A time for all to atone for tech sins?
September 9th, 2010
03:15 PM ET

A time for all to atone for tech sins?

Eric Yaverbaum is as guilty as anyone of making technological transgressions. He's ignored family to check emails while at the dinner table and tuned out of actual conversations to tune into Twitter.

But the 49-year-old New York public relations executive isn't afraid to admit his sins.

"I'm the guy who sleeps with his BlackBerry," Yaverbaum says. "I'm raising my hand and saying, 'Yes, I'm an addict.'"

He is trying to make amends, though, and thinks you should, too. It is that time of year, after all.

The Jewish High Holy Days began at sunset Wednesday with the start of Rosh Hashana, or the Jewish New Year. They end at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on the night of September 18. These 10 days, often referred to as the Days of Awe, are a time when Jews take stock of their lives, how they've lived them over the past year and seek forgiveness from individuals they may have wronged, intentionally or otherwise.

Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo, a New York advertising exec who is not Jewish, partnered up to launch Offlining, an initiative to promote unplugging that was introduced on Father's Day. The challenge they put forth then was to ask people to make a pledge to have 10 device-free dinners between then and Thanksgiving. So far, more than 10,500 have signed on.

Now they have seized Yom Kippur to preach their message further.

Let this day, September 18, be a "No-Device Day" for us all, no matter our religious backgrounds, they say.

"It's annoying to be in a room with people, and yet not be really with them," says DiMassimo, 48. "My dad's an electrical engineer, and he's always said, 'We invent this stuff to serve us, not for us to serve it.'"

What a difference unplugging might have made for some notables who've graced tabloid covers.

If only Mel Gibson had put down the phone. If only Tiger Woods hadn't had such easy tech access to other women. If only Lindsey Lohan had kept her thoughts, and tweets, to herself.

It's their tales that drive this new advertising campaign. Take this ad, featuring Gibson's smiling face, as an example: "You don’t have to be Jewish to give up drunk dialing for Yom Kippur."

The ads can be sent, for free, as e-cards from the initiative's website. Yaverbaum says that about 100,000 e-cards have already been delivered.

The duo has partnered up before to promote behavior modification. They launched a few years ago Tappening, a movement to popularize the drinking of tap water. Offlining, says DiMassimo, follows the same kind of model.

"No one is selling the off button because you don't make money," he says. "We want to feel we're using our powers for good."

That an online advertising campaign, targeting everyone, would incorporate a Jewish holiday is significant, says Rabbi Irwin Kula, author of "Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life."

"You don't have to have any relationship with Yom Kippur at all," he says. "It's a mixing and blending, bending and switching. Whoever you are in the system, it makes sense."

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Judaism • Technology

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Ads - Levy's

    Funny work, but the writer of the article should at least acknowledge the spoof of the Classic Levy's Rye Bread ads done in the 1960's. Any ad person knows them, I'm sure the creative team here did it as an homage / spoof–using same layout and typeface.

    January 10, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  2. Rabbi Jason Miller

    It's great that Offlining's campaign is directed at everyone, not just Jewish people, because we all use our technology to sin sometimes. Whether it's texting gossip or belittling someone on Facebook, we need to put technology aside to really atone on Yom Kippur. Plus, without the nuisance of our phones and computers we'll be able to concentrate on the task at hand much more attentively on the Day of Atonement.

    On Yom Kippur we fast - refraining from food and drink - and it has a cleansing feel to it. I think that in the 21st century, a fasting from technology is a necessary cleanse as well.

    Check out my Judaism and Technology blog - "Jewish Techs" - on The NY Jewish Week website at http://www.thejewishweek.com/blogs/jewish_techs.

    September 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  3. Alan Abel

    The Downfall of America
    Osama bin Laden

    NOTE: Osama bin Laden has prepared this speech that will interrupt and replace President Barack Hussein Obama’s next address. Forty million television viewers will see Osama bin Laden’s image superimposed over the President and hear the following speech. It has been obtained by an Iraqi double agent working for the CIA. He is now safely in the Federal Witness Protection program.

