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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. Jeff Spangler

    Another example of why modern citizens of the world reject Judaism– its laughable tribal rituals used to subjugate women.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Hehe101

      Excuse me, but at least the women can use the Internet. Oh, I'm also Jewish (and a woman) and we don't all keep kosher, wear tefilin, or not drive on Saturday. At least you don't see us killing each other over stupid things, except of course the odd person who commits murder for any of the usual reasons.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Brian

      Or anybody that claims to be a messiah.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • Sandirs

      I find your comments offensive. There are plenty of extremes in Christianity, including racism and anti-Semitism to the point of genocide for over 2 millennia. There are a lot of reasons to reject Christianity, too, including arcane rituals and practices.

      I don't subscribe to the ultra-Orthodox way of life at all, but at least many or their practices are grounded in a sense of modesty and privacy that I find lacking in this country today. As long as no one is held to this lifestyle by force (e.g. by the Taliban or the mullahs of Iran) and all are free to leave, what's your problem??

      Or yes. That you're a bigot!

      September 15, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  2. kirstyloo

    If this modification works for them, I wish them all the best. While I wouldn't choose to use it (and rarely use Facebook), it appears as though this system would better allow some conservatives to use social media. This might be nice for family communications or interactions over long distances. All the best!

    September 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  3. a

    Looking at this discussion, the only question that keeps on popping up in my head is why do all these commentators really care about how other people live their lives.

    They say that when someone is really comfortable with their own viewpoints, they dont judge anyone else because its just another viewpoint. (something to think about)

    September 12, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • MCR

      Fantastic response and right on target. Thank you "a"

      September 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Anthony Rathore

      Are you comfortable with slavery and genocide, or the Halocaust? cause its just another viewpoint – and you shouldnt be judgemental.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • a

      Anthony

      Slavery, genocide and holocaust are examples of an action where group A did something to group B.

      Group B never wanted any of part of that action, and therefore group A had no right to commit these actions. Therefore, its the responsibility of the global community to respond to these actions.

      However, in this case, a group is doing an act to themselves which they want. Therefore, it is no one else's business to interfere or to comment on.

      So I ask the question again. Why do all these commentators care about what a certain group is doing? Is it because they have nothing to do? Or maybe they are just uncomfortable with the way they live their life?

      September 15, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • GoodGuy81

      Very, very well said, a. You sound like an intelligent person that gets it. If a group of people choose to live by a certain set of rules and actually don't mind, then their beliefs should be respected as we would want our beliefs to be accepted and respected as well. This has nothing to do with genocide or slavery, but with an online site that wants to cater to the beliefs its religious members freely follow. I'm a Catholic simply because I was raised by Catholic parents but I realize not everyone is Catholic in life so there will be different sets of values and beliefs and I respect those. Every group is different. No one group is better or holier than another.

      September 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  4. HeavenSent

    All the non-believers out in force tonight with their insults. Bottom line, they don't want you in their group.

    Amen.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Woof

      So you are insulting people who insult? No hypocrisy there.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • HellBent

      @HS – I'm guessing you didn't get an invite either.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • carla

      it is a full moon after all

      September 13, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  5. Joshua

    Seems to me that there are a lot of extremists here who decry the freedom to engage in the social media and avenues reflective of one's own personal beliefs.

    Is this really that outrageous?

    You people attack different beliefs with a fanaticism which is truly disturbing.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • vanessa

      They attack because the modesty of one group shines a light on the immodesty and dark nature of their own doings/thoughts. People take it as being judged, but it isn't. If you are a follower of Christianity, the example of this is Jesus. Don't be too upset with people for being this way– it takes a supernatural force to overcome the natural desire to lash out when you feel you've been shown up in some way. Put more simply– they are fulfilling their job description.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  6. Reality

    For your consideration:(new members only, no ID or PW required)

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    September 12, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • clabiron

      Dude that's too long, I'm not gonna even bother and read it.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • carla

      Do some research before you start spitting out things likek "probably doesn't exist, or doesn't exist etc;? Probably s are never a good place to start your debate

      September 13, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Reality

      For the "reading challenged":

      SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:
      THERE NEVER WERE AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR

      SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:
      THERE WERE NEVER ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS AND THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY

      SAVING 15.5 MILLION ORTHODOX FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM:
      ABRAHAM AND MOSES PROBABLY NEVER EXISTED.

      Added details upon request.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  7. Gizmologist

    I understand there are a LOT of Jews who do not care for the Chabad/Lubavitch sects at all. They DO seem a tad....out there.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  8. George

    "....People like you are why some still believe in eugenics." – Quote

    Like Israel....I suppose?

