Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, whose blog posts on the asifa attracted the notice of The Wall Street Journal, expressed his frustration, saying that little was accomplished by the event, whose price tag was reportedly close to $2 million.
“I think the Ichud HaKehillos must be disappointed with the outcome,” said Rabbi Fink. “They wanted to teach people how to use filters and allow people to use the Internet responsibly. With the exception of some portions of Rabbi Wachsman’s inspiring lecture, the overall theme of the evening was that the Internet is prohibited unless it is absolutely necessary for business. There was no positive message and no one spoke about the incredible potential of the Internet to be used in a positive fashion.”
“To me, the main point was that Klal Yisrael came together to face an issue that undeniably exists,” said 24-year-old Yitzchok Levine of Baltimore. “The gathering of so many people from so many diverse backgrounds was a huge Kiddush Hashem.”
Before the rally began, about 50 people protested the event across the street from the stadium. Later, the counter-demonstration reportedly grew to some 300 people. Many of the protesters came from Footsteps, a local organization that helps those who leave haredi Orthodox life integrate into non-haredi society. In particular, they complained that Ichud HaKehillos invested money in the rally rather than in preventing child molestation in the haredi community.
“Their priorities are messed up,” said Ari Mandel, who described himself as a former haredi. “Not only do they ignore child molestation, but they intimidate victims. If your house is on fire, you don’t worry about leaking pipes.”
– Reporting by JTA and Jewish Press correspondent Sandy Eller.