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. Daniel

    The society is rotting just look what is happening in Britain.... Alcoholsm, family breakups and others this is due to lack of social control mechanism to especially the exploring age. I love the faceglat....... I think if that could have happened we could have controled some of the man made caterstrphies...

    September 14, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Phil

      Only in the extremely religious sects like this one is there a warped view that society is rotten. You would take us back to the dark ages by your doctrines. Which is evident by the backward mentality towards women. Is it any wonder the western world hates Muslims and Jews, when you maintain the ancient barbaric doctrines and then believe that it should be part of a modern society?
      there is no place at all in the modern world for this kind of thinking...

      September 14, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • tallulah13

      You say "control" a lot.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  2. JON

    a pretty good sound idea...like it much...nice work FACEGLAT!!!!

    September 14, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  3. Mel Gibsonowitz

    What if you're transgender. Can you play both sides of the fence?

    September 14, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • John

      Obvious anti-semite troll is obvious.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:34 am |
  4. jerry west

    lol come on boys curse me a little more. and when you're done crawl off your high horse of self belief and get to work. prove to me there is no God and this is all one big accident.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Normon

      What god ?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  5. hijack28

    Where is the ACLU on this !!

    September 14, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • John

      What, are you under the impression that FaceGlat is ran by the government?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:34 am |
  6. jerry west

    hellbent in my point of it is you who makes the extraordinary claim. you say there is no God. prove it

    September 14, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  7. Reality

    For the "reading challenged":




    Added details upon request. Also, see p. 4 and p. 10.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • mj

      to say you know for sure that there is no God is the ultimate arrogance

      September 14, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • Omar, Riverside, California

      and for you and all those that pose there is, is even more arrogance. The only thing you have to fall back on is a book written by men. A great book at that if you count it by numbers printed. But you have to remember that this book was crammed down the throat of many and if they refused they were killed. For anyone to say god any god exists is pure arrogance as much as for those to say one doesn't. I will pose it plainly there is no measurable evidence that a god exists and therefore there is no god. If you can formulate a scientifically proven experiment that proves god exists then you can Show it to me with the noble peace prize in science for proving what no one else in the world has. Now take your book which is no more than toilet paper in my eyes and STFU. I mean it about any religious text BIBLE KORAN TORAH heck even smoe shamanistic text in some backwoods tribe hut.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Mel Gibsonowitz

      And no easter bunny????? o, poop

      September 14, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • arathans

      religion is and always has been nothing more then a way to control the population. believing in god, is no different to believing in fairies and leprechaun´s (and to keep mel happy, cute little fluffy easter bunnies too)

      September 14, 2011 at 3:57 am |
    • John

      This sort of reason is the ultimate arrogance. Mankind can barely see things bigger than our own planet just outside our own backyard, much less be able to tell what exists at the farthest reaches, or in other dimensions we believe to exist but cannot access yet. Even from a scientific standpoint your argument is ridiculous. To claim to "know" there is no God, and yet still not knowing so much of what there is to know about the universe, is just taking something you want to believe on faith. Are you a religious person?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:37 am |
    • Reality

      What we know for certain:

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids in the asteriod belt continue to envelope the solar system. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_belt

      3. One large hit and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 billion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 billion years?

      September 14, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  8. Jason

    It is their beliefs and its not like they are trying to shove their religion down your throat. Everyone seems to always point the finger at Abrahamic Religions and blame them for society's problems. Didn't Plato believe human reproduction should be controlled by the government? Wasn't Charles Dawin's cousin (Francis Galton) the person that coined the term "eugenics"? Didn't Roman Law require deformed children to be killed?

    September 14, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Ali

      It is their beliefs and its not like they are trying to shove their religion down your throat.

