So synagogue brotherhoods and sisterhoods and Jewish flagship organizations all across North America, trying to galvanize the laity through harnessing the excitement and energy of the interwebs (and, hopefully, some engagement from the kids in the process), produced festive parody clips in advance of Purim.
Those wacky kids at Ein Prat Institute were also at it again – or was the clip from 2011? (Which prompted me to wonder anew: Do these folks ever go to class? Or are all their lectures delivered in the desert while they wear a wide range of costumes? This Academy for Leadership seems to be incubating a curious cohort of future Jewish leaders… perhaps I might get some clarification on this from their advisors Mr. Shorofsky and Ms. Sherwood.)
Some of the clips were slickly produced, many less so. Many even less so than that. Ick.
But what was most intriguing about this experience was not the lameness of many of the clips (and many were really lame, did I mention that?), but how quickly memes flare up and burn out. (Not really a new idea, y’all, but particularly poignant in this context…)
While the various brotherhoods and sisterhoods met to plan out the video, thinking themselves hip for appropriating various internet memes, they failed to understand that by the time they uploaded the finished product, the referrents upon which they built their clips would already be stale and passe.
As part of the Purim festivities where I teach, we screened some examples for the kids. When the overfamiliar chords of “Gangnam Style” kicked in in the middle of a clip parodying Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”, children between the ages of 9 to 12 groaned with world-weariness. Really? This? Again? Have we not seen this before and better almost a billion times?
(…Which is why, BTW, I have not even considered the possibility of writing a second book. By the time any of the ideas put to paper would make it to the hands of readers, it would be on the verge of staleness, if not already crusted over.)
The ubiquity of memes breeds contempt – and it breeds it quick.
The internet is all about speed. Jewish institutions (like synagogues, Federations, etc.) are all about not-speed.
Hence, these two entities, by their very natures, do not play well together.
Dr. Yaniv Efrati at Bar Ilan University has been talking to Israeli teenagers for quite some time about sex.
In a 2011 study, he and two research partners compelled religious teens to watch pornographic images to see if and for how long they felt bad about themselves afterwards. The researchers (and Ynet), in classic soft-porn fashion, only revealed documentation of the 80 interviews, but intimated that the statistics are forthcoming.
Hey, pssst… look at these naughty bits. Feel bad yet?
And now, in 2012, Dr. Efrati strikes again. This time, he surveyed over 500 11th and 12th graders from across the sectorial spectrum in Israel (i.e, national religious, haredi, and secular) to determine how much porn they consume. This time, a decisive stat: ONE IN THREE TEENAGED RELIGIOUS AND HAREDI GIRLS SURF FOR PORN! That’s twice as much as secular girls. (Insert lewd insinuation about how haredi girls do it twice as often here.)
I am dubious about the conclusions one can draw from this sample and this leering stat – but it does tweak the SEO, doesn’t it?
I await the next study that demonstrates that, in reality, the secular girls consume FAR MORE porn that haredi girls.
Filters sound good, but they are not the solution. A filter is only as effective as much as the person using it wants to be filtered.
And haredi teen girls, like their teen male counterparts, do not want to be filtered. They, like their secular counterparts, need a compelling, affirmative reason not to consume porn. (Incidentally, secular and haredi teen boys consume porn in equal degree.)
These haredi teens are also in need of a compelling, affirmative reason to remain within the fold in an appropriate manner and to support the institutions of their community to the same degree as their parents. This “crisis” of confidence sounds an awful lot like the “crisis” of modernity that swept across Western Europe in the eighteenth century… (For more, see Chapter 6 in End Of The Jews.)
This Bar Ilan study comes on the legs of another study that determined that six of ten Jewish babies in America’s biggest Jewish community – New York City – are born to Orthodox families. (Cue ominous music to accompany panic of liberal Jews afraid that their liberal bastion is being overrun. Also cue giggles of an excited Michael Medved.) What both studies do not address is the long term. What does it mean that twice as many haredi teen girls are consuming porn? Will they, or the six Orthodox-born babies, remain within their folds when they hit adulthood? Maybe. Maybe not. But even if they remain within their fold, they cannot do so without irrevocably changing it.
This “problem” is not one of technology, even though the gedolim at the Asifa argue that technology is at fault. But, even more important, technology, in the guise of filtering or firewalling, cannot fix this “problem”. This “problem” demands a very low-tech solution: a sound idea.
So despite protestations that the internet is destroying families and leading erlikhe yidden into the very pit of despair and all that, many folks were live tweeting the Asifa from Citifield last night … and it was not too long before the yiddishe kopf was busy at work coming up with tweet-cracks about the Asifa, including one from book-blurbster and all-around social media doyenne Esther K.
But what really kills me is that the linked-to YouTube clip of “40K Jews, Internet Asifa ASIFA KINUS ICHUD HAKEHILLOS” was taken down because … drum roll please:
… can be viewed here at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/asifas-klal-yisroel RIGHT NOW.
Though I cannot laud the camera work, the fact that someone is at the let’s-talk-about-the-evils-of-the-internet rally holding up what seems to be an iPhone to live-stream the event for the world wide interweb is, in the fullest Alanis-Morrissette sense of the word, IRONIC.