all judges, however, get an audience. In another court dispute,
an upstate judge demanded that the rebbe come out from his house and

So far, he has refused.

"It's an embarrassment and disrespectful" for a rabbi to appear in
court, explained Friedman. "So the rebbe would only talk to the judge
if the judge came down to him."


Hamodia article cause of anti-frum rhetoric

Thanks to an article published in the Hamodia Newspaper an Israeli news site has posted an article claiming that the frum people are getting preferential treatment from the Israeli government. The Hamodia wrote that the Israeli government was doling out Chanukah gifts of money to Yeshivah people as bonuses. The Israeli news site quoted the article and cited the government for preferential treatment to the frum people due to having an insider with influence. Thank you Hamodia!

Israeli news article


Monday, December 26, 2005

BMG Kollel Yingerleit get new letter

All the yingerleit at the Kollel of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood received a letter this week asking if they had a computer. This is not like the previous letter which was merely about internet. Every yingerman is required to fill out and sign the letter and return it immediately. If in fact a yingerman is in possession of a computer, he forfeits his full Kollel paycheck. Now here's a kler; what if the yingerman doesn't actually own a computer, but his father-in-law that is supporting him does? Is that considered being yoinek from tumah or not?


Sunday, December 25, 2005

New Satmar clothing store

Who said Machloikes doesn't pay? There you go, a special Satmar Machloikes clothing store. Not to be confused with the Satmar Bazaar.

Satmar Clothing Store


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dental, medical clinic for the poor coming next year to Lakewood

After landing a highly sought after federal designation, $3 million in state funds and $500,000 from county government, work will start next year on a 12,000-square-foot dental and medical clinic to provide services to the poor and underserved in Ocean County.


Mall Banishes Annual Menorah Display, Keeps Christmas Tree

To the disappointment of the local Jewish community, the management of Paseo Colorado is banishing an annual Chanukah menorah display, saying religious symbols are not appropriate at the shopping center, the Pasadena Star-News reported Thursday.



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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Centenarian reflects on what has changed in Lakewood

Lakewood, N.J., is now a cultural gathering place and home for Hasidic Jews and their families from all over the world, with schools, a university and many large homes.

Bessie McLain remembers her birthplace and hometown differently. She remembers a farm where her father raised melons and raspberries and her mother, unlike many other women of that time, started her own successful business, raising and selling flowers. The McLains lived off a gravel lane in the country and traveled by horse and buggy and sleighs in the winter. Today, that road is paved, a main highway called County Lane Road, which goes from Trenton to the New Jersey shore.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Get Down, Moses

The Maccabee warriors' trouncing of synagogue-defiling Greeks (a victory, incidentally, that blew Jewish chances to trade patriarchy for paganism) pales next to the Savior's birth. But Hanukkah offers its own charms and boost to the economy—eight days of presents and that catchy "Dreidel" tune. This year's Hanukkah could beat out the Christmas competition in New York, thanks to a burgeoning wave of musicians recording and performing individual takes on Jewish identity.

What separates this new breed from older, super-Jewish music legends like name changer Bob Dylan and Buddhist Leonard Cohen is that even the irreligious among them insist on Jewishness in their art. And as some venture far beyond the overgrazed turf of their grandparents' kitschy Yiddishkeit, they are joined by Jews of color, for whom Yiddish and klezmer were once as alien as bagels and lox. Take all-Black, all-Jewish New Jersey gospel singer Joshua Nelson, who's re-energizing the synagogue experience through glorious, rock-the-rafters soul. Or rapper Y-Love, a local Black convert to the mystical Bostoner sect of Orthodox Judaism, who spits verse in Aramaic.



Monday, December 19, 2005

Jew Da Maccabi

From a base out of Florida, Jewish orthodox rapper Jew Da Maccabi is creating a real buzz with the video of one of his tracks Iron Like A Lion.

