A Response to the ‘Machaah’ against the 2020 Virtual Agudah Convention

See the letter below in response to an anonymous letter circulated against the 2020 Agudah Virtual Convention. Virtual Agudah Convention 5781 response letter w


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  1. If anyone takes exception to the virtual Agudah Convention, this is what I say: Let’s use a little lomdus. Mimah Nafshach, you and your family are reaping the benefits (yes, there are benefits) of the digital age. It doesn’t take long to realize that. And if you don’t realize that, then you shouldn’t be “disturbed” by what is going on with the Agudah Convention. Keep on learning and doing what you have to do.

    • I started reading the letter but literally laughed it off in the second paragraph.
      If this highly wounded letter writer thinks that it is those people “behind mahogany doors” and fancy cars are the ones who are making a machaah, let me tell you, you’ve been out of town too long!

    • The Machoah was based on the assumption that there is no one in Lakewood that could gain by an online zoom convention as if all Lakewood families don’t have internet and never let their children’s online. Obviously there are more chusuva bnei Aliya in Lakewood whom both this rebuttal does not describe and for who the online zoom would be obviously not for them but lets all be real there are many people in Lakewood whom this letter and indeed and the Zoom Agudah does apply to.

  2. While I agree with much of your well-written critique of the materialism that has taken hold of Lakewood, none of that has anything to do with protesting a virtual dinner.
    Please realize that while you, in the out of town community, had classes via Zoom for your Corona Quarantined children, in Lakewood the mosdos told us we were too frum for that, and chas v’sholom to consider bringing in/endorsing internet access just so that our kids should be educated- heaven forfend!.
    Then it comes to raising money, the same mosdos are doing virtual dinners and having speakers via Zoom.
    Also, please be aware, not that I am among them, but there are still MANY people in Lakewood that have resisted virtually all forms of technology. Be it yungerleit or working folks, including people I work with. They have “dumb” phones without even text messaging. So yes, these people, are in fact “holier than thou” or at least holier then me- and I therefore understand their frustration at the seemingly hypocritical nature of the guidance to use/not use the internet.
    They want to hear from their Gedolim in a “clean” manner but are not offered the ability’s to do so.
    The Agudah, once an organization, per the Novominsker Rebbe’s guidance, that refused to even have a basic website out of principle, is now fully on board with the anything goes notion of internet usage because the ends justify the means.
    Imy”H when COVID is over, how are we going to tell our kids they can’t Zoom with a chavrusa as they had done so previously? It was “treif?” It was “kosher?” Was it “eis la’asois?” I don’t know, but it all adds to the confusion for the people who sincerely try to stay away from the internet (even if they have a fancy stroller).

    • Yes, tell them it was a special situation, as it was. Why are people afraid to tell their children the truth? The truth is that the coronavirus period of time was a special one, and things were done differently. We davened without a minyan or on the porch, and we used zoom. Not that hard to understand.

    • When COVID is over how will the damage done to kids chinuch about being law abiding citizens be undone. How will the justification of sheker and ramoyos become undone?

  3. While I may agree with many of the points of this letter, the letter drips with distain against those who refrain from internet use.

    “Sorry, I had to look up the spelling on Google… I hope this one infraction will not ruin my chances of finding ma’atim shiduchim for the rest of my children.”

    Sorry sir, but you can make a point without distain and facetious humor. This letter should never have been posted on TLS. This site is better than that.

  4. I live in Lakewood and my car is about 10 years old. I never ever tasted expensive wines. I don’t go near any whiskey bourbon scotch, even if you gave it to me as a present.
    Please keep in mind that many people from out of town moved to Lakewood.

  5. well written and agenda driven.
    The machaah was to the fact that the internet was being used for children. Children and adults are very different.

    and I dont live in a mansion and I do drive used cars.

  6. The agudah convention is not only via the internet. There’s an option to call in as well. Those who want to stay off the internet can do so by calling in. Probably many will be doing that

  7. There’s an old saying that nobody smells good after a spraying match between skunks. Here we have dueling anonymous letters, each seems to not exactly give Kavod to Talmidei Chachomim involved with the discussed mosad or town. Throw in some serious cynicism.Sad!