    September 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  9. thatsJustdumb

    Religion; for the weak of mind.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • UmYeaOk

      Only a weak minded person would come to a religion thread and make that comment. If your so smart why visit these stories where all the dumb people come for news?

      September 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  10. GuestColin

    You religious folk are a kooky bunch.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Uh – wait. Does this mean that my Internet traffic will have to travel outside of the telephone lines that demarcate my neighborhood? I'm not allowed OUT THERE!

      September 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • UmYeaOk

      No kooky is commenting about something you don't belive in, you don't come to make an intelligent and thoughful comment. No, you come to insult, you think your superior for you lack of belief but the fact you come here to mock and insult others shows you for the small minded person you are. Maybe one day you will get to have a life and the highlight of your day won't be posting insults in the comment section. I know that day seems far off for you but it can happen....

      September 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • UmYeaOk is Leading the Nincompoop Parade

      That's pretty funny coming from a guy who never does anything other than insult people.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • AGuest9

      UmYeah* – Carla, we're all tired of your alter-egos.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Waffle Bob

      It's not Carla/Justina/BentBrain. The writing style is different. This is a new moron.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Me

      That's not fair. Many people use drugs to get through everyday life. Religion is just another drug. It is usually one that is taken willfully, and harmless. If it brings peace of mind to the users, and does not directly effect nonusers, then there are no losers.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  11. George

    "http://ayannanahmias.com/2010/04/29/israel-accused-of-sterilizing-ethiopian-jews"
    "http://www.health.medicbd.com/library/video?vq=Israel+accused+of+STERILIZING+Ethiopian+Jews+to+rid+the+country+of+African+bloodlines&submit=Search"
    "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613020/Ethiopian-Jews-in-Israel-still-await-the-promised-land.html"
    "http://www.wvwnews.net/printer.php?id=8457"

    The youtube clip was from a RT News "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RT_%28TV_network%29"

    I guess my 2 brain cell's worth a lot eh?

    September 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  12. trent1280

    This is enough to give religious lunacy a bad name.

    It - almost - makes televangelists look sane, and that takes some doing.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  13. Andrea M

    Paysite? How does he intend to pay the bills for the site if he doesn't have ads? Perhaps ads for your local kosher butcher or something would be ok?

    September 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Like High Holy Days – sell tickets.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  14. James1

    Religion is so stupid. "Please tell me what to do and how to live my life, I'm so retarded I can't think for myself"

    September 12, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      We noticed.

      Amen.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • UmYeaOk

      Yes James1, you are retarded. Your comment speaks volumes...

      September 12, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • carla

      another uneducated person trying to talk big but makes no sense.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • ThinkForYourself

      "UmYeaOk
      Yes James1, you are retarded. Your comment speaks volumes..."

      Pot, I'd like to introduce you to my good friend, kettle.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • fred

      Not that hard James, just tell Jesus that you need His help to find God and turn your life around. Tell Jesus you want to believe but cant please help me. That's all.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • schmed

      James,

      It also works equally well if you ask Thor, Krishna, the Little Mermaid, Santa, or Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      September 13, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  15. Pakistani

    Let's look at some quotes from the Chabad-Lubavitch's paramount leader, Rebbe Menachem Schneersohn

    “a non-Jewish soul comes from the three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness.”
    “The body of a Jewish embryo is on a higher level than is the body of a non-Jew.”

    “the substance of all [divine] emanations was created only to serve the Jews.”

    “The entire creation [of a non-Jew] exists only for the sake of the Jews.”

    “the body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the body of [members] of all nations of the world…A non-Jew’s entire reality is only vanity.”

    What a great guy!

    September 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  16. Richard

    To each their own. I'd rather live in a world without the censorship, but of course I'm not religious like them either.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • kirstyloo

      This is self imposed not an external censorship. People can opt in or out. It is their choice just like parents choose what their children are allowed to watch.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  17. Wzrd1

    You mean two BRAIN CELLS. There is no such "vaccination" that sterilizes humans.
    The use of Youtube is pathetic. No REAL source, just the ravings of a lunatic on youtube.
    Pity there IS no such shot, I'd honestly look you up and use it on you. To prevent you further contaminating the human gene pool. People like you are why some still believe in eugenics.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  18. Justdumb

    How friggin stupid.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  19. Mr Oy Vey

    Oy Vey. It's all we can really say.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  20. Mel Gibson

    What if you're a gay transgender?

    September 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • carla

      noooooooooooooooooooooo, not THEM. lol

      September 13, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • Anthony Rathore

      Where you would go would depend on weather you have physical attributes that are unique to females or males. Ofcourse some priest or elder would need to verify it.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:35 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.