With a thumping beat, pro-Jewish lyrics and a sharp performance, this 29 year old rapper looks set to do for Jewish rap what Matisyahu has done for Jewish reggae - get it out of just a Jewish niche and get it into the mainstream.



Sunday, December 18, 2005

Online store selling Bobov clothing

Check out this online store selling specialized Bobover clothing.

Bobover Store


Saturday, December 17, 2005

New York City official Government web-site puts out Metzitza warning

The New York City official web-site, nyc.gov, put out a warning against Metzitza B'peh in their health section. The site warns parents of the dangers that can come from Metzitza B'peh being performed on their child and that not all Mohalim perform Metzitza B'peh.


R' Bentzion named Bobover Rebbe

In a brochure sent out by a tzedaka organization, Kupat Aniyei Eretz Yisrael, R' Bentzion and R' Mordche Dovid are both pictured together and individually. Under R' Bentzion's picture reads a caption, "The Rebbe of Bobov". While under R' Mordche Dovid's picture it reads, "Son-in-law of the Rebbe of Bobov Ztz"l". Now I guess we can forget having to go to Beis Din or Court, it has been officially settled.

R' Bentzion and R' Mordche Dovid sit at the same table

At a gathering for the Vaad Harabanim Le'inyanei Tzedaka B'Eretz Hakodesh, for the Kupat Aniyei Eretz Yisrael, R' Bentzion and R' Mordche were ironically seated at the same table. Although they did not speak to each other, they looked pretty content to be at opposite ends of the table.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Brooklyn Woman Settles Suit Over Deadly Chopper Crash

A Brooklyn woman, the sole survivor of a Grand Canyon sightseeing air crash that killed six people in 2001, has settled a lawsuit involving the tour company, pilot and helicopter manufacturer.

A lawyer for Chana Daskal, 29, said Thursday that a confidential financial agreement had been reached in the civil lawsuit stemming from the crash near Meadview, Ariz.

"All the Daskal family's claims are settled as to all the parties in this action," lawyer Bernadette Panzella said from Staten Island.

Panzella said sealed documents had been submitted Tuesday in Las Vegas and final paperwork was being prepared. She declined to discuss settlement terms.

Lawyers and officials representing tour company Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters in Las Vegas; American Eurocopter Corp. and Turbomeca Engine Corp., of Grand Prairie, Texas; Washington-based helicopter retailer Zuni LLC; and the estate of the pilot, who died in the crash, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Daskal has been slowly rehabilitating from near-fatal injuries she received in the crash Aug. 10, 2001, Panzella said. The mother of two suffered a broken back, burns over 80 percent of her body and had both legs amputated after the helicopter crashed into a cliff during a sightseeing tour to the Grand Canyon.

Daskal's husband, David Daskal, and traveling companions Shayie Lichtenstein, Avi and Barbara Wajsbaum and Aryeh Zvi Fastag, all of Brooklyn, were killed along with the pilot, Kevin Innocenti, 27, of Henderson.

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed pilot error for the crash in a report last year.

The lawsuit, filed in 2003, remained active Thursday. A hearing is scheduled Jan. 12 in Clark County District Court on a dismissal request, and a conference is scheduled March 7 to complete agreements.

Panzella characterized Daskal, the mother of two boys, now 10 and 4, as a fierce survivor who was severely disfigured but who hopes medical advances can help her overcome her injuries.

"This settlement is going to allow her to improve her life and the lives of her children," Panzella said. "We have to wait for medical science to catch up with Chana Daskal's will to live and to live the best life she can for her kids."

One option, Panzella said, was a face transplant similar to a recent procedure performed in France in which doctors grafted a nose, chin and lips from a donor onto the face of a female recipient.

Daskal would not seek the procedure for cosmetic reasons but to replace scar tissue that interferes with speech and facial functions, Panzella said.


Rabbi pleads guilty in altercation with police officer

A rabbi, whose altercation with police earlier this year sparked protests in Lakewood's Orthodox Jewish community, has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the incident in Lakewood.

