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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. Christine

    I'm surprised that Orthodox Jews don't wear 'star of David' necklace like many Christians wearing a cross. Does anybody know why? I've seen some non-religious Jews wear star necklace, but never an orthodox.

    September 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • a slozomby

      i wonder if it shuts off on friday night and turns on on saturday night.

      September 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  2. MikeG

    What I don't get is in the grand scheme of things Judism is such a minor religion (in terms of number of followers, power and economy of countries that are predominately followers etc) albeit one with close ties to religions that are "important" Islam and Christianity.

    So ... why is it every time some nut job group in such a minor religion does something it is news? How about crap that goes on in Buddhism or Hinduism? They have interesting nut jobs too.

    September 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • jax

      ...lmao@interestingnutjobstoo...

      September 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  3. eddie2010

    Remember kids, it's not racism if jews do it. Go ahead and try signing up for this site if you're not jewish. What would happen if a social network excluded jews?

    September 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  4. Steve

    I can respect most religious freedoms but what shouldn't be tolerated are religious customs that stomp all over basic human rights. Almost all religions seem to have rules designed to keep women subservient and it needs to be overcome.

    September 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  5. erich2112x

    Quacks.

    September 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jez

      HAHA!

      September 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  6. Binky42

    “I personally know people who have deteriorated spiritually because of all kinds of things they were introduced to there.” – You mean they started putting aside obsolete traditions and joined the real world? Oh Noes!!

    September 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  7. Randy

    Not much use sounding off about this. Probably one of the scariest, dumbest things I've read in a long time but these are people who had their saviour standing in front of them and still refused to give up their traditions and rituals. For those of you writing about the evils of religion, I agree totally, but please do not confuse following Christ with being religious. Those are two very different things.

    September 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Binky42

      Ah hypocrisy! Without these kinds of comments I wouldn't have a head-shaped dent in my desk!

      September 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Randy

      Which part did you think was hypocrisy?

      September 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Binky42

      Any time someone disses another faith based on his/her own faith it is the purest form of hypocrisy. "You guys are fools for believing in your version of the omnipotent sky god. My version of the omnipotent sky god is WAY cooler!" Do you realize what a tool you come across as?

      September 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Randy

      I think you might have your own pre-conceived prejudices to deal with. I don't recall elevating my own faith or even mentioning what my own faith might be. But perhaps you're partially right, I should have been more specific. It's not so much religion that gets to me, it's when the traditions and rituals seem to take precedence over what I consider the really important aspects of faith, such as love. As far as being a tool, I hope I'm a power tool at least.

      September 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Normon

      @Randy,
      "...it's when the traditions and rituals seem to take precedence over what I consider the really important aspects of faith, such as love."

      Isn't that just your version? If there is a God, how do you know that the traditions and ritual are not the most important thing to Him? The OT is easily interpreted that way, I think. Isn't that how this site got built in the first place; Haredi belief that God wants gender segregation.

      September 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Normon

      And then there's items like this:
      "The United Nations and the European Union have also called the settlements 'illegal under international law.'"
      But that's from Wiki, so it could be wrong, too. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli-Palestinian_conflict)

      September 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Normon

      Sorry, posted last one on wrong article.

      September 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Randy

      My version, maybe. I'm going by what I think the New Testament means but you're right, I could be wrong. We could all be wrong. Oh, I'm no friend of religion or Christianity lately, so I appreciate you and Binky keeping me more or less honest, although I'm not sure I earned the label "tool".

      September 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  8. Eagle Eye

    Yeah, betting this one will overtake Facebook in popularity like a bulldozer over a Palestenian child.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  9. JPX

    Just one more reason why religion is stupid. Can you believe that in 2011 there are so many people who still embrace Bronze Age thinking? Nothing good comes out of religion except intolerance and hatred.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  10. Michael from Montreal

    The most ironic issue is that most religious people here in the U.S. and Canada want as little control over their lives from governement but will withstand total control from their respective religions.

    The day is fast approaching when religion will stop being a driving force in our society and this is what frightens almost every religious leader.

    The human race is in desperate need of a modern day "Age of Enlightenment".

    September 16, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • JPX

      Word.

      September 16, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Zoe Jean

      Yes.

