More than 50,000 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men packed Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, on Sunday, for the Asifa, a gathering decrying the dangers of the Internet. Organizers have also rented the nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium for the overflow crowd.
Several key leaders of the Haredi community in the U.S. attended the gathering, including Rabbi Matisyahu Chaim Salomon, the mashgiach ruchani (spiritual superviser) of the Beth Medrash Gavoha Yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey, Rabbi Eliezer Zusia, the Skulener Rebbe, Rav Shmuel Dishon, head of Mosdos Yad Yisroel Karlin Stolin, Rabbi Mordechai (Mottele) Hager, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Zalmen Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Leibish Leizer of Pshevorsk, Rabbi Ephraim Waxman, and Rabbi Leibish Leiser, the Pshevorsker Rebbe.
Critics have called the gathering an anti-Internet rally, but Eytan Kobre, a spokesman for the Ichud Hakehillos LeTohar Hamachane (communities united for the purity of our camp) said the group wants to teach families how to use technology responsibly.
“They’ll make decisions about how much technology they want to allow into their lives and what kind of safeguards they want to apply to that technology,” Kobre told WNYC Radio.
“There is a very significant downside to the Internet,” he added, according to Vos Iz Neias. “It does pose a challenge to us in various aspects of our lives.”
Kobre cited online pornography and gambling as well as the risk of social media undermining “our ability to pray uninterruptedly, to focus and to concentrate.”
Women were not allowed to attend the meeting, but the rally was broadcast live to women who gathered in schools and halls.