Tangled Web Extra: Rabbinical Decree Bans Orthodox From Visiting News Website
In late December 2010, 36 leading Jewish community figures posted a ban on a news website popular with the Hasidic community. The site, Vos Iz Neias – Yiddish for What’s News – covers stories both in the private worlds of Williamsburg and other Orthodox communities, as well as stories of national interest. It also allows readers to post comments.
The site continues to operate since the ban. Its editor operates anonymously out of fear of retribution. He declined to speak to NY1 on camera.
The ban is reproduced here in the original Hebrew, with English translation below:
From the great Rabbis and Heads of Yeshivas, May they live good and long days.
A WARNING OF THE DANGER OF THE WEBSITE "VOS IZ NEIAS"
The danger of the Internet is already known and explained: you are easily able to arrive, by your own efforts, into filthy places – and to bring yourself to bad things, God forbid. And Great Rabbis, May they live good and long days, have already strictly forbidden the Internet; that he who doesn’t really need the Internet for his livelihood is strictly forbidden to use this medium.
And even those who need to use it for their livelihood, there shouldn’t be any reason for him to use it more than the tiniest amount needed – and he should be guarding himself from every forbidden thing to look upon, and he should establish for himself a way to use it solely for his benefit.
Upon faith and belief, Satan has revealed his ways: arising on the Internet a special place called “Vos Iz Neias.” Even if it was established solely for news of the Jewish World, upon faith and belief, it’s creating strife and impurity in its midst. This is because within the news, it brings allegations in stories that are bad and abominable and horrific. It’s full of impurity and gossip and evil speech, and rumors and embarrassment of Torah scholars. It also brings about bad reputations and gossip regarding individuals and places of Torah study. And also the comments that are written there are full of suppositions and evil speech, and it increases argument among Jews and it increases fighting and discord among the masses. And it also writes against leaders and politicians – whose mercy we require, ruining their reputations. And besmirching God’s name is awe-inducing and terrifying.
Unfortunately, the owner of the site cloaks himself. He has transgressed the commandments that regard his fellow man. And it’s also the case that we don’t know who it is – who is the author of these words, allowing us to pursue him until the ends of the earth, so that he is an outcast, which is the law for those who have sinned against the masses, according to the laws of our Torah. And it’s clear that it’s a great obligation on everyone who knows him to come to a Rabbinical Court, and share that knowledge. And if they don’t divulge his identity, they further and extend the sin.
THEREFORE THERE IS A STRICT PROHIBITION TO ADVERTISE ANY ADVERTISEMENT OR TO COOPERATE WITH HIM IN ANY ACTION BECAUSE BY DOING SO YOU ARE ASSISTING SINNERS AND HELPING THOSE WHO PERFORM EVIL. AND HIS HORRIBLE WORKS BECOME STRENGTHENED WHEN OTHERS SUPPORT HIS UGLINES. ONE SHOULD ALSO NOT PATRONIZE THE COMPANIES THAT ADVERTISE THERE.
It is permitted to warn people that it’s greatly forbidden to read and visit this website, separately and apart from the broader pre-existing prohibition on visiting the Internet -- because this site provides no opportunity for benefit.
(Signed by 36 Jewish Rabbinical Leaders and Heads of Yeshivas)
Credit: Steven I. Weiss of the Jewish Channel and NY1's Josh Robin for translation from Hebrew.