      September 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  11. humankind

    We all got good independent knowledge of what is going on in our universe in reality.
    We all must just think& act independentely with our commonsense than just bullied by all these religions. Be a human & use your brain to think the good & bad side of religion, then just accept only good out of that. But believe anything that can give u with full evidences ex: science with evidences
    All religious books are just a "bully" to common people to believe for not doing any bad things & live as a human only( not as animals ok?). When this bully ethics get in the hands of wrong people, they use this for their own selfishness( power & money to achieve& to maintain) . In effect religion itself is a BIG BUSINESS to make money & power right?
    So just we all must realize that ,we all are living together among BIG BULLIES in this world. I dont think mankind can escape from this big bullies. But we individual can avoid not to get in to the full trap of these bullies. We must isolate all these political &religious bullies from our humankind. Universe created with a BIG BANG, by a supernatural power of its own rules & regulations of phenomenon. With our human commonsense we are recognizing the rules& regulations of Universe very easily in generations of observations & studies by humankind. That power is not the GOD explained by any religious books, but it is purely the Universe's own truth & phenomenal powers. Since GOD is so powerful, he/she (or it or whatever ) he can directly appear to the world & give a book to humankind& tell that this is what I want all humans have to follow. If he do that there is no discrimination as Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus etc. Just all are humans only. Then there is no terrorists, hypocrites , socialists or whatever may be. If so how good will be our life in this beautiful world given by that powerful GOD? Why he is so shy & hiding & meet only Jesus , Mohammed etc humans & tell all those truths secretly? That is why those humans claim that they are son of God & last prophet etc etc. Come on we all are son of God only. You just look at your own face. You really resembles all the powers& secrets of Universe. One thing is just true that we all born here & we know that we all will die. Our body elements all came from earth itself & we ultimately diluted to earth itself. But we never know where it start & where it ends ultimately.
    But the way all humans now proving that there is no such GOD in this world & GOD is so powerless to control them. There cannot be a mistake by the supreme power of Universe right?. If it can be mistaken, surely a human baby can born for a dog mother right? It never can happens right? That is the power of this universe , its rules & regulations. Not as any religious books bullying to us. So far science also never can find out the real truth behind the universe. Still we are researching to find the secret of universe. I dont think even another 1,000 years we research also , we human will ever can answer the real truth behind universe , since we all are humans but got very limitation in this universe. to think further or act further. So as a comfortable conclusion by human for a final answer, time to time they created their own God, then a book also. That is all all these BULLY RELIGIOUS books.So all the religious books are written & corrected by single or group of humans in time to time, not any GOD come to human & tell it directly. All those are already exists in the universe, so we all individual can just observe& follow only . But in our human social life, we need religions just to live as human with big hopes of our life. Otherwise what is the real motive we all have to live in this world as good human until we die? We never know what will happen after we all die. Only we just believe from those bullies that either go to hell or in heaven !!
    Just do something good in your life to go to SO CALLED HEAVEN. never to HELL ok ??

    September 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Amy

      Oh, I'm sorry. Did you say something?

      September 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Clover Girl

      I can't read something that long with that few paragraph breaks. Maybe if you want your opinion heard, you should consider the medium. Nobody is going to read your pages-long, random-capitalized rant.

      September 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  12. fastball

    Q. Do you know how to tell a Muslim fundamentalist from a Jewish fundamentalist from a Christian fundamentalist?
    A. Their hats.

    One religious screwball is just as bad as another. I don't care if you're Christian, Jew, Muslim or friggin' Amish. A pox on ALL their houses, I say.

    September 16, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • OnlyContract

      Another good way to tell one from another: insult their messiah.
      -One will pity you.
      -One will complain and argue.
      -One will try to cut your head of.

      September 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  13. It_flyer

    Yet another stroke of genius for religion.

    September 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  14. anahadwolves

    It's all about control! Control of your mind, your body and your intellect by those in charge. Religions are TERRIFIED that their sheep my just start thinking for themselves and question authority. How sad for people who have so few feelings of self-worth or of themselves that they must bend for authority in order to feel fulfilled.

    If you are religious, great! Now...make that bond between your God and yourself...and, leave everyone else out! They just want your mind, your money and your obedience. How altruistic of them...not!

    September 16, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  15. cbr

    Some of the comments are exaggerated to a degree that makes me wonder where people get this information. Judaism is a religion. Those who follow Judaism are called Jews. These people do not belong to just one race.

