The New York Times today reported on the Lakewood internet ban, which was heard about 2 months ago in the J-blogosphere.
Just before Rosh Hashanah, the Orthodox schools and institutions of Lakewood, N.J., a community of 6,500 families in Ocean County, issued a proclamation forbidding children and high school students from using Internet-linked computers.
"Many children (and adults) have fallen prey to the immoral lures that are present on the Internet, and their lives have been destroyed," the seven-page proclamation began.
It barred even adults from going online at home except for the needs of a livelihood - and then only with rabbinical authorization.
Miriam and DovBear already have discussed "Shtreimal", whose 'closing' of his blog was apparently a fake-out. I'm more interested in whom the Times quoted in the story, as he is a former principal of mine from the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland:
"If television wasn't banned, we wouldn't have kids studying and learning Torah 16 to 18 hours a day," said Rabbi Shalom Storch, principal of Yeshiva Nesivos Ohr, a day school in Lakewood.Rabbi Storch was a very good principal when he was at HAC. Things ran smoothly, problems were dealt with properly, people were spoken to - not shunned - for doing things that were against school rules. Students were built up, not torn down. I was never a big troublemaker, but I don't recall my classmates having many problems with R' Storch, and his son Shlomo in the grade below us was a nice, normal kid.
It's surprising to see Rabbi Storch espouse comments like the one he made, though admittedly not that surprising. While he was never a ranting lunatic with unrealistic ideas, he always leaned more "yeshivish" in philosophy - though that generally didn't play into what we learned in school. He also is the one who instituted an innovative middos/derech eretz (proper conduct/manners) program in HAC after a couple of instances where it seemed people had not had the proper respect for each other.*
* Personally, I was not and am not a fan of most middos "programs". They tend to reduce middos into a class of rules, as opposed to teaching by example the proper way of communicating and acting. However, R' Storch and the other rebbeim in the HAC would lead by positive example as well.
However, it still is surprising to see this quote. Rabbi Storch has had plenty of educational experience, and I know many of the students from his job at the HAC. Those that "went off" did not do so because of the internet or television or anything of the sort. And those that learn "16-18 hours a day" are not necessarily those who didn't have television or the internet - and it definitely wasn't "banned" for any of those. Most interesting is that a couple of people whom I am reasonably sure R' Storch was very close to [purposely vague] who went off did not do so whatsoever because of TV or the internet - in fact, they had access to neither - and Rabbi Storch knows this well.
It is undoubtedly possible that R' Storch is only toeing the party line here: He works for a school in Lakewood that has made this decision, and therefore his responsibility is to explain and uphold those rules. R' Storch, however, always gave off a very straightforward impression - while he is more quiet overall, he tends to say it as he sees it. If he made the statement, he means what he said. I'm surprised, given his experiences from when I knew him, that this is what he feels.
While I understand his position, it is disappointing to see.
Technorati tags: Lakewood, Internet, Ban, NYTimes.