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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. Mel Watts

    This is extremism and therefore makes me sick. The middle way is best.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  2. Patrick A.

    Nice DEMOCRACY in ISRAHELLLLLLLLLLL

    September 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • YouAreAHater

      You would think that because you probably only read CNN which is the most biased, hateful and untruthful news source in the United States. By the way, you are stupid and mindless for not knowing any better, if you had only wanted to know more about Israel you would see that "Palestine" is the land of murderers and haters who only care about themselves and not their children or future generations.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I'm confused. One group of people claims CNN is a Jewish plot. Another group thinks it is anti-Israeli/pro-Palestine.

      I wish people would settle on one conspiracy or at least not complete opposites!

      September 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  3. leeintulsa

    I'm not religious, i use the internet, and i am not on facebook. Why would they need an alternate facebook?

    Apparently, they find it easy to just say 'no' to so many other things. What's the point?

    September 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  4. JennyTX

    Isn't religion great? No.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  5. Peikovian

    Religion is ridiculous. But these Haredi Jews are only wasting their own time and money, they're not ruling dozens of countries with most of the industrial world's oil reserves. They're not attacking women for learning how to read a Facebook page. They're not blowing themselves up in holy war. That's an order of madness several times of magnitude greater.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • NoGod

      Jews are fighting a holy war. The difference is that the US is complicit in jewish holy war against the local muslims so the jewish terrorists don't need to blow oneself to kill their enemies. Their US provided F16s do just a fine job. As an American non believer in any god, I find it extremely appalling that my country would help another so two religious people can continue to fight in the name of their God (I heard they believe in the same god). Religion specially judaism, christianity and islam sucks. One day we peaceful and simple non-believers are gonna die because of these freaking religious nutts.

      September 16, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Phil

      Israel is 75% non-religous (secular) and the other 25% are exempt from military service due to their wackjob beliefs. So what exactly are you talking about when you say it is a holy war?

      September 19, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  6. Big Man

    I find it funny that jewish groups are the first to shout islam adherents have strange practices. I say, people in glass houses shouldnt throw stones.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Jesus

      Actually one of the biggest problems in the mideast is the orthodoxy of BOTH Judaism and Islam. Those who believe in strident teachings of Bronze Age idiocy are the reason why there is no peace in that part of the world.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  7. Icurheinie

    You'd think they would stop living in the Stone Age and join the 21st century and modern civilization.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  8. HotAirAce

    Re: “I personally know people who have deteriorated spiritually because of all kinds of things they were introduced to there.”, so that's what they call it when cult members learn that there are no gods!

    September 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Too bad. We retain the first amendment and its freedoms. Honestly, as long as nobody is being coerced or harmed, I don't care and honestly, you should not either.
      For, at the end of the day, EVERYBODY retains the God given right to make an idiot of themselves. 😉

      But, I WILL cede one point to him, people CAN AND DO let Facebook run their lives, rather than the converse. I'm barely on it, many, many, many people I know are barely off of it.
      Honestly folks, I REALLY do not care about every little thing that happens in your life at all. The ONLY reason I EVER used Facebook was to see my family and brand new grandchild when I was deployed and to share some occasional photos with friends abroad.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  9. Jay

    don't you all love the extreme religious?

    September 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Yeah, how horrible. They leave you and me alone, rather than try to force US to follow their faith.
      UTTERLY unreasonable! They should preach THEIR views and shove them into other people's faces all of the time.
      They should denigrate those of different views and faiths.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  10. salman

    just because you can follow the old rules in religious places (while forgetting the archaic rules of course), doesn't mean you need to do that for social media. this is the 21st century, where we should be integrated by gender, religion, and race. i don't think you need to apply the terms 'kosher' to social interaction.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Are they FORCING anyone to use the site? Have they forced anyone to NOT use other sites?
      No to both. So, I fail to comprehend your objection.
      Other than you are attacking that which is different.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • berman

      Honestly, who cares what you think? I don't. The people on the site don't. You're obviously not an ultra-orthodox Jew so why should anyone care what you think needs to be labeled kosher or not seeing as you don't know the first thing about kashruth.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  11. Keksi

    So in which section they would put Chaz Bono?

