NEW YORK — More than 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men rallied together at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, last Sunday night to slam the evils of the Internet.
Organized by a rabbinical group called Ichud Hakehillos Letohar Hamachane, which means Union of Communities for the Purity of the Camp, the jammed event’s purpose was to harness the Internet to protect Orthodox Jews against porn, gambling and the risks of social media.
Nearly all of the rally’s black-garbed speakers cited the evils of online porn and its tendency to directly cause molestation, rape, addiction, abduction, infidelity, and virtually every other moral perversion, according to Gizmodo that spoke to zealots who attended.
“When we asked one young man, who had shown up to the rally because his rabbi had ordered him to, if he'd ever looked at porn online, he smiled and said nothing. ‘You have, haven't you?’ His face firmed up and he assured us he had never, but did use the open Internet to help manage a catering business,” Gizmodo reported.
Eytan Kobre, a lawyer and spokesman said during a speech, “The siren song of the Internet entices us. It brings out the worst of us.”
"There is a very significant downside to the Internet," he said. "It does pose a challenge to us in various aspects of our lives."
He further maintained that the web undermines "our ability to pray uninterruptedly, to focus and to concentrate."
An overflow crowd of 20,000 also filled nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium. The seven hour event was also streamed live to six sites across the tri-state area allowing the men-only gathering to be viewed by women.
Shlomo Cohen of Toronto told The New York Times that he uses the Internet for shopping, business and staying in touch with friends, but that "desires are out there" especially for men.
"We have to learn how to control ourselves," Cohen said.
But the seemingly moral religious gathering included a hint of commercialism behind its drive.
According to the Times, the organizing group is linked to a software company that sells Internet filtering software to Orthodox Jews and fliers were being handed out hawking a “kosher GPS App” for iPhone and Android phones that locates synagogues and kosher restaurants.