Thursday, September 6, 2007

(Ultra)Orthodox Judaism & Media

In the next class we will be looking at one particular segment of the Jewish community and their response to one specific technology. UltraOrthodox Jews represent about 13% of Israel's total population of about 4.5 million and have significant communities in many other parts of the world including London & NYC. With the rise of many new media technologies it is a community that is constantly in conflict with the "tools of modernity" and having to make tough choices about what media forms they will and won't accept. You have been asked to read an article on the UltraOrthodox and TV. For a wider perspective on the tension between the UltraOrthodox , modernity and the media look at this article from the Guardian Online: The ultra-Orthodox Jews on a mission to save Jerusalem from secularism or this article from the Jewish News Week: Secular media continue to scapegoat the Orthodox.

What do these article argue about Ultra-Orthodox engagement with the media?

Before you say the UltraOrthodox only condemn/reject the media...take a look at this exception "Israel's Tele-Rabbi" where one Sephardi rabbi is using TV & the web as a tool for evangelising wayward Jews. What does this tell us?


Kristen said...

In Cromer's article, "The Polluted Image: The Response of Ultra Orthodox Judaism to Israel Television", the focus is mainly on the challenge of Orthodox Jews to protect their society from the "evils" of the media, namely television.
Cromer acknowledges that many Jews don't seek to change the media, just to protect themselves from its evil influence. The establishment of Israeli TV was in 1967. Since then, numerous Rabbinical authorities and other groups have been trying to protect their territory from television, the "20th century devil." Their methods of protection involve 4 headings: prevention, punishment, persuasion and penitence.
Basically, in prevention, they and society discriminate those who own televisions and don't want televisions to find their way into homes at all. In punishment, those who own televisions are to remove themselves from society, mainly by being banned from synagogue membership, and in the afterlife they are said to be sent to the "lowest rung of hell." In persuasion, the cardinal sins are said to all be products of television: sexual depravity, bloodshed and idolatry, and in penitence, one who has watched or owned a television has the chance to repent publicly and be absolved.
The main reason why Jews are so adamant against television in their society is that they have always strived for isolation from the secular world, and they feel particularly threatened by the television because of the greatness of its infiltration into their society, and that doesn't bode well for their ability to keep their society free from destruction.

got2_loveit said...

My reading for this week was “Israel’s Tele-Rabbi,” by Michele Rosenthal. The article centers on the Yemenite rabbi Amnon Yitzchak, who is described as “Israel’s most media-savvy rabbi.” Yitzchak is a “religious lecturer, aspiring tele-rabbi, and all-round media provocateur” that has produced 316 audiocassettes, 95 videos, and 86 CDs and has committed himself to exposing the media’s secular bias. Most of Yitzchak’s lecture audience are Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews that practice flexible or “”masorti” life, when it comes to religious observance. He encourages them to live a better life and ends most of his lectures with a call to recommitment.
Amnon Yitzchak has received a lot of heat for many of his publishings and teachings, three main examples discussed in this article are the CD “Herzl and Zionism,” which attacked the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl; “The Conspiracy of the Lying Media,” which assailed the media for “lying” about troops being required to attend Yitzchak’s lecture; and Yitzhak’s “outreach” to children in spite of their parents’ objections and misgivings.
The article states that “By re-editing the coverage of himself and commenting continually on it, Yitzhak has made the media narratives his own. Or, as an article posted on the English-language version of the Shofar website claims: ‘The idols of society indict themselves with their own words.’” The article finishes up by stating, in other words that the media, must understand the challenge that Yitzchak poses to the cultural status quo.