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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. john

    most peopel here are jelous of jews becasue they are the chosen people and the most sucessgul people on tis planet there is no other religion on this planet that contribuited to this world as much as the jew and they are a smal fraction of the worlds population and i am not jewish

    September 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Meg

      john you need your head examined
      at least watch the film π. that drill to that poor jewish guy's head ain't normal. peace.

      September 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • PopeJon

      You are the polar opposite but just as horrible as the person posting anti Jewish statements above....

      September 15, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  2. john

    ur a liar go visit syria and libya we will se how they treat u

    September 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • GE

      The muslim countries are a little backward right now because they are limited in what they can believe in. The dictators and ruling parties of these countries usually suppress the people through fear which prevents them from being more open minded and from seeing the world around them. They do this so that they(dictators) can dictate their own ideas. It will take some time and political reform in these countries before they change. There have been revolutions recently in some muslim countries for more freedom for the people. So maybe change isn't to far away.

      September 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  3. barabra

    its amazing how people are obsessed with jews when they barely comprise .100 of the worlds population.
    proud american jew

    September 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  4. barabra

    its a known fact in the american jewish community that israelis are tough in general thats their nature to survive against these muslims that kill them the last 60 years

    September 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  5. Juliegee

    Considering that Israel is one of the most rascist and undemocratic countries on the planet, this makes perfect sense.

    September 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • john

      ur a racist and a bigot i wish israel would really be a racist country like all the muslim countries and just expell all the muslims that live in israel becasue they only create trouble israelis should learn from the muslims just like they threw out every last jew in 1967

      September 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  6. facecrap

    ahahaha! hacked. awesome!

    September 15, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  7. Toasty

    I remember reading this article yesterday, and the founder of the website was touting how secure it was. Today I visit, and it's been hacked.

    I didn't sign up but think twice about signing up with new websites, who knows how much data the hacker got off the site.

    I guess he was asking for it by saying his site is secure, challenge accepted and completed.

    September 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  8. New Jersey

    If you watch y o u t u b e videoclips.... Jews treat Christians terrible !!!!!!!!

    September 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • I'm a smart guy

      It's "terribly" - it's an adverb that modifies your verb, "treat" - but then, you are so educated you knew that. I could tell from your ignorant post.

      September 16, 2011 at 3:05 am |
  9. Christine

    I've been to Israel several times, and to be honest, it is somewhat true what Silvia L said. If you wear a cross, many Jews don't like it and won't treat you the same as if you were a Jew. Believe me, it's true. Many people did look down on me, and wouldn't be able to answer questions if I asked. They always first looked at my cross, and said "Don't know" all the time. I will NEVER visit Israel again. We treat Jews very well in America, and they should treat us the same!

    However, Jews in New York are very nice and funny

    September 15, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • facecrap

      jews as a group in nyc are "nice and funny", eh? lololol. how open-minded of you.

      September 15, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • *SIGH*

      Israeli Jews don't even look at American Jews the same either. Some of them are hospitable towards Americans and some of them look down upon us, even if we are Jewish.

      September 16, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Michelle

      Absolutely not true. You're projecting.

      September 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  10. John

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6HstbCWRoo

    September 15, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • .....

      GARBAGE ALERT – Don't bother viewing click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      September 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  11. Mike

    Congratulations, CNN, you got them hacked.

    September 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Bill Dautrieve

      Israelis can be abrasive in general, even to Jews from the U.S. You just got to get to know them and realize 99% of the time it isn't personal.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Toasty

      Nah, it's not personal at all, they just believe they are superior than you because of their religion. o.O

      September 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • facecrap

      @toasty

      hahahaha. pathetic and true.

      September 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  12. Silvia L

    It's true. I'm Christian and visited Israel and was treated very bad. I wore a cross and everybody looked down on me, and did not help me with anything at all. Maybe we should treat the Jews like the way they to in Israel here in America!!

    September 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Michelle

      Silvia–there's no way that story is true. I've spent months in Israel, as a Christian, and have never been treated with anything but the utmost respect. You're clearly projecting your own prejudices on people who have NEVER thought of you so unkindly in return.

      September 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bill Dautrieve

      Israelis can be abrasive in general, even to Jews from the U.S. You just got to get to know them and realize 99% of the time it isn't personal.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Melissa

      Undoubtedly your view of "we should look down upon them" is a reflection of your behavior while in Israel, resulting in how you were treated.

