Why don't Orthodox/Hassidic Jews use the internet?

Fight my ignorance – I have a lot of Jewish customers that call this time of year (Purim coming up) and none of them have internet access and act offended when we have to ask if they have an email address. I had one that was very friendly who actually said, “well, as you know, we don’t use the internet.” Why is that? The same people who do not use the internet quite often do have a fax number (we use the fax for the same reason we use the email, and both are optional, but there it is) so it makes me wonder. What is the actual prohibition against the internet?

If it makes a difference, these are all Jewish women from upstate NY (Monsey and Monroe, most notoriously), and a few from Brooklyn. The woman that told me the above quote was from Brooklyn and self-identified as an Orthodox Jew, whereas I know that the majority of the population of Monsey and Monroe are Hassidic. It is my understanding that all Hassidic Jews are Orthodox, but not all Orthodox Jews are Hassidic. Feel free to fight any ignorance in that statement as well.

Yes, all Hasidim are Orthodox but not all Orthodox are Hasidim. To further complicate things, there are several sects of Hasidim all of whom differ in their practice in various ways.

I found this by Googling which may partially answer your question. About six months ago, one particular Hasidic sect allowed internet usage for the first time. Their may still be some others that still forbid it.

Some Orthodox rabbis, both in Israel and in the US, have opined that unrestricted internet access in the home is potentially harmful to both children and adults. (Porn ‘n’ stuff.) So they recommend that their congregation members limit or eschew recreational internet use in the home. Here’s one of them.

They aren’t opposed to educational/workplace use of specific internet resources, though. Technologically, you’re right, it’s considered no different from other forms of electronic communication like phone and fax.

This story might shed some light on the situation.

Crap. hajario beat me to it.

Thanks. I figured it was probably more along the lines of recreational use in the home (many of the businesses do have emails and occasionally, we will be offered the husband’s work email), but wanted to know if anyone knew for sure.

Interestingly, one of the nation’s best camera stores, B&H in New York, is run by Hasidic Jews. While not every employee is a member of the Hasidim, most of them are.

The store observes Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, and even their website will not take orders during those times. But i’ve been into B&H on a bunch of occasions, and i’m pretty sure i’ve seen Hasidic employees using the computers. Hell, in addition to cameras, the store also sells a variety of computer equipment.

Now, i’m not sure if the computers they use are connected to the internet. Nor am i sure if Hasidic employees run the store’s website. The Ha’aretz article linked above says that exceptions can be made for earning a living, so perhaps this is how they get around the issue.

According to B&H’s Wikipedia page, the folks who run the store are from the Satmar movement of Hasidic Jews. I didn’t do enough digging, though, to determine how (or whether) the rules for Satmar Hasidim differ from those of other Hasidic Jews.

There are many different kinds of Orthodox Jews. I have Orthodox cousins who most certainly do have Internet access in their homes. How restrictive they are in their use, I don’t know, but I certainly get emails from them all the time.

ETA: Of course, they don’t use the computer on the Sabbath.


FTR, most of the Orthodox Jews I know are Modern Orthodox and not part of any specific sect (ie, they don’t follow a particular rebbe), and they don’t have any issues with using the internet. There are several Orthodox Dopers.

zev and cmkeller post quite a bit- I believe they are both Orthodox.

I hate labels, but most would call me Modern Orthodox, or plain Orthodox, or even Ultra Orthodox. (I’m reminded of the line, “An extremist is anyone to the right or left of you.”) But not Chassidic. Anyway, I use the Internet all the time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t “have any issues” with it. It is an extremely useful thing, and has done many positive things for us.

But at the same time, it can be very dangerous as well. There used to be a time when someone who wanted porn (however you want to define it) had to physically go somewhere and risk getting caught (however you want to define it), and that was often enough to insure that people stayed within whatever boundaries they defined for themselves. Now, from the privacy of one’s home, it has become so easy to get so many kinds of things, that it has become much more difficult to avoid such temptations.

Many people feel that “anyone who wants porn will find a way to get it.” I disagree most emphatically. Yes, the diehards will always find a way. And the truly dedicated will withstand any temptation. But most people, I believe, fall somewhere in the middle. There are certain websites that I wish I never had gone to, but they were just too easy to find.

But there are lots of good websites too. Is it worth the tradeoff? I don’t know. One might think that my continued use of the Internet is evidence that I’ve decided that the good outweighs the bad. But not necessarily. Maybe I’m just not strong enough.

I appreciate you weighing in here. My question was put here, rather than in IMHO, because I wanted to know the factual reason many (obviously not all) Hassidic/Orthodox Jews (again, I say it that way, because those are the ones that piqued my interest on this subject) don’t use the internet, not to hear people saying “well, my cousin’s sister’s brother, who is Jewish, etc”. Obviously, there will always be groups within groups that define how much of the overall tenets of any belief system they want to follow, and obviously those groups do not define the larger groups, nor are they always defined by the larger group. I am curious, if you don’t mind my asking – are you married with kids? If so, do you allow your wife and kids to surf the web?

I’m Orthodox too…

the “ultra-orthodox”, including hasidim and others “to the right of me” feel that the internet (and in the case of most, TV as well) is full of pernicious influences, and thus don’t tolerate it in their homes. That’s all there is to it.

We are indeed (although I don’t recall seeing zev around much lately). As others have said, many Rabbis feel that the internet makes it way to easy to get into trouble (porn just being one example), and have publicly stated that it’s best to avoid it entirely, or at most, use it strictly for business necessities. By way of example, the Agudath Israel of America, one of the largest Orthodox Jewish advocacy groups, makes it a point of pride that they do not have a web site, and the magazine they publish, the Jewish Observer, does not any of its content available on line. In each issue, they publish a disclaimer that their willingness to print advertisements that list a web site for those businesses is not to be construed as endorsement of internet usage in general.

That said, while I have great respect for these Rabbis, it is my opinion that there is much more to be lost by disengaging from the medium than by involving ourselves in it. Thus, I make use of it, especially on sites like this where I can help explain Jewish concepts and/or points of view to others when such knowledge is sought. However, I am not a Rabbi myself, and I do not have the breadth of Torah knowledge to say that their position is incorrect from a religious point of view.

That’s who I came here to mention. Even at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, they shut down their booth. All day Saturday, their booth space is roped off with guards around it.

I really do appreciate all the Orthodox people coming in to answer this question. Like I said, I kind of figured it was something along those lines, but wanted to know for sure.

Yes, and we all do surf to our hearts’ content. The computer is in a room accessible to everyone, and I occasionally peek over my kids shoulders to see where they are. Sometimes I check the History to see where the’ve been too. Yes, there have been times when I caught them, and I treat it like any other rule-breaking – I let them know what I caught them at, etc etc. I’ve found that with me and my kids, the most effective discipline is simply to keep them aware of when I’m proud and when I’m disappointed. (Other parents and other kids have different dynamics. To each their own.)

In turn, I hope you don’t mind a question back, based on the OP:

Your profile says you’re in Tennessee. What business are you in, that you get so many calls Purim-time?

Manufacturer of Vashti costumes? Poppy-seed filling magnate?

I’d imagine it’s a costume business.

Why don’t Orthodox/Hassidic Jews use the internet?

Godwin’s Law.

Chabad Lubavitch has a website, but since its mission is outreach to Jews, it makes sense for it to have an educational website.

The Orthodox Union also has a website, with content similar to Chabad’s. Since it’s also a major kashrut certifying organization (they own the circle-U designation), they maintain a separate site just for that, which I imagine observant Jews use to verify that their food is kosher.