      They're much too sneaky to impose themselves that way. Instead groups such as Aish and Chabad prowl around college campuses inviting secular kids on "free" trips to Israel, to "free" dinners and to learn Hebrew in their "free" classes. Sometimes they even pay the kids to attend their program. Little by little the kids are drawn in until they are swallowed up by this. Aish & Chabad are methodical and know what works. They operate like a cult because they are not up front about their intentions from the beginning. When most evangelicals knock on your door you know that they want to convert you to their religion. No so with these Jewish outreach groups. They are harmful & destroy intact secular families.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:23 am |
    • Whatever

      you're kidding Ali right? chabad house on my campus hosted events for jews by jews. now when i went to my student center, i was bombarded with "bible study" sessions from guess who...christians in addition to the more visible "Why Islam?" campaign where women in headscarves would sit and give pamphlets to ANYONE walking past them explaining how the Koran was the "right" way.
      You obviously never went to college and you're also probably muslim. 9 times out of 10, the minute you see someone scapegoating and blaming jews for their utter failures and laziness, it's a muslim.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Ali

      chabad house on my campus hosted events for jews by jews

      Exactly my point. They target secular Jews with the goal of making them ultra orthodox. That would be fine if they were up front about it. The problem is they aren't. They lead kids into this slowly until they are in over their heads. If they showed up in black hats, braids, with pre-torn toilet paper for the sabbath, & insisting that women sit at the back of the bus & walk on the other side of the street you'd have the same reaction to them as you have to the other groups. Chabad & Aish are sneaky because all roads eventually lead to ultra orthodoxy. It never starts off that way.

      And I do know what I'm talking about. I lost a child to Aish at an Ivy league school. Our secular family was destroyed by this. My child will not eat with us because we are not kosher, will not attend his sibling's wedding because of a non-Jewish spouse, did not attend a step parent's funeral because it was held in an interfaith chapel. They don't tell you this is where it leads, they layer it on slowly. They're good at what they do.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  9. Arjan

    Stupid ass whack CNN liberals will never understand faith or morality.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Michael Palin wants everyone to know that he is NOT related to Sarah Palin

      That's true, Arjan. You have to be a stupid ass whack conservative understand faith.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  10. jerry west

    actually what i was after is to give these rabid athetist a chance to prove God does not exist. one or all but please do try.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      How about you proving the virgin Mary was not a slut?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • arathans

      jerry, your an idiot. seriously. your the one who wants to believe in some fair tale. the burden of proof is yours, its not the other way around. you claim on object exists, therefore you are the one that needs to prove it does. its not the other way around. your logic is screwed buddy.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • Natalie

      athetist? I'm guessing that was suppose to be atheist. How about you prove jesus came back to life, that mary was a virgin, and if god is omnipotent and all knowing why could he not see that eve, adam and snake debacle.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  11. jona


    September 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  12. Seriously?

    I think it would be more effective if they just replaced the article with the text, "Please share your anti-semetic thoughts below."

    September 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  13. mickey1313

    So we are doing more to premote the seportation of peoples? The thiestic comunity makes me sick.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Brandon

      Your grammar makes me sick. I believe you meant "promote" and I have no clue what an alternative for "seportation" would be considering that isn't even close to being a word.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Brandon

      Oh, by the way you also spelled "community" and "theistic" wrong. I didn't notice them at first due to the laughter caused by your first sentence.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  14. Kim

    Disgusting....absolutely disgusting......let us not move forward, but rather try and go backwards....I am all for people having the right to choose and follow their own religion, but anyone who believes that this is an acceptable way to live life surely is not choosing this on their own. They must be influenced by someone...pathetic.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, why are people still following this thiestic crap

      September 13, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  15. David

    So if I believe I should beat my wife and she has a college degree and accepts it then it's OK. Bigotry and foolishness masked by religion.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Michelle

      Beating women is not a religious more, and it's certainly not applauded by any form of Judaism....so, no, that scenario is not supported by anything anyone has said.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  16. mark in nyc

    imagine that. jews endorsing segregation.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Michelle

      ? One suspects you don't know what you're talking about. In the fight for civil rights, Jewish leaders were at the fore. Judaism abhors segregation. This does not qualify.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  17. Christopher

    Any social networking site that has the word "face" as part of its name (and is not Facebook) is doomed.
    Mark Zuckerberg's lawyers (who are probably Jewish) will shut it down faster than you can slice a bagel.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Michelle

      Zuckerberg his himself Jewish. Not sure why you're bandying that about as though it's an absurd thing to be.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  18. lct1119

    Stop. This is the 21st century.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  19. Gita

    To better understand watch the movie "Kadosh". Very interesting on how they the ultra orthodox feel especially towards women.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Michelle

      Gita: the film's accuracy and objectivity have been widely called into question. 🙁

      September 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Ben Fogel

      Michelles got a point.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  20. Doug

    Well that's bigoted of them. Way to represent.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:29 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.