Rabbi Yosef Bursztyn, 63, of Sixth Street, Lakewood, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the disorderly persons offense before Superior Court Judge Edward J. Turnbach, who imposed $125 in fines, said Executive Assistant Prosecutor Ronald F. DeLigny. Bursztyn could have faced up to up to six months in jail and fine up to $1,000.

Bursztyn admitted he failed to comply with a directive of Lakewood Officer Erik Menck on June 26 while Menck was performing an official function, court documents said.

Police said Bursztyn reached inside Menck's patrol car after the officer had stopped the rabbi's niece for allegedly tailgaiting another vehicle.

Bursztyn's arrest sparked protests in Lakewood's Orthodox community. Menck was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident.


Bobover Budget truck knocks off mirror

A Bobover Budget truck with two yingerleit inside sped by a car and knocked off its mirror. When the driver of the car told them what had happened they stopped the truck and told the man that they were coming out to talk to him. When the man got out of his car, the Bobover truck driver sped off passed two red lights and evaded the car. I don't get it, can't they just break windows like any other normal Chassidim.

New Chassidic rapper on the loose



Thursday, December 15, 2005

First humanistic female Rabbi in Canada

Eva Goldfinger, a longtime spiritual leader at Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, is now Rabbi Eva Goldfinger, the first Humanistic rabbi in Canada.

Rabbi Goldfinger’s involvement in the movement is a dramatic departure from her upbringing in a haredi community in Toronto. A graduate of Bais Yaakov High School for Girls who was raised in a chassidic family, she became a feminist as a young teenager, expanding her knowledge of the outside world by reading with a flashlight under her covers at night.

In the late 1980s, Rabbi Goldfinger was ordained as a madrichah (leader) of the movement, in part as a step toward becoming an officiant at marriage ceremonies, including intermarriages and same-sex weddings.

Rabbi Goldfinger is incidentally not particular about making Rebbeshe Shidduchem.



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

R' Mordche Dovid Ungar diary printed

A diary kept by one of R' Mordche Dovid's people about misappropriated funds were recently printed by R' Bentzion's people. The diary, which had been confiscated from one of the Bobover offices right after the Rebbe's passing, was printed up fully in a pamphlet distributed by R' Bentzion's people. The diary outlines many instances where monies collected for the mosdos were used for the Rebbe's house instead.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

R' Mordche Dovid Ungar makes a Shidduch

R' Mordche Dovid Ungar made a Shidduch last night with his daughter and the son of a non-Rebbishe named Horowitz. At the T'noyim they spoke of the gadlus of R' M. D. that he just looked for a good bocher and was not interested in Rebbishkeit. Wow, I didn't know that it was that serious, that no Rebbe would want to be meshaddech with him. Couldn't he at least find a Viz'nitzer einikel or something.


Four Hasidic henchmen pleaded guilty to a bone-breaking assault yesterday, in the latest chapter of a holy war over control of one of New York's largest Hasidic congregations.

Abraham Braun, Lipa Krausz, Chaim Roth and Abraham Mendlowitz — personal assistants of ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum — admitted in Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday that they attacked and broke the leg of a rival Hasid who started a brawl in their Williamsburg synagogue last year.

But the four walked out of court sentenced only to 50 hours of community service after a prosecutor conceded his case was shaky because one of the brawl victims was a convicted felon who had escaped from federal prison.

The court appearance was the latest in a battle of biblical proportions between two brothers over control of the 40,000-member Yatev Lev D'Satmar congregation.

Last year, two supporters of insurgent older brother Aaron Teitelbaum sneaked into the synagogue before Simchat Torah holiday services and planted themselves in Chief Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum's chair. They then locked Zalman in a small apartment connected to the synagogue. About 50 of Zalman's followers broke down a door to free the rabbi and attacked the two Aaron supporters and their three bodyguards.


