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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. Asklepios417

    "with FaceGlat, members are separated by gender into two distinct networks (click left to join the women, right to join the men)"

    Now why didn't Facebook think of that !

    Imagine how popular it would be.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • Asklepios417

      "click left to join the women, right to join the men"

      What are the epicene people supposed to click ?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  2. FU

    Backwards beliefs deserve a social network too apparently...

    September 13, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  3. WallyWorld

    I saw the WalMart video a while back. I now cannot go through a WalMart without looking for the people of WalMart, and they are always there. Usually the song pops into my head as well . . . which I guess is better than having Jesus' voice pop into my head.

    Church and WalMart, both are filled with the strangest people, and I try to stay out of both.

    September 13, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  4. Daws

    Interestingly the site used to be a palestinian one, but they kicked all those old members off and remade it. However those former members vowed they'd one day be back. They have their own site now....but it's not as good, slow lag time and lots of bugs... Currently the two now just spend all their time launching hacks at eachother, and now no one wants to visit either of the sites 😛

    September 13, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Richieaznar

      Smart comment. Thats pretty much what the story is about. Since they are both semitic people stubborn as mule, i dont expect them to reach a peaceful solution. But i keep on hoping for peace.

      September 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  5. More mindless but funny YouTube stuff

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

    September 13, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  6. Jennifer

    Interesting! It's nothing I'd want for myself, but there are plenty of conservative Christians and Muslims who might use a site like this. I wonder if he'd consider marketing it to other religions?

    September 13, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  7. Brent

    Nothing but a bunch of 3rd world weirdo's. Why do we even have news about nut bag religions anyways? People need to learn to keep that stuff to yourselves. Wars dont get started that way...

    September 13, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Toko

      To give idiots like you something to do

      September 13, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  8. MadamDeb

    Hey, it's their business if they choose to do this.

    Live and let live.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  9. ThinkForYourself

    Talk about a niche market. What's next, an Amish-themed smart phone?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Lindsay Lohan's Guide To Drinking During AA Meetings

      A Lamborghini for the Dalai Lama?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Electric Larry

      He will only drive it down the Middle Path.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • hilarious

      LOL.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Huh

      I thought he would have taken the high road.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Master Po

      The Middle Path is the high road, young grasshopper. Now you must beat the crap out of those cowboys in a most calm and peaceful way.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  10. Leonid Brezhnev

    If you are going to use Yiddish words, at least spell them correctly. It's not "smuck" but "shmok". I'm not Jewish, but I at least know how to spell the words....you putz.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Roscoe Chait

      I think you mean "shmuck." That's probably what HW meant to say, but dropped the "h". It can also be spelled "Schmuck." There's no such Yiddish word as "shmok." Now who's the putz?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  11. prospero

    Stop! Stop! Will you stop that! Stop it! Now, look!
    No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle! Do you
    understand? Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear,
    even if they do say Jehova! (bonk, bonk, bonk)

    September 13, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  12. ready

    Jews: as backwards as muslims

    September 13, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • mike

      You said what I was going to say...they deserve each other and the middle-east...

      September 13, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • ThinkForYourself

      Right ... because there aren't any backwards christian groups.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Roscoe Chait

      You forgot to mention the Christian group that demonstates at the funerals of our soldiers claiming that they deserved to die. I"m glad that all Christians are not backward or nuts.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • carla

      you folks need to take some cultural diversity classes. We live in a diverse country/world. You will be much better people for learning how to get along with your fellow citizens.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  13. Socrates

    I love dogma and the dogmatics. It shows you how a few smart guys take control on the lives of the ignorants. If we analyze or take a good look at any religion we can see that they don`t make any sense. All those religion books that were written thousand years ago by people who had no idea about other cultures or how could they make sense one thousand years later are no better than cartoons. This fanatics killed scientists and intellectuals because they dared to use their intelligence and realize that religion makes no sense at all. There is so much to say about this nonsense, however, I don`t think there is a need to go to deep on this matter. People are not stupid anymore, they are waking up. The opium of the masses. I don`t agree with Marx but he was so right on this one.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  14. HW

    How many Hasid does it take to change a light bulb?

    Vat is a lightbulb?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  15. John

    Why facebook for Jews ? NOthing like wanting to segregate. How about a German Facebook ?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • carla

      wonderful thing about the U.S.A is that we all get to or don't have to practice whatever religion/philosophy we want, unlike some other screwed up countries.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • carla is not Carla

      Fair warning, carla, there is a total whack job who posts here who has been going by "Carla" recently – other names include Justina, FairGarden, and HappyMeal. She is really nuts, so don't be surprised if people mistake you for her and treat you like you need thorazine and a straight jacket.

      Perhaps another name?

      September 13, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  16. HW

    Racism? No, it is sarcasm. Hey this is the 21st. C. You want to me a smuck, be my guest.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  17. MoMo

    LMAO, Jewish facebook.

    I only imagine the amount of racist comments if it was "black facebook" LMAO

    September 13, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • carla

      great idea. Why not?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  18. HW

    Did I just step into the 17th. Century? I must have been asleep. I just can't do it between the sheets. I must get under the sheets.
    This is so ludicrous; as I remember when I was a Hasid, I went to my neighborhood female whose services relived myself.
    I was cured of lunacy, now I can't get enough of female companionship. Hooray, keep them wanting for more.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Electric Larry

      Your neighborhood female? That's a pretty interesting euphemism for a prostitute. I kind of like it.

      "So where are you off to this evening"

      "I'm off to the Goddess Temple to see the neighborhood female."

      "Well make sure John Thomas wears his raincoat, and don't park the pink Porsche in her dirty garage."

      September 13, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  19. John Arguelles

    I'm Jewish born and raised. Some of these customs for other Jews are just to far out there. I'm from a family of only one boy and three sisters. I just don't see this the same way as many Jews.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  20. Johnny Blammo, International Man Of Mystery

    Okay, FaceGlat is definitely in competition for the Dullest Website In The World. I think it might beat out Spam Sushi Recipes site, and maybe even Cockroach Jugglers Online Forum for that title.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Indiana Squirrel, Raider Of The Lost Acorn

      Well, at least it makes the Siegfried and Roy website look pretty good in comparison.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:35 am |
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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.