Religious Community Awakens to Dangers of Internet

The religious-Zionist community has slowly awakened to the problem of internet pornography. A new Jewish "Pornoholics Anonymous" forum opens.

Baruch Gordon, | updated: 15:55

Over the last two years, the religious-Zionist community in Israel has been slowly awakening to the growing problem of pornography on the Internet. One year ago during the days preceding Rosh HaShanah, IsraelNationalNews reported on three English sites that combat the plague of viewing internet pornography.

One of those sites,, founded by former Hollywood screenwriter Tzvi Fishman, announces the addition of several new site sections, each providing a new perspective on the battle against pornography addiction.

Following the tried and tested approach of established addiction-recovery organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA), the new section “Pornoholics Anonymous” explains the life-ruining addiction of viewing pornographic material on the Internet and offers concrete Torah methods of breaking the habit.

“We have taken the famous 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous and adapted it to the Torah community,” Fishman says. “Our 12 Torah Steps incorporate the successful guidelines of AA and GA and add things like Torah study, mikvah (ritual immersion into water), t’shuva (penitence), and Kabbalistic prayers know as Tikunim.”

It is not the first time that Fishman has worked with the problem of addiction.  One of the first books he wrote is called “A Nation of Gamblers,” published by Prentice Hall. He was the ghostwriter on the book for Stuart Winston and Dr. Harriet Harris, a husband and wife who battled through years of addiction to gambling.

“The problem of pornography on the Internet caught everyone by surprise,” Fishman maintains. “Especially among the modern Orthodox Jews in America and the religious-Zionist community in Israel. Because there isn’t a whole lot of Internet use in the hareidi-religious community, they have largely been spared. The plague broke out in the modern Orthodox world, where computers with Internet are a fixture in a majority of homes. Gradually, parents were shocked to discover what their children were viewing while they were away. And plenty of religious kids have discovered long lists of adult sites in their fathers' viewing history.”

Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, head of the Ramat Gan Yeshiva, estimates that 80 to 97% of Internet users in the modern Orthodox community have fallen victim to the porn epidemic. He maintains that the temptation is so great to look at forbidden material that a person should not sit down at a computer alone. The renowned Rabbinic leader Rabbi Shmuel HaLevy Vozner issued a Jewish legal ruling forbidding males to surf the internet in a room alone.

To help battle against what he calls “the Internet plague,” Rabbi Shapira has been the catalyst behind the new “Internet Rimon” ISP and filtering system (in Israel: 1-800-222-234), designed to provide foolproof protection to Israeli homes.

Another feature added to Fishman's site is an open Forum where parties engage in serious discussion of their addiction to internet pornography without exposing their identity. In the forum "For Women Only," Esther (assumed name) tells her story of how her marriage almost fell apart due to her husband's obsession of viewing pornography.

Still feeling "a lot of anger and pain," Esther concludes: "I hope this story helps others - so please feel free to pass it around - it might make another man who is addicted understand the terrible pain he brings to his own family and the terrible price of his addiction."

Introducing his third site addition in honor of the High Holidays which focus on t'shuva (penitence), Fishman made public nine abridged chapters from the book "The Art of T'shuva," based on the writings of Rabbi A. Y. HaCohen Kook. Co-authored by Rabbi David Samson, Fishman's book explains Rabbi Kook's inspiring vision of t'shuva, leading readers to greater personal happiness, understanding and spiritual growth.

In addition to writing a series of articles warning religious parents of the dangers of the internet, Rabbi Elisha Aviner, one of Israel’s foremost authorities on high-school education, gives lectures to parents and teachers all around the country. “There is absolutely no excuse not to have an internet surfing filter on one’s home computer,” he tells parents. “Not to do so is to violate the commandment, “Thou shall not put a stumbling block in front of a blind man.”  The Chief Rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, has even composed a special prayer for Internet users to help protect them from the spiritual dangers of Internet surfing.

Tzvi Fishman adds that his site's Forum receives lots of frightening true confessions, along with appeals for advice on how to overcome the urge. “The addiction to Internet pornography leads people into a lifestyle of lying and deception,” he says. “Many people are riddled with guilt, but don’t know how to stop. Young boys describe how they have become loners, trapped in the web of their terrible secret, and husbands write how their addiction has destroyed their relationships with their wives.”

“But if a person truly wants to stop, he or she can,” Fishman asserts. “Just as Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous have long records of success, we hope to have the same success at Pornoholics Anonymous too.”