R' Mordche Dovid Ungar goes to Toush

R' Mordche Dovid went to Tousher Shtetel to get a broche from the Tousher Rebbe. He spent a while in the Shtetel and was then taken in to the Rebbe. The Rebbe, who suffers from dementia, did not realize who R' Mordche Dovid was. He began to ask him questions like; Who is your father? Where do you daven? These questions were seen by the R' Bentzion camp as very appropo for R' Mordche Dovid and printed up the stories as if the Tousher Rebbe was saying to him that he should not have his own Shul.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Incident on East 16th


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Shomrim member on the cover of the New York Post

Mishpacha Magazine prints apology for mistake

Due to the urging of the Chaptzem Blog! the mishpacha Magazine this week printed an apology for the inappropriate content that was printed in their Mishpacha Junior Magazine last week. We are thankful that the Mishpacha, unlike many other Jewish institutions, was able to recognize their error and make timely amends. We salute the Mishpacha for their courage in this matter.

Link to original post


Friday, December 09, 2005

Lakewood patrolman Menck, accuser of Rabbi Bursztyn, subject of new probe

A patrolman embroiled earlier this year in the high-profile arrest of a community leader is now the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation after a woman he recently charged with assaulting him alleged he beat her up in her home.

Public Safety Director Al Peters confirmed Thursday there is a departmental investigation into allegations that Patrolman Erik Menck used excessive force while arresting Nichole Robinson of Lakewood on Nov. 20. The investigation started in the days after the arrest when Robinson verbally complained to authorities about Menck's treatment of her.

"At this point, there's nothing concrete that's been demonstrated," Peters said. "We're anxiously awaiting the . . . results of the investigation."

Peters said he asked the Ocean County Prosecutor's office to assist in the investigation, the same process he used after Menck was probed this summer following his arrest of Rabbi Yosef Bursztyn.

That incident left Bursztyn, 62, charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. The case is still pending at the Prosecutor's Office.

In Robinson's case, police say they went to a Route 9 beauty supply store for a disorderly persons call on Nov. 20. Robinson had got into a small dispute about returning an item to the store, said Herbert Ellis, Robinson's lawyer.

The investigation of that call led four officers, including Menck, to Robinson's Williamsburg Lane town house in Coventry Square. In an interview Thursday, Robinson said Menck assaulted her in the house.

"He grabbed my left arm and pulled it back up to my neck," Robinson said. "I heard it pop. He punched me in the back of the neck and he elbowed me and punched me in the back a second time."

Robinson's father, Horace Cody, 66, said Menck also shoved him into a wall. Ellis said Robinson has not filed formal charges against Menck, but added he plans to file notice that he will sue the township for monetary damages.

A difference in stories

Investigators Thursday declined to detail the events of the arrest, saying the matter was under investigation. A police spokesman said last week that Robinson assaulted Menck as he interviewed her for a statement. Cody was charged with interfering with an arrest.

Police say that after they arrived, Robinson was taken to Kimball Medical Center on Route 9 for treatment of asthma. Robinson said she does not suffer from asthma.

She said she would provide medical records that show injuries to her back, neck and hands, although those records were not provided Thursday night.

"A message has to be sent to Lakewood," said Ellis, a Freehold-based lawyer. "This officer needs to be reprimanded and he needs anger management."

Detective John Stillwell, president of the Lakewood police union, defended Menck, a New Jersey police officer for seven years who has served in Lakewood for two years.

"The union will stand behind Erik as we have stood behind Erik and other officers previously," Stillwell said. "I'm sure, once again, whatever allegations are made against Erik . . . will be proved unfounded."

Stillwell's comment referred to a letter from investigators this summer that ruled Menck acted appropriately when arresting Bursztyn on June 26.

Although Menck was cleared, at the time, the altercation sparked tension between some in the Orthodox community and the Police Department. Hundreds of Orthodox men rallied outside the police headquarters — garnering news attention around the country — and demanded justice and an explanation for why a 62-year-old man had to be physically held down to be arrested.

