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Stalinism is Alive and Well

I once heard Prof. Moshe Samet say that ultra-orthodoxy is one of the last Stalinist societies on Earth. I would change his statement a bit and say that many ultra-orthodox rabbis, not all of them, and surely not all ultra-orthodox Jews, would like it to be this way. Here is more evidence. Control what they know and maybe they’ll be more obedient.

Update: Hirhurim thinks that this might be a hoax, but the whole post is worth it just to see this comment that it elicited from Gil (whom I assume is “Hirhurim”).

I got this off a blog to which I will not link but whose author is not capable of writing this kind of ban.


13 Responses to “Stalinism is Alive and Well”

  1. 1

    The hell? There are many Stalinist societies on earth.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    How many are there that try and control what information the people are able to consume to the same extant that certain ultra-orthodox rabbis would like to? How people dress? How and with whom they can socialize? There are some, but not that many. Burma, North Korea, to name two.

  3. 3

    The Amish have internet and library cards and dress however they want to? Shi’i Imams wouldn’t like to control these things? There are many communities, voluntary and not so voluntary, all over the world with leaders, religious and not, who would like to control all these things and some succeed better than others. The Ultra-Orthodox are hardly “one of the last” Stalinist societies. If Samet worked in Teheran he wouldn’t have even thought of them.

  4. 4
    Menachem Mendel:

    Iran’s leader are Stalinist in that sense, and the Badatz would probably feel at home with them, although hopefully repulsed by their violence. I agree with you that there are numerous communities that try and limit information, behavior, etc., but there aren’t so many of them and they are relatively small.

    Since we are talking about the Amish, how about an ultra-orthodox version of rumspringa.

  5. 5

    I’m just saying that Samet is wrong.

    As for rumpsringa, Amish theology allows for it because children aren’t saved anyway; only adults can join the Church. UO theology is very different. In addition, OU society is a circle within the Jewish people. However much there may be UOs who feel zero kinship with other Jews, loads of them feel much more than that. In Israel, at least, it’s not mamash a choice between Toyreh and joining the goyim. For the Amish there is no larger community to feel even partial kinship with. It’s with us or become a goy (ie, an Engliish). There’s no way UO could allow or promote rumspringa, that is, the illusion that the lifestyle is a free choice made by adults.

  6. 6
    Harry Perkal:

    The entire situation in Israel is very sad. However I would not call it Stalinist- Stalin was after all responsible for the death of over 20 million people. But it is a form of theocracy. I am not sure why these Rabbis are acting in such a bizarre manner- but if this continues it will have serious consequences for Israel society, let alone for the ulra-orthodox community.

  7. 7
    Menachem Mendel:


    Most of the rabbis who apparently signed the ban are in America, so you don’t have to go across the ocean.

  8. 8
    Yoine Cohen:


    If MM had to point out to you that this an “American” ban, it means to me that you can’t even recognize one signer of ban. Which is strange; the first signature is from non other than Rabbi Yaakov Perlow – the head of Agudath Israel of America.
    If even that name is unfamiliar to you, what are you doing commenting on something so alien to your life experience.

    As a Haredi myself I think this ban -as similar others- will fail; a longer explanation than time allows me is required. What is outrageous however, is comparing our society to that of the murderous Stalin. I daven [for Harry, it means pray] occasionally in the Satmar shul [where the Grand Rebbe has banned the internet, blackberries etc] and I take out my Evo HTC [better than the BB by far] and others who use their Blackberries as well, in open sight of hundreds of others and nobody says a peep.

    You have to be part of a community to know what things ‘mean’. And such bans are simply shrugged off, as the banners themselves -despite the harsh language are not that serious- about their bans. Many times their signatures on such posters are a result of trying to get rid of pestering hot head radicals, and in order to get them out of their lives, such as endless phone calls and harassing visits they sign on and move on. And most Haredim know it, so they respond with a shrug.

    Be it the easy availability of explicit porn or chat rooms, where people can meet,most Haredim agree [as do many secular experts] that the internet is a dangerous tool and can be highly damaging to ones soul, especially the young.

    Hacking, Leaks, Financial Fraud, Bullying, Defamation, Anti Semitism, Al Queda, Child molestation, Human Trafficking, Bomb Making manuals and the list goes on and on, are just a few of the things that have become super efficient because of the power of the internet. Every day we hear terrible things in the news that as a result of Facebook, Craigslist and similar ‘social’ sites, people have been raped and murdered. Not to speak of, the breakup of families by illicit encounters, that would never have happened were it not for the enticement that the internet brings with it. [I should know as I am a To’en Rabbani – a divorce halachic litigator and I do have some stories to tell]

    To throw stones and preach here about how terrible this ban is, and not acknowledge at least the existence of a chance of falling into moral degeneracy by un-restricted [self or otherwise]internet use, is in itself a form of blindness and self righteousness.