    I very much doubt that the people who write negative comments are poorly educated. In fact, they are very clever because they get others to react to what they are writing. Thus, they make their hatred travel far and wide. people In my lifetime I have witnessed and heard enough of these comments to make me realize that there are those in this country who will never give up hating their fellow citizens.

    September 16, 2011 at 6:06 am |
    • Will

      They aren't a "race" per se, but they are a nation/ethnicity. World Jewry as a whole actually shares a lot in common with a nation-state - membership (or "citizenship") can either be passed down from parent (mother) to child, or a person can go though a "naturalization process" which ultimately requires the "candidate" to stand before a Beit Din (religious court) in the same way that gaining citizenship in a country requires a person to go though a learning process and pass a final test.

      Judaism may be a religion, but it's hardly the same thing as someone converting to a "conventional" religion, where you can say "Bismallah-al-rahem-al-raheem" or the Nicene creed and instantly be considered a Muslim or Christian. The fact that they're so restrictive with membership, view themselves as the "chosen people", and pay each-other favors to get elevated to positions of power TOGETHER is what troubles a lot of people.

      September 16, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Chris

      Wait...so whether or not you can join the religion is based upon the decision of MAN? Nice religion...that'd be like a Christian's ability to be baptized being decided by the preacher. Can you say, "good ol' boy club"?

      September 16, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Ya'akov

      @Chris...Judaism is no different in that regard than many large Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, Anglicanism, the LDS church, etc. You can either be born in or follow the steps necessary to convert. One major difference, however, is that Jews don't think it matters what religion you are; you don't have to be Jewish to be "saved". We are just one "nation" (to use a bible term) among many, each of whom have their own covenant with God. Jews believe they were "chosen" to receive the Torah and enter into a special covenant (although many many liberal Jews reject this!) This
      chosen-ness" creates obligations of the Jewish people...it does NOT confer privileges.

      September 18, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  16. Benzoic Acid

    Its interesting how no one here really has criticized this particular sect of Jews for being as conservative as they are. If a Muslim made their own version of Facebook, the thread would be full of garbage against Muslims. At the end of the day, there's no such thing as "internet security" as was shown by this poor guys site getting hacked...such a shame lol

    September 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  17. djrkw

    that's messed up the site got hacked by jihadists

    September 15, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  18. VegasRage

    What a bunch of idiots

    September 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  19. Christine

    John: Jews is a race not a religion. There are by FAR hundreds of millions of non-Jews that are well educated and smarter than the Jews on this planet. Religion has nothing to do whether someone is smart and educated, or not. Jews helps each other and get billions of dollars of support from the USA that's why they are what they are today

    September 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Christine is not educated

      Wow Christine, you are completely ignorant. There are fewer than 15 million Jews worldwide. That's .21% of the population. Since you are probably not good at math, that is ONE-FIFTH OF ONE PERCENT. And you suggest the Jews are ruling the world? Well, if that is the case, whatever "race" you belong to is pretty pathetic. Judaism is a RELIGION, by the way, not a race. Where do they teach this kind of crap? Oh, I know, in the same place they teach that evolution is "just a theory." Nevermind, you wouldn't understand that...

      September 16, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  20. Christine

    Jealous of Jews?! LOL... they should be greatful and happy that the U.S. accepts them and gives Israel billions of $$ every year from our tax money instead of keeping them in America to our people. Jews help each other, cheat and steal $$ that's why they own everything. Sorry but it's true. I feel bad for those who don't believe in Jesus Christ.. they won't go to heaven

    September 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • PopeJon

      I'm personally agnostic so don't even try to put me in some group. But you are why so many people hate and don't trust Christians. You don't even know who Jesus is or what he stands for to Christians with such ignorant statements.

      September 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • mark

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      Karl Maramorosch (1980)
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      September 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • mark

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      (38% of recipients)

      --------------------------–

      JINFO.ORG

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      Leonard Kleinrock (2007)
      Robert Lefkowitz (2007)
      Andrew Viterbi (2007)
      Berni Alder (2008)
      Michael Posner (2008)
      Yakir Aharonov (2009)

      Esther Conwell (2009)
      Mortimer Mishkin (2009)
      Stanley Prusiner (2009)
      Amnon Yariv (2009)

      September 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
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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.