A few weeks ago, Talia Davis wrote to a bunch of Jewish techy and thinky folks and asked us what we thought about the future of Judaism. Talia is the force of nature behind the religion blog Patheos.com’s Jewish site, and when she chops down a tree, we hear it.
A bunch of folks — including MJL’s Anita Diamant and Patrick Aleph — responded. Some of the highlights include a piece about activism from Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (who’s shaking up ethical kashrut in America) and a pretty awesome article on feminism that argues that equality is not the only answer.
I weighed in about how technology changes Orthodox observance and gossip. Here’s a snip:
If you look at the biggest change in both communication and skeptical dissent in religious communities, you’ll find two web sites with overwhelmingly huge traffic numbers: Vos Iz Neias and Yeshiva World News. These sites have created a sort of self-policing news filter, reprinting mainstream news stories (from sources as varied as FOX News and PETA), sometimes with names filtered out to prevent gossip or immodest photos deleted, with which ultra-Orthodox people can reliably access “safe” internet content. Of course, the actual news stories reprinted pales next to the comments sections of these sites, which routinely run up to 500 or 1000 entries per story, in which people trade information, debate rulings of Jewish law, and call out mainstream Orthodox authorities (and each other) on inconsistencies or simply gossip about the best new kosher restaurants in a certain area. Is the internet becoming the new rabbinical authority among ultra-Orthodox Jews? Of course not. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know tons of people who have Googled their own halachic questions (and I’ve used the same methodology once or twice myself).
(And although they didn’t include a photo credit, I’m writing it here: the awesome new pic is from Dan Sieradski. Of course.)