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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish 'Facebook' separates the sexes
FaceGlat is a social networking site for Orthodox Jews.
September 12th, 2011
08:34 PM ET

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish 'Facebook' separates the sexes

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Showing that modernity might, just might, find its place even in a world predisposed to the most traditional of customs, in walks FaceGlat: an ultra-Orthodox Jewish answer, at least for some, to Facebook.

Among the most conservative of Orthodox Jews, often referred to as Haredi Jews, modesty reigns. Women wear long sleeves and skirts, and they cover their hair after marriage. Men dress as their ancestors did centuries ago. The genders are separated in synagogues, on wedding dance floors and, in certain neighborhoods, on buses.

CNN reported this year on one community newspaper that went so far as to erase women from an iconic news photograph, all in an effort to uphold its values. The paper later apologized, not for its beliefs about modesty and featuring women in photographs but for how the matter was handled.

So social media – which, in the case of Facebook, invite sharing, tagging and gawking at photographs, among other interactions – may not be the most welcoming space for people with this kind of faith.

A 20-something self-taught website builder out of Israel, Yaakov Swisa, seems to be trying to change this.

Ynetnews, an English-language Israeli news site, reported in late July the establishment of FaceGlat, a Swisa-made social network that segregates men and women, blocks immodest advertisements and pictures, and uses a filter to keep language in comments and status updates clean.

“People who are God-fearing and care about their children’s education cannot tolerate the ads and pictures one sees on the regular Facebook,” Ynetnews wrote, quoting Swisa. “I personally know people who have deteriorated spiritually because of all kinds of things they were introduced to there.”

The name FaceGlat is a blending of Facebook with the word glatt, as in “glatt kosher,” the highest level of kosher when it comes to Jewish dietary laws surrounding meat.

FaceGlat, Ynetnews reported Swisa as saying, is “not an alternative for Facebook” but rather “a cleaner option for those who are already there. If it encourages people to open accounts or waste their time instead of studying Torah – it’s a failure. It’s not worth a thing. I promised myself that if that happened I would close it down.”

According to a Le Monde report, posted late last week on Worldcrunch, a still-open FaceGlat has more than 2,000 users and is getting about 100 new accounts per week.

Le Monde said Swisa is administering his fledgling site with “a lot of improvisation.” And even though upon signing up with FaceGlat, members are separated by gender into two distinct networks (click left to join the women, right to join the men), the French newspaper reported that Swisa is looking to purchase software that will automatically find and delete photographs revealing too much skin. Le Monde also said that although his website is available in English and Hebrew, Swisa plans to translate it into Russian and French.

“Orthodox Jews need the Internet, at home and at work alike,” Swisa told Le Monde. “My website allows them to browse freely, while offering maximum security.”

Swisa, who could not be reached Monday for comment, reportedly is a resident of Kfar Chabad in Israel. That village is connected to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a Hasidic Jewish branch that represents just one expression of ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

Chabad-Lubavitch is known for its outreach in the secular world and has long used technology “to broadcast Jewish values to a global audience,” said Yaacov Behrman, a spokesman for Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

“Internet, as all media, has both positive and negative aspects,” Behrman said. “The decision of whether to have Internet in the home or not is an individual one. It is imperative for parents to monitor the level of access made available to their children,” and that’s relevant no matter how religious the family is.

But for many others living in the Haredi or ultra-Orthodox world, use of media – including television, films and secular newspapers - is greatly discouraged. Social media, especially, are “like the Wild West,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, an advocacy organization for Haredi Jews.

“Internet is fully accepted for work purposes” and can only be used in the home with “strict control,” Shafran said. “Social media is still where the line is drawn.”

He said, “The very medium itself is something we tend to shun because it’s something that’s not easily contained. Once a person’s involved, it tends to take over one’s life. … We prefer people to meet their friends by turning to them and talking to them.”

So whether FaceGlat can gain much of a following in the social media scramble remains questionable. Even Behrman of Chabad-Lubavitch, who emphasized that the new site has no official connection to his movement, isn’t a member.

“Nope,” Behrman said. “I use Facebook.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Culture wars • Judaism • Technology

soundoff (576 Responses)
  1. lol??

    Why should it be surprising that some people see the need of a woman to have rule over her? 1/4 of the time she's in heat. 1/4 of the time she's sick. And the other 1/2 of the time she tries to rule over the hubby.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:47 am |
  2. Nicholle Opoka

    One dance floor activity that’s gaining popularity is to bring in a dance teacher for the wedding reception. As a kind of pre-dance activity, the teacher will quickly walk people through their paces on the dance floor, perhaps teaching a bit of the waltz or, for something completely different, a little bit of the tango, before the music officially begins and dancing commences. '..

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    May 1, 2013 at 3:18 am |
  3. Martina

    I heard that orthodox Jewish women shave their heads and wear wigs.... and they have s*x thru a hole on the sheet lol

    September 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • The Obama Christian Church Worldwide Campaign

      This is the reason why we worship and praise our good christian president Obama and that Obama will be Lord of the world on October 21st of this year. We need to use Obama to restore the traditional dictates of our good Word Of God or the Bible. The Obama Administration will help us christians restore the good morals of christianity which is good. We need to learn the gospels of Obama and Christ to restore the good morals of the world.

      April 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  4. sasquatch

    Its 2011. You jews and arabs need to realize women do not need to be segregated.