    I don’t offer any solutions but some humility and self introspection, instead of laughing off a serious issue is in order.

    [BTW – If I were Stalin I would ban all sites except a few – first on the list of a NO BAN is of course Menachem Mendel ;-)]

  9. 9
    Menachem Mendel:


    I agree that the Internet can be tempting, dangerous, etc., although I think that it only amplifies already existing tendencies and phenomenon. What is telling is that this was not an attempt to ban the Internet, it was an attempt to ban a site that provides news and commentary. They very well may be opposed to the Internet in general, although My Rashi, which could be wrong, is that certain rabbis didn’t like what VIS was reporting about their own community.

    My use of the word Stalinist as a synonym for totalitarian, or at least a desire to be so, is not so uncommon, and I never had any intention to insinuate that any of the signer had any murderous intentions.

    Thanks for the “no ban” label, I do try and keep the discourse here civil and informative.

  10. 10

    >What is outrageous however, is comparing our society to that of the murderous Stalin.

    Stalinist is just a term for total repression of free thought and expression, and does not refer to his murderous actions. That said, I think Samet is/ was being provocative by using such a term simply *because* it is obvious that it can be taken the way you did. Probably Samet doesn’t care if Shi’i clerics in Qom are offended, and mistama he doesn’t care if UO people are offended as well. Obviously Shi’i have nothing to do with him, but Chareidim are his countrymen, brothers and (probably on some level) his relatives. So in that sense it is insulting.

    I was trying to point out yesterday that I also feel he is off in asserting that UO society is one of the last such places on earth, where total control over thought and culture is sought by the leaders. Unfortunately there are many such societies.

  11. 11
    Yoine Cohen:

    To begin with, I never thought that Samet is trying to say that the Rabbis are murderous. What is meant usually by Stalin that he achieved by means of murder an objective of mind control. So according to this version of Haredi life, we live under a sort of mind and thought control. Well that is laughable.

    If you are male why not visit one of the major ‘hot’ mikvas in Boro Park and listen to the vicious criticisms the Rabbis [even the greatest] are subjected too by those getting soaked. Nothing and nobody is spared. Come to a simcha and listen in to the biting yiddish humor this ban will be subjected too, and you would never dream of Stalin.

    Mind ‘control’ is not what the Rabbis thought is going to be achieved or is their aim. You can be confident that the sins they describe in the ban, true or false, is what bothers them. You can disagree, but its juvenile to doubt their sincerity.

    Saying that the ban is a way of silencing their critics and not a genuine concern for the issues I raised, is cynical. I don’t blame you for being that way. It is the just your weltanschauung and the zeitgeist we live in.
    Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi = Conniving underhanded self serving false prophet.

    I do know some of the signers personally. One of them recently told me, that since so many sholom bayis = matrimonial cases are brought to his attention, he feels like a Garbage dump who needs to hear the most awful cases of infidelity or abuse. It is only natural for him to be groping for way of dealing with the internet.

    I do strongly agree with MM that the internet is not the cause of what ails our society, it is rather an amplifier of things.

    So?? isn’t כמות ואיכות something that should stir people into thinking of dealing with it?

    Most of these signers don’t give a hoot to what is being said here or on any other blog, about them. True, I am not sure if it is a vice or a virtue; it is what it is.

    As a regular reader of the בחדרי חרדים site which is the goto site for both the secular and Haredi denizens of the net, on matters relating to Haredi life. I could say, that since the ban on placing banner ads on that site was issued by Haredi Rabbis in Israel, it has had a significant effect, and I do detect a severe drop in the quality of the site, comments and postings are down in number and quality.

    It remains to be seen if these tactics will work in the U.S. As a Haredi myself I doubt it.

  12. 12
    Menachem Mendel:


    Besides the first paragraph of the ban which is about the internet in general, the rest of it is all about VIS. Because of the majority of the ban is against VIS, I do think that it is legitimate to see this as a way of trying to minimize criticism. There are legitimate concerns, although I think that silencing critics and trying to control information is an important concern.

  13. 13

    Yoine, the rabbonim know what goes on in the mikva, but there is a fundamental difference between what you and your 40 or 50 acquaintances shmooze about in a private setting, and a vast, anonymous public composed of disparate Chareidi communities worldwide – and non Chareidim amongst them – all schmoozing together. Do you really think חדרי חרדים is just like the mikve? The rabbonim tolerate one forum, and are beside themselves about the other kind. It’s very different.




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