Can Ultra-Orthodox Jews Live With the Web?

May 21, 2012

When New York City's web-phobic ultra-orthodox Jews wanted to discuss how to face the challenge posed to their community by the growth of the internet, they could hardly set up a Google Hangout or host a webinar.

With tens of thousands keen to take part, the community needed a big venue. On Sunday 40,000 men filled Citi Field, home to the New York Mets baseball team, to chart a way forward.

Amid concern over the dangers the internet poses to traditional morality, organisers said the discussion focused on how to protect children from pornography and violent sites. The proliferation of social media was also a key concern.

The event, sponsored by the ultra-orthodox Jewish group Ichud Hakehillos Letohar Hamachane, featured prayers and speeches from spiritual leaders. Tickets sold out quickly, and the organisers rented a nearby stadium to accommodate another 20,000 people. There were separate women's events in other venues.

Across the road demonstrators staged a protest, complaining that sensitive subjects - including child abuse allegations - were being ignored while the internet was identified as a source of problem and sin.

Despite a media ban the BBC received exclusive amateur video from inside the stadium, and spoke with attendees at both the protest and the rally. Click here to see video.

Produced by Anna Bressanin. Camera by Ilya Shnitser.
Amateur video courtesy of Eli Gleiberman.