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. New Yorker

    It's funny to see local orthodox Jews asking for coupons all the time when shopping, and drive Honda Van with 15 kids. The funny part is their clothes LOL. BTW Bergen County, NJ has Sunday blue laws – they are the only ones' who complain about it. GET OVER IT, AMERICA IS A CHRISTIAN COUNTRY... respect it or go back to Israel!!

    September 15, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Michelle

      New Yorker: you are deeply delusional. You need lessons regarding the kind of nation which America actually is–decidedly not a Christian one–and an the distinction between Jews and Jewish Israelis. Embarrassing representation.

      September 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  2. Mark

    Looks like the site has been hacked...WAY TO GO CNN...promotes Jewish facebook only to have it hacked by Palestinian cyber terrorists

    September 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Robert phelbs

      About time Palestinians have a hacked an Israeli to be honest. Every page critical of Israeli policies gets hacked by an organization called the "JIDF" and then later gets labelled as antisemitic.

      September 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Hacker

      Way to go, Palestinians! it is about time you guys use the brain instead of a rock and in return get 100 bullets by Israeli bully. It is OK for Israel to hack any sites that are no friendly to them.

      September 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  3. Jessice

    Are Orthodox Jews becoming more and more like Saudi Arabian?! Seperate men and women... we're in 21st century, not 1700s! They need to be more educated. Whoever don't believe in Jesus Christ won't go to heaven anyway

    September 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Bill Dautrieve

      There's religions much older than christianity. seriously, like you think your religion gets founded and suddenly all the others before that are incorrect and their followers doomed to hell?

      enjoy wasting your life for a non-existent afterlife.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  4. Jesus lover

    Orthodox Jews are like amish !! They have at least 10 kids and live off the government despite being multi millionares!!!

    September 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  5. apple sauce

    site's been hacked... ha!

    September 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  6. Somebody

    What prevents people from crossing the boundary? This looks like something ripe for hacking.

    September 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  7. Jim

    Yet another backwards society doing stupid stuff in the name of religion.

    You tell me why you don't believe in Zeus and I'll tell you why I don't believe in your god.

    September 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • 11:11

      I don't live by these peoples values, but please for the love of God you deny, tell me how they in any way harm you.

      September 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  8. Mark L.

    I am a Jew and a PROUD one at that !! I grew up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY and I guess the only thing that infuriates me is these ultra-orthodox Jewish 'chasidim' individuals will look upon a person, such as myself, as a gentile vs. a Jew only because I don't worship or practive the faith as they do. In my opinion they are somewhat fanatic. I am the son of two Holocaust survivors. Most of my family perished during the Holocaust atrocities. I never even got to meet my grandparents or most of my aunts and uncles. For the chasidim to chastise me or my Beloved Parents is totally ludicrous and unacceptable !!

    September 15, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Drowlord

      Isn't the whole point of all religion to chastise and exclude people who worship and practice faith differently? Almost ironic. They're treating you like an outsider, but the whole concept of gentiles is fine for you - you just think you should be on "the inside."

      September 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • barabra

      I feel realy bad for u but u fail to mention all the good things in the hasididc community divorce is not at 50% like in the secular world they dodnt go around and kill people like the muslims they dodnt bother anybody so i dodnt see why people have a problem with the hasidic jewish community

      September 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Mark L.

      @ Barabra – I do respect the Chasidic community; however, I only wish they would learn to accept my Beloved Parents and I for what we really are – Proud Jews !! And while the Chasidic community in Borough Park (Brooklyn), NY are very respectable and peaceful, I cannot say this community is perfect by any means, especially after the horror that transpired this summer with the innocent eight-year old boy, Leiby Kletzky. That horrific tragedy brought tears to my eyes...Other than this, all I can say to the Jewish Community in Borough Park (Brooklyn), NY is L'Shanah Tovah, although, I realize I am a couple of weeks early.

      September 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  9. igal

    Trust me, those ultraorthodox ARE as strange and as backwards as they appear to be, and that holds true even for most Israelis or Jews, never mind the non-Jews among you!!