Bursztyn's charges have not been resolved yet, said Robert A. Gasser, executive assistant Ocean County prosecutor. Gasser would not say when the charges would be heard by a grand jury.



Thursday, December 08, 2005

Overturned Van 

A van turns over in Williamsburg. A person was pinned inside and then rescued.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Our Rabbis Respond

Should smoking be banned by Jewish law?

If they knew then what we know now … There is absolutely no doubt at all in my mind that, had the risks and dangers of smoking been known to the rabbinic scholars who codified operative Jewish law centuries ago, they would have prohibited the habit. Not only that, they would have done so with concern for the smokers as well as for the benefit of those who might be exposed to second-hand smoke. The Torah’s imperative to protect life is well established and without compromise. Most communities understand that eating is allowed on Yom Kippur, example, for a patient whose life would be put otherwise at unnecessary risk by fasting. It is codified that a circumcision (brit milah) is postponed beyond the eighth day if the baby’s health so demands. Most any habit or avoidable risk that jeopardizes good health is at odds with Jewish practice. Our faith and its theology have always been among the leading voices proclaiming the sanctity of life. Promoting a healthier environment is an issue where diverse faith and spiritual communities can and should create alliances.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adler

Beth David Synagogue

West Hartford




Sunday, December 04, 2005

Cutting to the matter of modesty with style

The 26-year-old hairdresser has built a business in recent years cutting, washing, and styling sheitels -- wigs -- worn by local Orthodox Jewish women, whose religion requires that no man other than their husband sees their natural hair.

The custom, intended for centuries to signify modesty and chastity, has definitely evolved.

The old bushy wigs -- often made of artificial material or coarse horse hair -- have given way in recent decades to the French top, the layered look, and the feathered cut, among others, nearly all fashioned from human hair imported from Europe.

And they're anything but matronly.

They come in all shapes, sizes, colors -- and prices. Orthodox wives can be blondes, brunettes, or redheads, with bangs or curls, wavy or straight hair, though most try to match the color of their natural hair, Darling and others say. (Many often have several wigs, for formal occasions, daily chores, and synagogue.) The permutations allow them to affect a short, spiky look, a frumpy and disheveled mop they can connect to hats or headbands, or a long, sultry mane more lustrous than their own hair.

The elegance and expense of the pieces arguably contradict the tradition's purpose: Darling and Orthodox Jews interviewed say that sometimes they find the women's natural hair less attractive than their wigs.

Women may spend weeks or longer shopping for their wigs before their wedding, and they can cost as much as $5,000, they say. Wigs are now available on websites such as www.savvysheitels.com, which includes advertisements with come-hither models wearing bright red lipstick.

So when the women visit Darling, who's Catholic and learned only in 2001 about the Orthodox wig tradition, they often know exactly what they want. ''They're very to the point -- and they can be stubborn," she says. ''A wig might be made to go to the left, and they want it to go to the right. I'll do it their way, but I'll show them it doesn't work."



Saturday, December 03, 2005

Heimishe Magazine sinks to new low

This week Heimishe children were treated to a special treat. No, it wasn't the usual 'lebedikeit' that goes on in Satmar, and no, it wasn't the usual 'chutzpa' from the Country Yossi Magazine. It was a nice story in the Mishpacha Junior Magazine this week on page 12, Yosef Chaim and the Torn Book by Shira Yehudit Djlilmand. The story, fully illustrated with a picture of a Chasidishe boy with long peyos right at the beginning, began like this: "Hi you guys! Here I am again! I always seem to have some story to tell you about when I screwed up..." I would find that language to be odd in a secular magazine, let alone in a Heimishe magazine. I don't know maybe these are the new words that are being taught to children in Yeshivah. I mean isn't it bad enough that we have to tolerate the kefirah of the Jewish Press, the jellyfish no-back bone barren Hamodia Newspaper and the totally illiterate-quality Country Yossi Magazine. Now we have to have foul language infused in so-called Heimishe magazines? Who knows, maybe Chaim Schulzen will start publishing a weekly children's magazine.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Satmar Chaisidim go to the movie theatre

A secular theatre in Jerusalem will be converted to housing units for members of the ultra-orthodox Satmar sect, which ideologically is against the existent of the State of Israel before the redemption. Sixty housing units will be built on the site of the Edison Theatre, which has been vacant for 20 years.