    September 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Did Chaz become a Jew?
      No? Then, no selection is necessary. But, you CAN feel free to look the persons listed in the story and e-mail them that question. I bet that they'd actually ANSWER you, with respect even.
      Quite unlike how you address others.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • Adam

      @Wzrd1 - Its a joke, get a sense of humour! All your posts on this page are just ridiculous! You attack everything people have written! Lighten up already!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  12. cmc

    Religious extremism that treats women as second class citizens should have no place in a civilized world. With education and knowledge so widespread these days, it's only a matter of 2 or 3 centuries before religion dies out entirely. It can't happen soon enough as far as I'm concerned. The Crusades, The Salem witch trials, the Holocaust, Jonestown, Branch Davidians, 9/11....the list of atrocities committed in the name of God is endless.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Tyler Wenzel

      Genocide, slave labor, and gross social inequality...the list of atrocities committed in the name of Godlessness is endless.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Funny, the list of atrocities was different, but those very words were said 200 years ago.
      Still hasn't happened. Not gonna happen.
      People believe what they want to believe in and the first amendment protects them from you trying to force them to believe what you want them to do.
      No Uncle Joe here, no Chairman Mao here, no Adolf Hitler here.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  13. nokoolaidcowboy

    Interesting. Will there be a glory hole separating the two genders, kind of like in the whole white sheet thing?

    September 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Icurheinie

      nyuk nyuk nyuk

      September 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Why? Wanting to be at a glory hole where only cut are permitted?
      WHY do people troll for dates on CNN?

      September 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  14. Moe

    Odd how TeachBook got sued as did tons of other websites with 'face' or 'book' in them but this site is allowed to use the words with no punishment.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • fannie

      word.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Well, the site is based in Israel. Facebook is perfectly welcome to sue in Israel over the use of face.
      FacePalm.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  15. OMG - Obama Must Go!

    That photo of Hillary was hardly iconic, and I would have erased her ugly mug too!

    September 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  16. Pete Beck

    I get it- kind of like a Jewish Taliban!

    September 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Yep! Because, they're killing SO many of their own faith if they commit any infraction against it.
      Dullard.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  17. Frangible

    Finally, Facebook free of insecure and narcissistic 12 year-old girls! Oh wait, that is all of Facebook.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  18. *frank*

    In Soviet FaceGlat, content filter sets YOUR options!

    September 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      ROFLMAO! Now, THAT is original and showed the use of more than three brain cells!
      QUITE unlike the kids that grew up AFTER the cold war ended and intelligence was forbidden in society. 🙂

      September 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  19. Chaim

    So, Jessica....there is no hope for the Palestinians then?
    CNN will keep away from all victims of Israel's fascist policies?
    Always with the schmutz of Jewish human-interest stories, but never a scathing look at the Nazi-like tactics used against Palestinians?
    Not that I like Palestinians, but I hate fascism more. Much more. I hate theocracies and democracies that get hijacked by religious politics. Sorry if it isn't up to you. You just work here, I know. But these things should be said to someone at CNN.

    September 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • CNNisIslamic

      Your pathetic. There is hope for Palestine. It is called Jordan, which is where they came from, but no, wait a minute, Jordan wants nothing to do with them! Shouldn't Jordan be practicing it's "Religion of Peace" and "brotherly love" and take these poor landless people back? No, because it is another pathetic attempt at Muslim propaganda. The attempt to wipe Israel off the map by Islam needs to be compared to hitler and the Nazis. Yet Islam has attained one goal Hitler did not. A Jew free country – Saudi Arabia...

      September 12, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Lechaim

      Please take your Meds – you are foaming through cyberspace

      September 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Nakba

      Right, we came from Jordan, and that's why you Zio's needed destroy 400+ of our villages, move into our homes, and cause the exodus of 700k of us, because we're Jordanian.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Well, illiterate dolt, CNN DOES cover those stories. But, being a news organization, they also cover OTHER news. This is a news item, not a political story. It's about a particular Jewish sect that now has its own version of FaceBook that is segregated by gender.
      Pity we can't build a wall on the internet to wall off the morons.
      I'm SO tempted to use a few phrases of Arabic to you, but this is a family site.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Chaim

      Considering some of the flack people are posting, I guess this is a sort of article like what I was hoping to see, but the ridiculousness of a Jewish FB clone called "FaceGlat" is sort of on the lame side. I want more meat in my balanced reporting.

      Wzrd1, don't even bother talking to me. I've seen your brain-damaged crap before. I have absolutely NO respect for you or your opinions. I guess the feeling is mutual, eh? That's just fine by me. No need to post your muck here, though. I would have thought that Fox News is more your speed.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • berman

      Chaim, you're disgusting. To equate Israel with the murderers of 6,000,000 Jews is horrendously offensive. Did you know, less than 10% of Muslims killed in Middle East fighting since 1948 were killed by Israel? That's about 46,000 people (including suicide bombers btw). To say that Israel, which has killed 46,000 people (both combatants and collateral damage) in dozens of wars / smaller skirmishes over the past 63 years is equivalent to a regime that murdered 6,000,000 unarmed civilians over the course of 5-6 years is unfathomable and intellectually dishonest.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  20. *frank*

    fist!

    September 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Rollo

      seconal!

      September 12, 2011 at 8:49 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.