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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. Carl

    Hilarious! It seems all religions have their wackos.

    The funniest images for me are seeing Jews at the Wailing Wall, bending back and forth. Seriously? I think I must be in the Middle Ages still.

    No wonder Israelis who leave Israel hate the zealots? They are backwards and intolerant and expect US to support them.

    September 18, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Dan

      It is the ultra orthodox Jews that carry on those traditions. Guess you can compare it to the churches whose members still kneel for submission and surrender. Most churches have gotten rid of that practice but some still carry on with that very old tradition within the Catholic church.
      I would not necessarily call them wackos. If anything, you can say that they live a very interesting lifestyle.

      September 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Spartacus

      wow

      could you be any more completely lost that that statement proves outright that you are.

      September 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  2. Ben

    While it is not intolerant, it is clearly designed to say "See, the muslims aren't the only ones" in an effort to again show how we unfairly single out Muslims. Well, Orthodox Jews and Conservative Chrsitians,other than the odd nut, aren't beheading journalists, blowing up weddings, lighting girls on fire for going to school, etc on a daily bases as part of massive, organized movements with thousands of members. They also don't have states where they codify the abuse of women or forbid the practice of other religions. So, not intolerant...just transparent.

    September 18, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Spartacus

      Very well said Ben.

      Thanks!

      At least someone here has a mind, knows the facts, and cares about the TRUTH.

      September 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • David

      Ben,

      Intransigent Jewish people don't need car bombs. They have the state of Israel to carry out their job in a pseudo-legal manner, with the sanction of the US. Don't get me wrong, I think those crazy Muslim nuts are out of their minds. But let's face it, Israel is just as bad. They just have powerful friends. I would put the ALL Middle Easters in the same sack and ship them to Mars. There, they can blow each other up at will and leave the rest of us alone and at piece. Oh yeah, please take those crazy Christian extremist with you...

      September 18, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  3. Steve

    Go to the website now, it has been hacked and shut down.

    September 18, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  4. HRSanders

    Woah… I’m straight genuinely enjoying this cobweb template/style of this website. It’s unadorned, allowing great. More usually than not it’s tough to bring back that “correct balance” between narcotic addict friendliness plus visual appeal. I may formal you’ve done an great responsibility with this. In annexe, the weblog starts extremely fastened to me on Safari. Special Blog…

    September 18, 2011 at 4:37 am |
  5. cheese

    Beats the hell out of Islamic intolerance all across the world.

    In the Islamic world, you don't get segregated on the internet, you get segregated in the real world, with real penalties if you flout that.

    However, CNN will never mention that, because it would be "islamophobic" and "racist" to debate about Islam. And it also might get your heads cut off. That's why they resort to articles on shenanigans of Jews and Christians and Hindus, because they as a whole would not result to beheadings and bombings over news articles (unlike the peaceful muslims).

    September 18, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Muhammad Ali Farooq

      CNN is not about the news, it is about the views.... read foxnews or Npr they are better then GNN

      September 18, 2011 at 4:03 am |
  6. Shmuel

    Doesn't look hacked to me. Maybe they fixed it by now.

    September 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  7. dinak

    As does Muslims! But of course, CNN would never highlight that fact – but the Jews or Christians – all of their idiosyncrasies are fine to highlight.

    September 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Ian

      "As does Muslims"?

      September 17, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Ben

      Ian, you are so typical. No counterpoint. No debate. Right for the arrogant, elitist, "I am so smart" pick out of what might be bad grammar or maybe even a typo. Typical of you and your ilk who can't debate so try to debase.

      September 18, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • ummm

      LOL @Ben....great counter in the debate!...oh wait...

      September 18, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  8. gunkel,ray

    yes i want that like that !thanks for your notification.

