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. Steve O

    Shouldn't there be a sheet between those two icons?

    September 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • jdoe

      You mean the one with a hole in it?

      September 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  2. Reality

    For the "reading challenged": (please print out a copy and put it on your refrigerator door)




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

    September 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Andy H.

      I agree.

      – A

      September 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  3. Newyorker

    They have more in common with Wahhabi Muslims, than they do with most Jews or Christians.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  4. Brian

    What a joke, these orthodox religious creeps should just get over themselves and join the real world. Religion is dead, god is not.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  5. jerry west

    correction: am et, burden of proof is always on the accuser. you accuse me of being an idiot for believing in a God that doesn't exist. prove i am a fool. that God doesn't exist.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  6. Helena

    I thought facebook was the Jewish facebook.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  7. jerry west

    daniel burden of proof is always on the accuser. you accuse me of being an idiot for believing in a God that doesn't exist. prove i am a fool. that God doesn't exist.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Sean

      You are half right, the burden of proof is on the ‘accuser’ but it isn’t about proving you’re an idiot. You’ve done a good job of that yourself. You assert this ‘god’ is real. So prove it.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jake M

      Given it's mathematically impossible to prove a negative... Yeah, the burden of proof is on you to prove he exists. Though believing in him doesn't make you an idiot, attempting to misapply one of the most basic rules of logic does.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  8. Jake M

    Good to see I'm not the only one who thinks this is creepy. Especially that so many people do it to themselves.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  9. Wow, just wow

    J.C. 12 million of them around the world and you'd think that they were a billion!!!

    September 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  10. Me


    September 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  11. hawaiiduude

    I am really growing tired of cnn always having some stupid article about the holocaust or "jewish" topics other than how they treat palestinians..

    Who really care about a group of people desended from a remnant tribe whose supposed desendednts moved to russia and europe and even though they intermarried they kept to themselves and refused to assimilate like the other 11 tribes of israel
    so that makes them racist apartheid peoples certainly not a race. Because if they are a race what happenend to the 11 other "races"?

    The jewish lie is something the mass media hollywood, wall street and the news outlets have been pounding into the minds of sheeple americans since ww2.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Michelle

      Typical anti-Semitic rant from someone who has never been to Israel or Gaza or the West Bank, but likes to fake sympathy for Palestinians; and from someone who obviously knows very little about history in general and Jewish history more specifically.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Sean

      Lol someone calling themselves ‘hawaiidude’ attempting to insult a group of people by calling them a remnant tribe..

      September 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • MikeyNYC

      Hawaiiduude is famous for his antisemitic rants here on CNN, but that he is a hatemongering, antisemitic racist isn't his fault! Its not his fault that his parents are brother and sister, but he is very lucky, since its not often that someone can refer to their parents as both "mommy and daddy" and "auntie and uncle" at the same time!

      September 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  12. Pepou27

    The Taliban do the same, right?

    September 14, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Riech

      Yes. SAME as Muslim brothers.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Sean

      So does the Christian right.. what’s your point?

      September 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  13. Ruderalis

    If I was them, I would watch out. I looks like Hitler is making another list...

    September 14, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  14. saopaco

    Not exactly a "Facebook killer" is it?

    September 14, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  15. John

    Why not go a step ahead and differentiate even further: 4-5", click here. 5-6", click here. 33C, click here. 33B, click here.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  16. Matthew

    Hate Religious Fanatics. I'm a half jew, half catholic. I was not raised to be religious in anyway. We dont live in the dark ages. 20 layers of clothing in 100 degree weather. Everyone should assimilate and act modern. This is why we still have war, prejudices among other cultures. I'm not a total liberal or conservative either. Just want people to be normal.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  17. humankind

