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A twisted Web of morality

December 03, 2005

An orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, N.J., has banned the Internet for families that have school-age children, citing concern over access to sexual images. Under the ban, students with home access to the Web face expulsion from the area's Jewish private schools. What do you think of this policy, and the Web's effect on morality?

We should all be concerned about the potential damage of Internet pornography on our youth. The effect it can have is a real, dominant and constant threat to the positive moral and social attitudes we try to instill in our children.

This poses a great challenge to parents, educators and religious leaders alike. To deny this danger is ignoring reality.

At the same time however, the Internet is possibly the greatest blessing to education in all of history. Never before has humanity been exposed to such a vast amount of educational content, all at our very fingertips. A mere 10 years ago a fourth-grade student preparing for a history exam would need to spend hours perusing public library shelves to find what can now be Googled and retrieved in two seconds.

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Furthermore, almost every segment of society has found ways to positively improve our lives via the Internet. Today our medical care institutions offer online help and the ability to order medication without waiting in pharmacy lines. Religious organizations offer material via their websites and banks enable us to pay bills electronically saving us the hassle of writing checks, licking envelopes and affixing postage.

To the leaders of that community in New Jersey I say: Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a host of software available that can effectively block access to pornography. To deny all the benefits of the Internet because of its dark side is robbing the students of a host of important educational tools, and needlessly complicates people's lives.

A paramount Jewish concept is to harness all that is in our world for positive purposes. The Internet is not an exception.

RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN

Chabad Jewish Center

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