  8. The person who wrote this letter obviously does not know a very large segment of Lakewood. If they would take a moment to look beyond the glitz that is clearly on display, they would see many people living their lives with simplicity and incredible devotion to the ideals that Lakewood has stood for. There is a very large portion of the Lakewood community that does not have smartphones, internet access or $1000 strollers or fancy cars/houses. I grew up in Lakewood and have been working since I got married. I don’t avoid technology, however I have tremendous respect for those that make that effort in todays society. To describe Lakewood as was done above, does a disservice to the message being related.
    With that being said I can’t fathom why anyone would have a problem specifically with this event. When the city field asifa was made everyone knew that technology will be involved in peoples lives to some degree or other. The goal is to limit it to the degree possible. But just as the writer above turned a blind eye to a whole segment of Lakewood, those that made this machah have turned a blind eye to a huge segment a klal yisroel.The Agudah is an organization that addresses the needs of a very wide spectrum of the Torah world. There are many advertisements for events and products, that don’t fit with what some may want their children to be involved with. As parents we have a responsibility to decide what is appropriate for our children. If you are a person that is able to withstand the pressure of the tech revolution in the chinuch of your children, I respect you tremendously, and I think you have the ability to explain this concept to your children. If your children would want to participate, I’m sure a venue to screen it can be arranged just like what is done with the tisha b’av event.

  9. I fully agree with Mr. Sour Grape,
    What has happened with the old mehalech of no internet??
    I understand days have changed, but please show some respect to the people that followed YOUR direction. I actually have internet and no longer are in Yeshiva, but I fully respect and understand anyone that does not want to have it. If they oppose it suddenly they are kanaim??
    It’s all or nothing??
    Suddenly we could utilize the media to its fullest extent? Where’s the eidelkeit?
    The fact that the gashmiyus is a tremendous problem in Lakewood has nothing to do with anything.

  10. context and clarity
    1. the over the top gashmius which exists EVEN in lakewood is a separate issue
    2. the olam that this letter pretends to represent is not living in excess gashmius by a long shot, although BH its not the dachkus of lakewood 1970
    3.the aguda refusal to have a websitse 20 years ago was a difficult decision & i dont know what the others on the moetzes held then , yet shaalos are revisited and 20 years is a long time
    4. what needs clarity is what was the reisha & seifa were these issues discussed or did they think its not a shaaloh
    5 .i think the majority of lakwood families did NOT plan on logging in to the convention & certainly not the youth hour so in reality the convention is not really for yeshivaleit.
    6. who is your audience ?? for many frum people this is ruchnius & chizuk

  11. Did you forget that Tomchei Shabbos in Lakewood gives out free food packages to families who can not afford to buy food for Shabbos.
    (once a week)
    You would be shocked to see how long their list is.

  12. Whether one should use Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, GotoMeeting or any other technology for Torah purposes is a discussion worth having. It is not my purpose here to take sides though I have my own opinion on the matter.

    The Agudah faces the problem that every such institution is facing: How to hold public events at a time when doing so is both dangerous and illegal.

    I guess they could cancel their convention, but they probably feel that there is more to be gained by going virtual.

    I haven’t seen the original letter, but I am guessing that the writers wanted the Agudah to hold their convention as usual.

    So let me get this straight, the writers are very makpid and principled on internet use. But they are very makil and have a cavalier attitude towards the inyan of v’nishmartem.

    By what logic can you call yourself a religious person if you go against the prevailing medical advice and not mask, social distance and otherwise take precautions?

  13. Oy what a rant.
    This rant seems to be about the over the top life style some people have.
    What does this rant have to do with the virtual convention? Don’t mix apples and oranges. Get to the point and make it simple

  14. let’s assume those being Mocheh are doing it l’sheim shamayim. I don’t think it’s wrong that we should have reminders about what our ideals should be. at the end of the day either people will follow or they won’t. and as you so elequently put it in your letter they likely won’t. nothing to worry about. the world continues to develp in amazing ways and along with that are many ‘new’ ideas. it comes to the point where if you can’t beat it – you join it.

  15. 1) A speaker i will not specifyת spoke loudly at the agudah convention a number of years ago asking why internet is needed in a jewish home pieord? asked why we cant establish places that will have itת if you need to use them ?is money an issue he asked? but why is it need to be in a jewish home he expressed saying it involves the 3 most stringent sins and isnt a joke like ישמעאל made of them.
    2)In the spring of 2012 took place an even called City Field
    3)In 2013 took place an Asifa in Lakewood discouraging Shopping on line and how Internet is solely for parnasha.

    2020 ….. Ill leave it at that

  16. To Mr. Dry Wine-Sour-Grapes responder,

    A little bit of research would have uncovered the fact that the Agudah has been providing a phone call-in option in all of their promotional material.

    Parents should have a strong enough spine to be able to tell their children that while there is [was] a Zoom option (where you can see talmedei chachomim, and not just here them), we prefer that you only use the call-in option, because that is our chinuch parameters and family derech.

    The writer of the response clearly has no issue whatsoever with the noble actions of those who seek to maintain purity in their home and are holding steadfast to this utopian ideal. Kol hakovod to those mishpochos.

