When I first heard about the Agudah coming down on blogs, I was a bit surprised. I had a real urge to take a picture of one of the local “Agudath Israel” funded schools buses and Photoshop a bumper sticker that read “I BREAK FOR BLOGS”. While I would have found my creation quite humorous, it would not have been very Uberdox. I felt that a more direct and menshlikeit approach would be better than just blogging about how the “Agudah is picking on bloggers” (plus my kid enjoys riding the bus home from school, thanks to the Agudah).
Below is a the text of my letter to Rabbi Shafran and his reply. All in all, I was glad that I chose to directly address my concerns and I was pleased with the reply. I actually left him a voicemail thanking him for his email to me. I hope that someone will post an accurate and non-biased report of what will actually go down at the convention.
November 2, 2006
Dear Rabbi Shafran,
I’ll start off by thanking you for taking a few minutes to read this. I’m sure you’ve gotten a headaches worth of email and phone calls concerning the recent Yated article about the upcoming convention, which quotes Rabbi Zweibel as saying that:
“In recent years, though,” the Agudah leader observes, “due to a variety of factors, the authority of daas Torah has been significantly undermined, even within our own chareidi circles. Most troubling has been the proliferation of Internet ‘blogs’ where misguided individuals feel free to spread every bit of rechilus and loshon hora about rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, all with the intended effect of undermining any semblance of Torah authority in our community.”
I agree this is a major problem. I’m happy to see that it is being discussed at the Agudah convention. I am concerned though. As someone who is a “blogger”, I am worried. I’m familar with all the reasons why certain blogs are totally anti-daas Torah and, in fact, do nothing but promote chillul Hashem, sinas chinam, and a complete lack of respect towards rabbonim. I agree that those blogs are harmful to klal Yisrael.
There are blogs out there that are, in fact, similar to what is produced by Am Echad. Insightful, sensitive, timely approaches to important issues (although they are not was well written as what you write). Some blogs, such as BeyondBT.com are geared toward the baalei teshuva community and allows Torah observant Jews from across the world to discuss, learn and grow in their yiddishkeit.
I, personally, blog under my own name. I have an average of 40 readers per posting and if I was to stop my blog, I wouldn’t be missed by too many. I hope that in the Agudah’s effort to intelligently and thoughfully deal with the issues that Rabbi Zweibel has mentioned, the end result is not a complete campaign against blogging as a whole. There are plenty of ehrlich frum yidden who learning, davening, give tzedaka, teach, and help raise the next generation of Torah Jews, and happen to blog, as well.
Thank you for your time and if you feel this message should be passed along to others, please do so. I will not be able to attend the convention, but might try to join the Midwest convention. If you feel I should share my views with Rabbi Kalish or others within the Agudah leadership here in Chicago, please feel free to make any suggestion to me. Thanks again and have a great Shabbos.
Dear Mr. Harris,
Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful letter. I personally agree with your sentiments and will share your e-mail with others, including Rabbi Zwiebel. I think I can assure you that Agudath Israel has no complaints against blogs like yours — my own essays are occasionally posted on at least one responsible blog, Cross-Currents. There can be no question that much good is being accomplished by the web-presence of responsible, intelligent frum people… any criticism of blogs from us, as a careful reading of Rabbi Zwiebel’s statement should show, is clearly aimed at the irrresponsible and destructive ones. Again, thanks for writing, and much continued hatzlacha to you, in your blogging and in all else.