    September 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  9. john

    People can live their lives how they want. If they want to follow religion, than so be it. That's what makes us all individuals. One person could say how did everything in the world get created? All the way down to dust particles and atoms, did they just appear out of nowhere one day? I believe in a higher power, spirits and an after life. Bash me for it if you want but that's my beliefs and I will always stand true to who I am. The people who bash others people religious beliefs have too much hate in their hearts. Live, laugh and love regardless of your own beliefs

    September 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  10. Paul

    As an atheist of Jewish background I find it amazing that in an age where people have actually walked on the moon there are still those who live their lives on their knees allowing religious claptrap to determine their behaviors. The primitiveness of the religious is astounding. It's amazing our species has survived this long.

    September 17, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • pat carr

      Well said. this type of religion belongs in the dark ages

      September 17, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • conrad

      Not really wanting a huge argument about whether God exists or not ...

      Last night while standing on the platform waiting for the subway I saw two people covered in tattoos licking each others faces. I also saw at least a dozen young women in shoes with heels so high they wobbled, another several hundred with an unmoved fixed gaze on their iGadgets, another several hundred with earphones plugged into their head as they bounced and gyrated. All this while pushing and shoving each other to be the first on the train to maybe get a seat for the 10 minute ride.

      Just saying ... but I'm not sure what having gone to the moon has to do with what a people allows their behavior to be influenced by, but it is certain that our current lifestyle too is very primitive. Marketing and the products sold are essentially functioning in response to the most base impulses of humankind. We've simply replaced religion and God with distraction and obsession with youth and prolonging life. At least some religious traditions invite practices that lead to self-awareness.

      September 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • robert

      Survived. But look at the break down of marriage in our society. People are so fickle. People easily go astray. Feeling bored n their marriage they are looking for some excitement.. Social networking makes it easier to flirt than ever. Whilst it is understandable that people should be able to control themselves, it seems the human race are poor at this. Just look how many people break diets they have started, and can't stop addictions. It's time to get real. family life is important for our children. Too many are growing up in broken homes, unsure how to maintain happy love-filled marriages over 60 years.

      September 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • mark

      and u liberal secular jews consider yourself tolerant people ur comments are offensive u should be ashamed of yourself especially with a Jewish background u should be more sensitive to religious Jews

      September 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ben

      It is also amazing that as a member of a free society, you cannot do what most people secure in their beliefs and life choices would do and not visit the site. Instead, you feel the need the take every and any opportunity to bash religion and insult those with belief. All the while, if someone dared to mention that concept that you might be destined for hell for your lack of faith, you would undoubtedly use that statement as an opportunity to show their intolerance...

      September 18, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  11. DessKabir

    The websites been hacked.

    September 17, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • john

      lol I know, I went on the site and saw it is hacked. This has been a couple days now it's been hacked. Guess the site is really taking off lol

      September 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  12. TheTharms

    Just imagine how different the tone of this article would be if this website had been written for Muslims instead of Jews and targeted to the Iranian market instead of the Israeli one? And we think our media doesn't control the story any how we think about things!

    September 17, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  13. Mickey

    EdNv ... and you call yourself a Christian, right?

    Meanwhile, don't forget that YOU pray to a Jew!! How do you think Jesus would feel about your comment!!

    You haters just can't give it up.

    September 17, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  14. On my knees for God's pleasure

    If you go to the website right now it is hacked by some "free Palestine" schmucks

    September 17, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  15. EdNv

    Ah, yes - the tolerant Jews.

    September 17, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Ya'akov

      Where is there an example of intolerance in this article?

      September 17, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  16. Michael

    Whenever I see those modest dressed Hassidic women, I make eyes at them. One of these days I'm gonna score with one and see if they are freaks in bed, which is the vibe I get.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  17. AlienShark

    good for them, let them stick with their culture.

    September 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  18. jimzcarz

    I believe in evolution and I believe in God. It's religion I have a problem with.

    September 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  19. Jez

    Not so different from the any-day-now Muslim Facebook. Hmmmmm

    September 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • AlienShark

      that is because of the overwhelming similarities from the revelations to Moses and the revelations to Muhammad.

      September 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Ya'akov

      Orthodox Judaism and Sunni Islam share much in common theologically and in ritual practice...but don't try to tell them that!!

      September 17, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  20. Necrofun

    You don't want to be 'poked' in FaceGlat.

    September 16, 2011 at 7:35 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.