    The writer is only pointing out the blatant contradictions that Lakewood kinderlach, ALL Lakewood kinderalch, are by default exposed to on a daily basis, no matter if it is or isnt actually in their specific homes. The actions of many have created a michshol in the reshus harabim that cannot be avoided unless you live in a cave somewhere in the far reaches of Jackson.

    As to the veracity of your claim that we will be at a loss of what to tell children post-Covid, I revert back to my earlier comment. Parents should have enough shtultz to be able to clearly delineate their families shitos and that what may have been acceptable during a period of ‘eis lasos l’H-shem’ is now once again wholly unacceptable and should be avoided at all costs. Lets not be afraid to talk to our children and reason with our children – they are smarter then we think.

    One final comment: The irreparable damage that virtual learning has done in our machaneh cannot be overstated. Mechanchim that had the tool of Zoom have found that the facial interaction was a G-d send for many talmidim and talmidos. It kept a shvach student from falling into the precipice. That is NOT to say that those that did not use Zoom should chas vsholom be faulted. That decision was made by each yeshivas respective Vaad HaChinuch and MUST be respected and followed.

    The point is rather that there is more than anecdotal evidence that there is an uphill battle ahead for mechanchim to try and recapture those that were lost – chinuch wise – during the pandemic.

    A highly reliable and respected source shared with me that numerous [and I use that word with great care] bochurim in Eretz Yisroel, from TOP yeshivos, who were unable to get a sipuk from learning over the phone, turned to the internet. Certainly, rachmono litzlan, some fell to sheol tachtis, but even some of the more ‘lucky’ ones found ways of registering online for college courses that would not have been acceptable in their respective yeshivos and to their specific Roshei Yeshiva.

    Enjoy the virtual Convention (via Zoom or call-in) – there is plenty to learn from our eineih ho’eidah, EVEN for those that are lucky enough live and bask in the kedusha of the ihr HaTorah Lakewood.

    Most importantly, invite your children to join you, so that they will further appreciate the fact that their Totty and Mommy crave listening to hadracha from gedolei yisroel. Now that is a gevaldigeh lesson in chinuch that does not take much effort to accomplish.


  17. I will be honest I did not read your entire response, because I couldn’t!
    As you started your response and delved farther into it I felt this was written with maybe a little anger (& possibly hatred?) We all get your point but to refute his machaa due to the gashmiyus in a town is absurd.
    I don’t know who you are and you prob already know what I’m about to write but somehow you turned a blind eye and instead of answering the person who made the machaa you bunched the entire Lakewood TORAH community together and spewed an off topic attack.

    So let’s go back to the discussion at hand.
    I have been to MANY Agudah conventions and I’ve listened to our gedolim speaking there (and in other gatherings as well) the number one topic, rightfully so, is always about the dangers of the internet. We have heard speeches and read letters on this topic for YEARS.
    There have been many internet assifos some in stadiums and some in Shuls. Every rosh yeshiva talks abt the danger of the internet and how we must avoid it no matter what. Gedolim give drashas about the messiras nefesh one must have to try and avoid internet at all costs. And they all believe that if your parnossa is dependent on it get a filter but chas vsholom to bring it into your home etc. etc.

    – So again, why should whoever made the machaa not be just a little perturbed when he now sees the Agudah Convention will be online?

    (Ps. and a special hour special for kids at the “virtual” convention? During the shutdowns we had school over phone conferences As opposed to zoom as to not have our children on the web)

  18. This anonymous response is simply attacking the other writers with terrible lashon hara and Motzei Shem Rah and does not address the content at all. I recently opened an out of town school and got very involved in understanding technology policies. Simply put, the ideal is not to have any internet in your home and that has been advocated by the Gedolim and by TAG. Although the Agudah convention addresses very important issues, the take away subliminal message is that the internet is mutar not just for critical parnasah needs, and you can have it in your home. I run many events and don’t use zoom despite its advantages, because of the possibility of the wrong message which potentially causes tremendous devastation. Many mechanchim have shared horror stories of what children and grandchildren have accessed even with filters. If the anonymous letter write heard these stories he would be singing a very different tune. Baruch HaShem Agudah scrapped the Daf Yomi app despite the advantages, because our smartphones and digital devices should be used as little as possible if at all, and only for critical parnasah needs as per the gedolim. I used to be on my smartphone at every waking hour because I was in kiruv and I justified its use, but after researching the issue I got rid of my smartphone and social media despite the hardship caused. I was shocked that Agudah was having such a convention (frankly I can’t believe that the Mir had a virtual event with video as a former Mir talmid). I urge you to call the smart choices hotline at 732-400-9003 to learn more about this issue.