    September 15, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Liz

      Trust you? Your comments? You make sweeping and uneducated remarks. You know nothing about the ultraorthodox, Israelis, Jews and the non-Jews. How foolish and childish you sound.

      September 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  10. Dinah

    I am Jewish, but not Orthodox at alll. I do not understand all the customs...it isn't for me. I date an Indian guy and eat pork, so I am far from Orthodox. However, I do know that the Orthodox women are on a much more elevated status than their Muslim counterparts. Women are considered the rock of the community. A lot of women in this culture are also starting to study the Torah. Men are trained in ultra orthodox communities to focus on the woman's pleasure in the bedroom over their own pleasure and to put their wife on a pedestal. There is actually a lot of respect and care towards women. Trust me...Jewish women in these communities typically reign the roost and call the shots. In fact, a rabbi isn't considered whole or entirely worthy as a spritual leader until he is married. Women have a choice to leave this lifestyle. While they might fall out of favor with their families for doing so, at least they have free choice and are not forced to stay...similar to the Amish.

    September 15, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • SJ

      Dinah, i think you have got a lot of things wrong here. First of all, where did you get the impression that things for women are worse among Muslims? Anything to substantiate? I am not gonna run a comparison to determine who is best and who is worst, but those glorious thing you said about women in the Jewish community closely matches or I dare say sometime fares better for Muslim women. Do not confuse culture with religion, instead try to get the data from the source. In this case you should see how women are to be treated in Torah and the Quran. You would be surprised how closely they match. You would be even more surprised how closely both of them match with the NT. So please, before rushing into judegements, do some research.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • barabra

      please dodnt call yourself jewish when u eat pork,I really feel bad for u how are u going to face ur creator when u come to the after world when u die we are not here forever

      September 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Bradley

      Like your comment.

      September 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  11. ColoredMountains

    The Jews won again, as usual.

    September 15, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  12. ddan

    lol, 2000 members and 100 more every week ... Are orthodox jews alowed to lie? Because the list of groups on his little page shows something more boring ...


    September 15, 2011 at 6:40 am |
  13. Supadupa

    Ridiculous !!! they are orthodox and live in ancient idiotic belief system, what make them think they have any business using technology? Besides many genius woman helped create these wonderful www technologies

    September 15, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Dan

      I'm not Jewish, and I suppose that I think some of their practices are a bit odd, especially those of the ultra-Orthodox, but really, I can't find just a whole lot to complain about when it comes to Jewish values.

      September 15, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  14. Winky

    What do they use for separation purposes: a bedsheet ?

    September 15, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  15. Thom

    Maybe this group and the Muslims, that belong to the Taliban, can share their sites and expenses.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Anthony Rathore

      All extremists have similar outlooks. Suppress women first. Then the good-old-boys-club-with long beards can make important decisions in the name of God.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  16. Thom

    Welll ... at least the Haredi Jews will not be in the way of intelligent humans, that are using the internet.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  17. pod

    I'm super curious what invention will pop up on the scene allowing them to "use" this on the sabbath. In general, i've always wondered why those "workarounds" are actually tolerated (e.g.phone dialers, etc) – It seems that if one is not to do something for a given reason, you just don't do it, period... please note, no offense intended with my post, just an observation.

    September 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  18. jews are racist

    yea...so some Jews believe they are a race, soo they have thier own facebook?? we should have a Black Facebook, Caucasian facebook, mexican facebook....so we are all divided and don't have to deal with looking at other races. While we're at it, lets have separate classrooms, work facilities, and water fountains.../s

    September 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Michelle

      In no way is FaceGlat racist. Assuredly, you'd be able to join it, if you happen to want to participate in an online social community which follows Orthodox guidelines. Don't be absurd; you're clearly projecting your own deficiencies on another group which does not possess them with you.

      September 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  19. Mel Gibsonowitz

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

    BTW, I just converted to judiism, in case you're wondering.

    No, no, not the religion, the worship of judi.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  20. BugsMalone

    what a bunch of nuts. This kind of behavior is why we are still at war with each other. People grow up.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:10 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.