      Or, alternatively, you were not treated that way – and just want an excuse to act like you're superior.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  13. Margareta

    Mike D: the Nazi's were NOT Christians... although the country they lived in is Christian. BTW the Jews killed Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity with 2.2 billion fallowers! Jews treat Christians TERRIBLE in Israel, and make fun of the holy family on media etc. Jews should be grateful and happy to be acceptable in Christian majority country of the U.S. !

    Hippypoet: NO I did not leave Judaism because of not being able to eat pork or wear whatever I want. I left because Judaism deny our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, and it's a BAD religion!

    September 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Michelle

      Also not true. The myth that "Jews killed Jesus Christ" is an anti-Semitic bit of nonsense. The Romans killed Jesus. This is easily researchable history which people like you don't bother to research.

      Israelis are lovely to people of all stripes, including Christians. You've obviously simply never been to Israel.

      It's not very Christian to be hateful and to rampantly lie....

      September 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • facecrap

      what's a "fallower".

      idyot. 😛

      September 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • mark

      please go to the website jews for judiasm its very informative i am a jew that used to believe in judiasm untill i came acroos this extremely informative organization jews for judiasm.
      all the best

      September 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • heh

      Judaism isn't the only bad religion. There's also Christianity and Islam, they're terrible too.
      I'm an atheist, but Shinto is the best religion. Look into it.

      September 16, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Ignoramicron

      Shintoists worship form over function. Every object, animal, etc has a spirit. Right? They should have orgasms over something like the internet with all these spirit-driven computers all touching. LOL
      ...ok..so...
      How is being an animist any better than Spinoza and his living universe of death and mindless random events...or Christians, Muslims, and Jews with their malevolent and evil monster god who nevertheless has some sort of reward system that is as dysfunctional as his punishment system?
      Or Hindus or Sikhs or Buddhists or any kind of mysticism / magic-based cult with no gods or many?
      How is any of them better at all? Maybe it's better to make up your own, since that's how all of them got started in the first place, right?

      September 16, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  14. Jason K

    Did you know that most Jews identify themselves as "Jewish" as a race and not a religion. Go check out Israel or Lebanon sometime, there you will find some of the most gorgeous Jewish and Arab women in the world. And let me tell you, they are NOT decked out in Ninja robes head to toe. Thankfully, Hessidic Jews make up a very small minority of the culture, far more so then the ultra conservative moslem base.

    September 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  15. comfortinprayer

    CAN YOU POST AN UPDATE ABOUT THE Hacking of the site ASAP, FACEglat is down, I've sent emails to these supposed hackers...Please let me know why no update has been posted yet.

    September 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  16. nitrous

    Maybe those Jewish kids that we dipped their peyot in inkwells when we were kids still have a voncin up their tokhes. Good night everybody!

    September 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  17. Alex

    Hmmm, looks like Faceglat has been hacked by a hacker claiming to be Palestinian. Interesting.

    September 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  18. Margareta

    I was born and raised Jews but later converted to Christianity. I used to be sick and tired going to synagogues and been brain washed... the funny part was rabbi's telling us how smart and wealthy Jews are, that we own the media, money and everything. Christianity is the only truly great religion that does not discriminate its people, you could wear whatever you want and eat and do whatever you want with no damn rules like Islam and Judaism. I love Jesus 4-ever and wish all Jews were FOR Jesus Christ, our Lord and saviour!

    September 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Mike D

      Right. Christianity does not discriminate. They just killed and tortured Jews during the Inquisition, are responsible for some of the most heinous crimes in history, and did nothing when the Jews were burned in ovens in Germany. Glad you left!! We don't want someone like you with us anyway!

      September 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • hippypoet

      wow, you say you left for the food and cloths... sounds like your a complete follower... i am not a believer in any religion nor do i pretend to be, but you make me sick jumping to another faith based on crap you can buy! wheres the faith oh ye faithful?

      September 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Michelle

      I'm going to go ahead and guess that no RABBI actually sold you those positions, which are usually the lines of anti-Semites.

      September 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Toasty

      @Mike D: Oh sure, nobody helped Jews during WWII, just a measly 22-25 million military deaths fighting the Axis including Germany. Put away your hate and have some respect for those who died trying to save your ancestors.

      September 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  19. Bradley

    I just Admire other acient prractices keeps them preserved not only that they can lend out advice at time of need. Every religion diserves a place to practice n preserve for other to admire and learn from.

    September 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  20. Olivia

    Muslims & Jews are the same – wearing funny clothes – don't eat pork – don't believe Jesus Christ is the Lord.

    September 15, 2011 at 3:20 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.