A Satmar member from the United States paid $5 million for the building two years ago. Construction is planned to begin next summer.


Study shows how religious group fended off the Internet -- then adapted it

Twenty-first century technology has deeply penetrated even strict, self-contained religious communities that try to shut it out, University of Washington researchers have found.

Despite a ban by their leaders on private Internet use, ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews who otherwise shun the modern world turn out to be avid and creative Web surfers, according to the study to be published in next month's The Information Society journal.

The research was conducted by Karine Barzilai-Nahon, an assistant professor in the UW Information School, and Gad Barzilai, a visiting professor in the UW's Jackson School of International Studies and Comparative Law and Society Studies Center.

Though the pair's data source was an Internet-use record of 14,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, the authors said their findings could shed light on other ultra-strict religious groups around the world, including Christian and Islamic groups.

Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews -- about 6 percent of the nation's population, living in self-contained enclaves with few modern amenities -- have long been barred by their leading rabbis from using the Internet for anything but work.

"When we started, we were almost certain this community would reject technology," Barzilai-Nahon said. "Instead, we found they have modified it to meet their own needs."

What the research reveals is a complex encounter between technology and an ultra-fundamentalist community struggling to stave off secular distractions.

The findings show that:

* Despite the ban on private Internet use, nearly one-third of the ultra-Orthodox surf the Web -- a much lower rate than Israeli society overall, but still significant.

* Ultra-Orthodox Israelis who use the Internet are only half as likely as their secular countrymen to send e-mails, which would bring interaction with outsiders. But they are more likely than other Israelis to take part in online forums with members of their own community.

* Ultra-Orthodox women use the Internet far less than the men, despite the fact that more of the women than men hold jobs (husbands generally pursue full-time religious study). The researchers speculate that the men surf the Net from libraries and cafes.

* The "Digital Divide" along social class lines is less pronounced among the ultra-Orthodox than among Israelis as a whole, with lower- and upper-income Orthodox using the Internet at roughly equal rates.

"What this should do is demystify the religious fundamentalists," Barzilai said. "After 9/11, there was a tendency to see a black-and-white distinction between 'us' and 'them.' "

In surveying Web sites of religious fundamentalist communities around the globe, the researchers found that few promote terrorist activities.

Barzilai-Nahon and Barzilai, who are married, joined the UW this year. She had been a lecturer in business administration. He is a political science and law professor at Tel Aviv University who is joining the UW.

Self-contained religious groups rarely volunteer information to outsiders. However, the UW researchers were able to draw upon an unusually large and reliable source: an Israeli online service called Hevre, which allowed them to examine use patterns among its 686,000 customers. Similar to America's ClassMates.com, Hevre enables schools, workplaces, scout troops and other groups to create member forums, photo albums and other virtual "communal spaces," which made it possible to identify approximately 14,000 Web users who belong to ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

"It is very rare to have access to this data," Barzilai said. "These people do not answer surveys."

In examining the role of online forums among ultra-Orthodox Jews, the researchers found them to be an outlet for anonymous gripes and even challenges to authority that a community member would never have dared to make in person. Yet despite such occasional "scandals" and two recent libel suits, most of the ultra-Orthodox used the Internet for exchanging ordinary information about community events, religious law and national affairs.

Either way, the researchers say, the Internet offers a safety valve that allows various internal voices to be heard without having to drastically challenge the community from within.

"Paradoxically," the article states, "information technology has affected this community, has intruded into it -- but has strengthened it, as well."



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