    Nice to read all individual comments. Everybody got good independent knowledge of what is going on in our universe in reality.
    We all must just think& act independenlty with our commonsense than just bullied by religions. Be a human & use your brain to think
    the good & bad side of religion, then just accept only good out of that. But believe anything that can give u with full eveidence ex: science with evidences
    All religious books are just a "bully" only to common people to believe for not doing any bad things & live as a human only( not as animals). When this bully ethics get in the hand of wrong people, they use this for their own selfishness( power & money to achieve& to maintain)
    So just we all must realise that ,we all are living together among BIG BULLIES only. I dont think mankind can escape from this big bullies. But we individual can avoid not to get in to the full trap of these bullies. We must isolate all these political &religious bullies from our human societies. Universe created with a BIG BANG, by a supernatural power of its own rules & regulations of phenomenon. With our human commonsence we are recognising the rules& regulations of Universe very easily in generations of observations & studies by humankind. That power is not the GOD expalained by any religious books, but it is purely the Universe's own truth & phenomenonal powers. Since GOD is so powerful, he/she (or it or whetever ) he can directly appear to the world & give a book to humankind& tell that this is what I want all human have to do like this. If he do that there is no descrimination as Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus etc. Just all are humans only. Then there is no terrorists, hypocrats , socialists or whatever may be. If so how good will be our life in this beautiful world given by that powerful GOD? Why he is so shy & hiding & meet only Jesus , Mohammed etc humans & tell all those truths secretly? That is why those humans claim that they are son of God & last prophet etc etc. Come on we all are son of God only. You just look at your own face. You really resembles all the secret in Universe. One thing is just true that we all born here & we know that we al will die. But we never know where it start & where it ends.
    But the way all humans now proving that there is no such GOD in this world & GOD is so powerless to control the humans. There cannot be a mistake by the supreme power of Universe right?. If it can be mistaken, surely a human baby can born for a dog mother right? It never can happen right? That is the power of this universe , its rules & regulations. Not as any religious books bullying to us. So far science also never can find out the real truth behind the universe. Still we are researching to find the secret of universe. I dont think even another 1,000 years we research also , we human will never can answe the real truth behind universe , since we all are humans but got very limitation in this universe. to think further or act further. So as a comfortable coclusion by human for a final answer, time to time they created their own God, then a book also. That is all all these BULLY RELIGIOUS books.So all the religious books are written & corrected by single or group of humans in time to time, not any GOD come to human & tell it directly. All those are already exists in the universe, so we all individual can just observe& follow only . But in our human social life, we need religions just to live as human with big hopes of our life. Otherwise what is the real motive we all have to live in this world as good human until we die? We never know what will happen after we all die. Only we just believe from those bullies that either go to hell or in heaven !!
    Just do something good in your life to go to SO CALLED HEAVEN. never to HELL ok ??

    September 14, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  18. Pat

    more creepy religious fanaticism, bleh...

    September 14, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  19. TheLion

    Sounds like the Muslims. Don't the Muslims do that too; cover their women, separate their women, don't want their women to reveal their skin? The media loves to portray them as some backward folks. Why isnt the case for the Jews? I think Jews and Muslims are the same thing except that they misunderstand each other. France goes on to ban the head-to-toe cover, why don't they do the same for the Haredi Jews.

    September 14, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Evan

      Religious jewish woman must cover legs and arms, not face. Either way organized religion only leads to hatred. Believe in a higher power if you want but why put groups against groups?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Peace & Love

      Honey, why are you saying they "do" that to their women. Women in Islam should cover their hair and body as a form of modesty when coming of age. That's the correct thing to do, but they should not be forced, and if they are then that goes completely against Islam. Now, covering the face is not part of the actual religion- that's an extra step and more times than not, a part of culture (not religion) in some muslim countries. And yes, the religions do share MANY similarities because originally the same information was sent down by God in the Torah, Bible, and Qur'an. The only difference is that the Torah and Bible were changed by their people, while the Qur'an remained the same as the truth.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  20. Common Sense

    Do they sacrifice "virtual childen" to Moloch or the real thing still?

    September 14, 2011 at 6:42 am |
    • Beth

      Wow, still clinging to lies invented by the Nazis? Why stop there? You can go back just a little more and also believe that the world is flat, that black cats are vessels for demons, and that the US was founded to be a Christian nation. Honestly, the depths of your ignorance scares me.

      September 14, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Angela

      Blood libel? Seriously? You need some education before you speak. Do you know how many innocent Jews were slaughtered by Christians due to rumors that Jews sacrificed Christian children on Passover over the past few hundred years?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:56 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
About this blog

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.