Haredi Leaders: Internet Dragging Our Youth Into Abyss

Vizhnitz rabbi warns followers: We won't teach children who have Internet at home.

Ultra-Orthodox Web sites continue to spring up on the Internet and surveys have found that increasing numbers of ultra-Orthodox Israelis are installing home Internet connections despite rabbinical opposition in the Haredi sector. Two annual sermons by leading Haredi rabbis on Saturday were dedicated to the subject of the Internet.

In one sermon, followers of the Vizhnitz Hasidic movement in Israel and abroad, were told if they installed an Internet connection, which was called "an instrument of impurity" in the sermon, into their homes they would not be entitled to have their children educated in Hasidic institutions.

As in the past, the sermons sparked a lively debate on Haredi Web sites. The remarks are also expected to find their way to the front pages of the ultra-Orthodox press today.

"Boys and girls whose homes have the instrument of impurity called the Internet cannot receive a Vizhnitz education in any shape or form," leading Vizhnitz rabbi Yisroel Hager told followers Saturday in Bnei Brak.

According to one of the thousands in attendance for the annual sermon marking the end of the holiday season, Hager added that insider connections will not matter in this regard.

"Every day," he said, "I hear stories about young people, both boys and girls, who have gone downhill via this horrible instrument to the edge of the abyss. This epidemic must be stopped."

The sermon, which was delivered in Yiddish, is considered the annual address to followers of the Vizhnitz movement. Hager is one of two sons of the leader of the movement, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, who is ill.

Followers of another major Hasidic movement, the Belz Hasidim, heard the head of their movement, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, speak out against the Internet in his sermon in Jerusalem on Saturday, as he had already done in the past. In his remarks Saturday he called the Internet a "great danger", but he tempered his comments by adding, according to the ultra-Orthodox Web site haredim.co.il, that anyone who needs the Internet can use a filtered service referred to as the kosher Internet.