    September 19, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  5. chaim

    aish.com is a very good website for jews that are intrested on learning more about their heritage and their beautiful religion

    September 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  6. chaim

    and they say the so called secular liberals are tolerant.I see allot of secular Jews here are very intolerant of people wanting to practice their religion the way they practiced the last 3000 years

    September 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Shabbat.com's blog

    http://www.Shabbat.com is the largest Jewish social network in the world. It has many Orthodox as well as Reform and Conservative. It is NOT segregated, is welcome to all and excepted by Jews from every stream, unaffiliated to chariedi! This is how we make the world a nicer, friendlier place!

    September 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  8. Rachael

    It seems that a lot of people are making comments that are ridiculously ignorant. This young man should be congratulated for finding and providing a way to take part in social media while living comfortably in his culture and religion. No harm is done to you or your religion, so why be so hateful? Find something better to do...like taking anger management classes!

    September 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  9. Agnostic Jew

    "Internet is fully accepted for work purposes” and can only be used in the home with “strict control,” Shafran said. “Social media is still where the line is drawn.”

    He said, “The very medium itself is something we tend to shun because it’s something that’s not easily contained. Once a person’s involved, it tends to take over one’s life. … We prefer people to meet their friends by turning to them and talking to them."

    In other words, if they're exposed to people from outside their community, they may realize how ridiculous their beliefs are. Heck, they might even see that 'der goyische velt' isn't filled with fire breathing monsters! These folks are to Judaism what the Taliban are to Islam and what Fred Phelp's church is to Christianity.

    September 19, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • There is nothing new under the sun -- Ecc 1:9

      And what about those who have seen the outside world and, unlike you, decided they want no part in it? Your comment just sounds angry and spiteful to the religion you were raised in.

      September 19, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • chaim

      I am an hasidic jew and i feel bad i am exposed to such hateful people like you, as a Jew u should be more tolerant and respect us, ur religious grandparents would cry hearing ur hateful comments against ur fellow Jews.

      September 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  10. Herschel

    do they let goyim join???

    September 19, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  11. michael

    Although this idea sounds ridiculous it has been designed to cater to a particular population. If this particular population doesn't subscribe to the idea then it will fade away as any other ridiculous fad.

    September 19, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  12. Jack Tors

    Pretty sure all we can say to this is, "Oy Vey!"

    September 19, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  13. Pete Beck

    Kind of like Facebook for a Jewish version of the Taliban.

    September 19, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Cindi

      Whoa! Ultra orthodoxy is NOT the same as fanatism, or militant foundations! These people are not terrorists any more than the Amish are. It is shameful to attack innocent people by lumbing them in with violent groups that they abhor. Shame on you!

      September 19, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  14. CrazyHeb

    In another disturbing Internet policy, the site requires all Jewish men who sign on for it to have the tip of their mouses cut off

    September 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • james

      Ha ha .... FAVE OF THE WEEK!

      September 18, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • toto_22

      Arent those similarities that all Godly religions have. If you investigate further you will find out that in Judiasm the punishment for adultary is stonning, shocking haaa.

      September 18, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  15. Spartacus

    idiots, every single person who said anything derogatory does not have a clue what Judaism is.

    In every single Synagogue since the beginning of Time, Women and Men are separated in their seating arrangements so that they do NOT distract each others' attentions from their prayer in the temple.

    This is a requirement of the Orthodox and an action which is maintained out of RESPECT for OLD school Jadaism.

    It is not surprising in the least and is expected in everything that orthodox Jews do in their daily living that involves any type of public meeting or religious worship.

    This isn't even a story except for, obviously, some of the people reporting this at CNN who think it is a story but really they do not have a clue what they are doing.

    This is NOT news...it has been this way with orthodox Judaism since the beginning of time.

    September 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • David

      No one is disputing such separation is a long-standing rule in orthodox Judaism. What a lot of people on this board are saying is that the rule is just plain ridiculous, akin to burkas in orthodox muslims (or wigs on orthodox Jewish women, beards on orthodox muslims and orthodox jews alike). Bottom line, retrograde religious beliefs are the main reason for our problems worldwide. Don't kid yourself, Jews and Muslims (kissing cousins) and Christians, when taking their religion to the extreme, are a detrimental to societal advancement and overall worldwide well-being.

      September 18, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • mark

      david ur wrong to compare them to m,Muslim fanatics, when is the last time an ultra orthodox Jew killed someone? they are the nicest people and very religious we should tolerate that and respect the for their convictions.

      September 19, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  16. Descartes

    Hey the Amish people still live in the 19th century and lead primitive lives. It's just a way of life for certain religious groups. At least the Orthodox Jews have Facebook. I bet the Amish people have never heard of ICQ and that was 1997.

    September 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  17. ryan

    LOL FACESPLAT HAS BEEN HACKZORED!!

    September 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  18. mark

    it amzing to see how all the liberals here are so happy that their religious right where denied by hacking their website where are all u liberals that support religious freedom they didnt force u to sign up u liberal people are not tolerant people

    September 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • JohnnyBravo

      HACKED !! the page http://www.faceglat.com has been hacked by a palestinian group of hackers...

      http://www.faceglat.com/woman/en.html

      September 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • methuselah

      "all you liberals"...only a bigot writes like this.
      I find it funny at best and if the server people would improve their security this wouldn't be an issue. in case you've never had this happen to you, and I have...including by Palestinian hactivists...they essentially rename your default page and replace it with theirs...otherwise..its harmless. So...grow up...stop the liberal bashing because you sound like a fool when you do do.

      September 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.