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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. Zookz

    Patriarchal religions suck.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  2. jtmune

    In this country a christian is just as dangerous

    September 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  3. David Buchbinder

    Oy vey!

    September 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  4. jtmune

    Well isnt it fascinating how we realize that there is freedom of religion, yet those same orthodox religious followers have a similar belief to all major religions in history including greeks, egyptians, jews, mormons,etc. And these followers make a large demographic of political votes in a country that loves to start wars and elect politicians who will be 'guided by the hand of god'.....excuse me as I am affected by these people....their practices cab affect me

    September 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  5. JewHoo

    Oi!

    September 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  6. jerry west

    you talk about filled religion but the very things you say came out of the mouths of those who have committed the worst crimes against mankind

    September 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      What are you talking about?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Me

    STOOOOPID!!!!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  8. jerry west

    which one of you that spout there is no God can actually prove it?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • HellBent

      Extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence. The burden is on the one proposing there is an unseen, unheard, unobservable omnipotent being, not on the one that notices a distinct lack of evidence of such.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      That's a first grader fallacy. This thread requires a 3rd grade education.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Normon

      What God?

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

      @HellBent,

      Of course, not being able to prove in the existence of God doesn't negate the possibility God exists. What I think Jerry was hoping for was that the Atheists here stop reacting in a reactionary sort of way and start stating their position on their own two feet; in other words, come up with proof of their claim "there is no god". I find such a claim "there is no god" extraordinary, and I, for one, would like to see someone prove it. I find it extraordinary, because in my estimation, a Creator would make creation an easy task; creation creating itself rather difficult.

      Peace.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Nice One!

      So Paperjihad , you want atheists to "start stating their position on their own two feet"? Brilliant.

      Atheists are not making a claim; they are refusing to believe your claim. The claim is that there is a God. This is what needs to be proved. That claim had to exist before atheists could reject it. It's the first claim.

      By your tangled logic, it is your duty to prove that Allah and Quetzlcoatl and Ra and Thor and Pele do not exist. You, by your own logic, are required to prove the non-existence of the thousands of other gods that are claimed. When you start living up to your own assertions, then we will happily do so.

      So go ahead, brainiac. Use your own to feet to state your position why Brahmā is not the creator.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Normon

      I don't believe that there 'is no God'.
      It is just that I believe in God as much as I believe in Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, Jupiter, Marduk, Ra, Osiris, Crom, etc.

      September 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Logic

      I don't believe there is a God, and I also don't believe in wasting large amounts of time and resources researching and trying to prove whether he exist or not. I'm a man of reason, facts, and logic. I use my senses and deductive reasoning to draw logical conclusions. I'm also a humanitarian. Just because I don't believe in God doesn't mean I don't have morals. I treat others the way I would want to be treated, because I know the result of harming others, not because some omnipotent "eye in the sky" is always watching me. If there is a God and he is truly just, he will judge me based on my merits of helping fellow humans and making the world a better place to live, not how many times I dropped to my knees, clapped my hands together and chanted prayers.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Normon

      One finds truth in Logic and vice versa.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Being an atheist is like being a mathematician. A mathematician "cannot prove" the existence of the number zero. Zero is an abstract quanti.ty, until you apply it to something, such as a bank account, or the amount of fuel in your gas tank. If you think you can prove that zero exists, try dividing by it. The concept of a god is similar. I cannot "prove" that a god doesn't exist, but by the same token, unlike zero and the above examples I have given, You cannot prove that a god DOES exist.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  9. SCAtheist

    Will this stop them from reproducing?

    September 13, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Jesus

      I hope so. Orthodoxy in religion is truly a cancer on our world stage.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      I think they use a hole through a sheet or something like that.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Normon

      @Jesus,
      Just orthodoxy?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Garnet69

      SCAthiest.....the hole in the bed sheet is an old wives' tale.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  10. Reush

    I giggle whenever I hear a religious person worry about the education of their child. The irony amuses me.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  11. miki

    funny but the design of the LOGO has all in one circle – no difference between male/female...
    so what hold me up no to register as a female and enter the female section... behind the doors we all react the same, male seeks female – female seeks male...

    September 13, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  12. killallthewhiteman

    eeghh

    September 13, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Blanche Whiteman (President of the Bleached Albino Society)

      @killallthewhiteman,
      First, shouldn't that be ...whitemen?
      Second, who would feed you then?

      September 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  13. Smegmazor

    This article got me wondering what would've happened if Roman mythology was still prevalent today. There would probably be a social networking site for all the deities serving under Zeus.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Mythman

      You mean Jupiter right?

      September 13, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  14. Gezus

    Oy Vey!

    September 13, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  15. Mike

    Once again religious bigotry raises it's ever present and ugly head. Separate buses for women and men and now separate internet sites. Get over it people. Your patriarchal mythology lost it's relevance millenia ago. All this because if a man sees a woman's hair he will be unable to control himself. And of course, when it happens the woman will be branded a harlot and the man is comforted as the victim of her wanton ways.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Thinker23

      I'm not sure what your problem is, Mike. As long as no one forces you or anyone else to ride in separate buses or post on separate discussion boards you have no moral or other right to force those willing to ride separate buses and post on separate discussion boards to follow YOUR beliefs. It is called FREEDOM OF RELIGION.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • TMH041

      @Mike – You said it perfectly. Orthodox religions seem to prevent people from being human. Isn't the ultimate test of devotion to be tested and overcome? I find it sad that people think they need to live their lives like this to be faithful. Well, it least is makes for an interesting society.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  16. @ Reality -> christianity is garbage

    You have way to much time on your hand. Put that bible down and learn what reality actually is.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  17. Grow Up

    Sounds very Muslim to me. They are all the same in the Midfle East–including Israel.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • CL

      Seriously-Please note that the 3 major religions are all based on the Five Books-Old Testament/Torah/Q'ran.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Michelle

      Bigoted and incorrect.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  18. Tripp

    I dont understand religions and cultures that segragate their women. It makes no sence other than satisfieing their religious dogma.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • bob

      Well when religions where made up, being an adult was around 15. and this explains the mentality of the religions, what would a insecure boy do, trap women, make up stories that don't exceed the science at the time, and basic control/guilt.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  19. Tanker

    As if Facebook was enough of a time-suck, now we have Jewish Facebook.

    All the fun of Facebook, and your mom sending you on guilt trip because you are 32 and not married...

    September 13, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Mensch

      "...and when are you going to give me grandchildren? You know I'm not getting any younger!!!"

      September 13, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  20. msclair

    Ad-blockers

    September 13, 2011 at 10:14 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.