Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ultra Orthodox and the Television

In this week's case study we look at a particular part of the Jewish community and their response to one media technology. Ultra Orthodox 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 Ultra Orthodox and their response to TV. For a hint of larger tension between the Ultra Orthodox , modernity and the media also look at articles 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. So what do these article argue about Ultra-Orthodox engagement with the media?

Before you say the Ultra Orthodox only condemn/reject the media...take a look at this exception "Israel's Tele-Rabbi" where one sephardic rabbi is using TV & the web as a tool for evangelising wayward Jews. What does this tell us UltraOrthodox views of media? Is TV acceptable or unacceptlable, and why?


leslie said...
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leslie said...

Our group first discussed why the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community did not allow television. There are many reasons one being that television will lead to sin and that it is the ultimate in impurity. This view leads to how Amon Yitzak believes that television can be a well used medium. He believes that television is a way to make people more devout and can be used as a teaching tool.
Our group also discussed how the Ultra Orthodox Jews have differences from other parts of the Jewish community, one being that they are much more tightly knit to their community. With this being said about the close community we felt that UO have similar qualities to Amish communities. We see the similarities in the religion and use of media because they will use different technologies in order to benefit themselves and further their understanding of their religion.
-Leslie group 1

Katie said...

The principal feel of how the ultra orthodox community responded to television was negative. We noted that T.V. was viewed the "20th century version of the Devil". All who had contact with TV was doomed to forget the fear that god instills in them. Then we moved on to discuss the tele-rabbi's use of T.V. He justifies using T.V. to draw people back from evil into the true views of god. The only way to reach these people is by using the means that they engage in everyday, Television. When looking at the Ultra-Orthodox from both positions we agreed that they should discourage the bad use of this media but embrace some positive uses for television. They can still keep T.V. out of the home but use it as a way to teach their faith. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews have defined what will happen to those who choose to include Television in their lifestyle. Prevention Punishment Persuasion and penitence are the protocols for the medium. To prevent they push how the use of T.V. leads to a loss of family god and community, which the UO hold very high. A ban was issued for any use of T.V. Those who disobeyed were completely cut off from the community. Persuasive measures were applied by saying that if you watch television you will be suede to commit cardinal sins. This appeals to the UO fear of god. Penitence was giving to those who felt they had wrong the lord by using the medium. These people were shown as examples to those who might consider using T.V. The view of the UO is the only a small portion of the Jewish community. As a whole there are many similarities and differences in the UO view and the larger portion of the Jewish community. The UO and Jewish communities may feel that the use of Television on the Sabbath is unacceptable. Also if TV were getting in the way of scripture and family, it would be seen as intolerable. Differences are seen in the complete exclusion of TV in everyday life. UO see it as completely intolerable and other sections of the faith may view it as a tool to be utilized to further the faith. We came to an understanding that the Jewish faith as a whole uses TV in everyday life and the UO are only a small group of the Jewish community that view Television as the "DEVIL".
~ Katie Lieser~
Group 2

Katherine said...

My group discussed how the television is considered “evil” and a corruptor by the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. However, there are those, such as Amon Yitzak, who choose to use the media as a way to restore their religion, and bring back those who have strayed from the traditional laws, beliefs and values.

The Ultra-Orthodox community believes in separation from the world (as do the Amish), and they value the family and community as a whole above the individual. It is also through a group (like a rabbinical committee) that a decision is made concerning the use of this modern media.

We realized that, although the Ultra-Orthodox tend to differ from other Jewish communities – in the sense of focusing more on the evils of something rather than its vantage points, some of their core values are the same. Values such as the family and making the home a peaceful “holy space” for all.

>Katherine Coley, Group 4

Laura said...
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Laura said...

This past week, our case study closely studied the relationship of the Ultra Orthodox Jewish movement and television. The studies included concepts such as the dangers of secular television as compared to the security of rejecting the medium. While television is normally rejected according to their position, we discovered it is currently being used as a medium to bring wayward Orthodox Jews back to the helm of their religiosity by those such as the Tele-Rabbi.
I always enjoy our group’s discussion because it adds dimension to a way one approaches the world or a particular situation. Topics of discussion included how TV can be an effective medium to outreach as opposed to other media and how the message can be lost in translation. Another key interest of the group was emphasizing that the Ultra Orthodox Jews have an extreme abhorrent of sin and all things that could lead to sin; this serves as their guide line for the use of media, particularly television. Thinking about the Ultra Orthodox Jews also made us wonder about other guidelines they might live by. The role of religious text as an integral part of the Ultra Orthodox Jew also arose.
As we are learning, with any religious group, there must be a time of negotiation in which media is deemed acceptable or unacceptable. If the media remains a consistent part of secular life, it may be necessary to alter that particular media use (Example: Tele-Rabbi). There is often, as mentioned above, a security in this rejection of media. As far as media concern for production of film, we feel that, on occasion, unless a church is actively involved in the media, they can be misrepresented and have no defense to what the film/media industry says about them. While this may not be a show-stopper, the group should be aware of this. From the movie producer’s standpoint, it would be essentially impossible to eliminate bias.

John Schuessler said...

I enjoyed our class discussion on the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community and their clash with the television. We began our group asking what arguments the Ultra Orthodox have against TV. To them it is such a contaminating influence to Orthodox holiness, that rabbis banned TV viewing on threat of losing synagogue membership. They consider TV a "crack in the wall" that can destroy the whole structure.
Next we talked about Amon Yitzak, a "tele-rabbi" who is reinventing Ultra Orthodox approach to TV. A self-proclaimed Jewish evangelist, Amon sees the potential of the TV medium to reach lapsed Jews with the message of pure devotion. To him, the TV is an effective ministry tool.
Comparing both views, we understand the Ultra Orthodox fear of worldliness entering their community through an uncontrollable media source. We respect their hesistance to allow material dangerous to their values. And we're interested to see how they will gradually begin to use TV media as they find ways to effectively control it.
Finally, we discussed the different responses of non Ultra Orthodox groups to TV. Both the plain vanilla Orthodox and the Liberal or Modern Jewish communities watch TV. The Ultra Orthodox hold a literal view of the Torah, while the other two are more open to interpretation. So the Ultra Orthodox stands out as the extreme moral position, which is admirable.