    OSAMA: My fellow freedom fighters and American invaders. Let me begin by saying the reports on my illness, injuries and death have been highly exaggerated. I am very much alive and proud of the havoc and destruction al Qaeda has created, far exceeding my wildest expectations. Certainly, American infidels shuddered over the shocking and awesome attacks on 9/11. That was your wakeup call and we are doing better as you well know.
    Here is my game plan, revealed only because although there will be more surprises, this one is already operational. Briefly, al Qaeda die-hards have quietly infiltrated various businesses, industries and government jobs in over two-thousand cities and towns. Our cells wisely took the required loyalty oaths and joined every patriotic organization in the community.
    Secret sabotage is commencing nicely. For example, elevators are mysteriously getting stuck between floors, clerks in stores insult customers, bus drivers slam their doors on senior citizens, potholes are everywhere and streets littered with refuse.
    Loyal insurgents in your post offices make sure packages are badly mauled, mail is delivered late, if at all, often to the wrong addresses or returned for postage due. Rumors fly that the government has incompetent employees. Customers complain to no avail and channel their anger into drinking, drugs, road rage and vandalism following sporting events.
    These and other planned annoyances begin to breed increased hostility among all people. Your ruling class, sensing discontent, blames it on air and water pollution or burning the rain forest. Meantime, American traitors in factories are busy manufacturing defective products such as leaky toothpaste tubes, television sets with built-in snow and detergents that clog kitchen drains.
    As our war on your nerves builds momentum, the civilian population goes ballistic. They cancel newspaper subscriptions, fight with neighbors and minority groups organize marches on Washington. A frightened nation elevates its terrorist alert to red, so everybody hoards food, water and gasoline except the colorblind. They remain uninformed and unprotected.
    For the next phase, our loyal telephone operators will give wrong numbers, disconnect and play a recorded message constantly: “Please hang up and try again.” Then, hundreds of my computer geeks in Afghanistan and Pakistan are planting infectious viruses and billions of spam ads, code named “Bubonic Plague.” An epidemic of frustration soon immobilizes 300 million people who are enraged, ready to revolt and willing to accept any change in government.
    Finally, on Halloween night, small al Qaeda agents, disguised as children, invade major network television stations to “trick or treat” and force repeated playings of “The Lawrence Welk Show,” “Green Acres” and “Ishtar.”
    With 99.% of television households having destroyed their TV sets, the next morning swarms of cars will converge on main streets in every city. Their mission is to tie up traffic, causing gridlock, and prevent people from going to work. This quagmire allows my victorious regime time to occupy offices, rearrange furniture, change names on doors and write pink slips for the former occupants.
    My takeover will be complete without firing a shot. To ease emotional pressure, because Prozac supplies are going to be in high demand, I might schedule a few public floggings. This weekly sporting event was the highlight of Taliban soccer matches during intermission. On my “A” list I have Ann Coulter, Chris Matthews, Paris Hilton, Dr. Ruth, Donald Trump, Barbara Walters and probably Jerry Springer.
    Let me conclude by offering a special thanks to Saddam Hussein, whether he be in hell or heaven, who diverted so much attention away from my mayhem. He was such a wonderful patsy, a bumbling idiot with no class. Although, God willing, he did manage to hide our WMD in Syria before General Bush invaded Iraq. Didn’t you all love “Baghdad Bob?” He’s my choice for press secretary; unless Ari Fleischer wants the job and renounces his religion. We’ll see.
    I look forward to bringing al Qaeda’s style of servitude to America and remember, the trapdoor to the White House will always be open. So feel free to come and visit anytime. In the meantime, you can write to me care of General Delivery, Islamabad, Pakistan. Also, look for my new puzzle game at amazon.com called “Where’s Osama?” The grand prize is $25 million dollars.
    Now, if you will excuse me, praise Allah, I must get back to my wives who remain shrouded in misery.

    © 2010 Alan Abel (www.abelraisescain.com)

    September 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  4. Rabbi Laura Baum

    As a rabbi, I encourage people to use technology on Yom Kippur. We have an online congregation – http://www.OurJewishCommunity.org and have streamed High Holiday services for three years in a row. We have found it provides an amazing connection for those homebound or geographically isolated, for people with schedules that don't allow them to attend services in person – and for people looking for a 21st century Jewish experience. The concept of offlining presumes that technology isolates people. The truth is that people can be quite isolated without technology – and people can also be quite connected to others while using technology. For example, families in different states can virtually "attend" services together when they use technology.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
  5. Iqbal khan


    September 9, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
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