September 9th, 2010
03:15 PM ET
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."
About this blog
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.