  19. As I’m sitting in my 1100 square foot home, I had a good laugh how you just painted an entire community of thousands of families with the same brush. I invite you to the passenger seat of my 2011 sedan as I drive you all around town showing you that between all those big houses, there are just as many smaller, simple homes! I will seatbelt my adorable baby into our $400 carriage and take you to the shabbos kideishim in my neighborhood. You will find the salads and potato kugel to be so delicious, you will forget about the missing charcuterie boards and cabernet! Come, please come see the motzei shem ra you have just spoken on the many, many members who would be horrified to know the mockery of your letter.

    • So this letter is not about you and neither is the Agudah convention’s zoom option and its advertising. But for the hundreds of Lakewood residents even its is a miyut who this letter does describe with obvious exaggerations, the zoom option does apply and therefore the advertising of it is appropriate even in the not so uniform Lakewood. .

  20. I guess it didn’t dawn on you that it’s davka the choshuve people who live with minimum gashmiyus that are the ones who also live with minimum technology!

  21. I am a bit confused. Those who despise ריבוי הגשמיות and celebrate רוחניות should be happy. This year’s Agudah Convention will be the first on American soil at which there is no difference between the rich (those who could afford to pay the price to attend the convention with all of its mouth watering meals and fashion) and the poor jlubs like me who attend either in-person just for the free sessions (not daring to take even a drink since I am not a hotel guest) or virtually. This letter writer who I fully agree with about the Lakewood that I no longer live, has plenty of reason to celebrate this year’s convention. Maybe next year, the Agudah could find a way to make a convention that even a simple Reb Yisroel could afford to attend without feeling 2nd class.

  22. The over the top letter just shows that Lakewood is not a one size fits all Kosdosh VTahor Yeshivish community. There are all types in Lakewood including many that will gain much without losing and kedusha while watching and listening to our gedolim on the internet that they already have and use. The rest of us can use the phone option, read it in next weeks Yated or simply ignore the convention.

  23. The Agudah had live streaming from their Bnei Brak Yarchei Kallah of Horav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a for the past few years. There was a videographer standing directly in front of the Gadol Hador, who was looking directly into the camera. He knew that people all around the world were viewing the event. If Rav Chaim Kanievsky doesn’t have a problem with it, it’s beyond comprehension that there are Kanoim who know better than he does. Obviously, he sees merit in Harbotzas Torah online. He knows that the times have changed since the early days of the internet.

    Chaval for the children who won’t have the opportunity to see the Gedolei Torah because of a few Kanoim. I am sorry that the Agudah buckled to the pressure. For some reason the same group wasn’t screaming when they produced the live stream of all the conventions in recent years, or of the Siyum Hashas. Inexplicable???

  24. While the Machoah was probably obnoxious, I found the tone and assumptions of Lakewood in the letter quite obnoxious as well.

    No I dont live in a fancy house.

    No I dont live a fancy lifestyle.

    Why so much hate to Lakewood?

    Why is this hate to Lakewood any better than the hate that comes from outside when a few individuals give us a bad name.

    I’m a huge fan of Agudah and I am beyond happy that they are able to have the conference via zoom this year.

    But I’m disappointed by the words and response of the letter writer.

    In fact, I have never ever seen a letter on such a level come from the Agudah.

    I have only seen mature professional and respectful letters come from them.

    Let’s try to create Shalom and not division amongst people.

  25. How a bout when Lev Lachim annually livestreamed our gedolim from Eretz Yisroel in Bais Faiga to the entire Lakewood,(billboards all over town- “Live Satellite Hookup”) Where was the Maacha???? A stench of hypocrisy!!!

  26. Well said Aha
    The point of the “Machah” was Agudas Yisroel is supposed to representing Klal Yisroel , Klal Yisroel does not convene on the internet, its just not our thing.
    The fact that a big chunk of the lakewood community is caught up in a culture of high end and consumerism is a problem ( that has been addressed by multiple Agudas Yisroel conventions) but has nothing to do with the very valid point of Lakewoods bnei torah.

  27. Also to the author of this letter… i suggest you see a Therapist sometime soon , it doesnt have to be a top one you can use one of the cheaper guys

  28. Hi I live in Lakewood I’m currently learning and being supported by my parents/in laws who support me very generously. They set me up with a very large house which my wife renovated in a beautiful fashion. And I do lease 2 new cars. The fact that I live this way reflects the tremendous kovod hatorah that my parents and inlaws have for bnei torah. You mention not getting a “zivug maatim” for your kids my feeling is that has to do with your lack of appreciation for bnei torah. I suggest you work on really appreciating bnei torah and Im yirtseh Hashem your kids will be zoche to find their basherts.

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