A new service will allow religious Jews to plumb the Internet for answers to questions and information – without having to connect to the Internet themselves. The initiative, dubbed ‘Internet Gemach,’ will involve sending questions and queries to the service anonymously. According to ladaat.net, the providers will then look for the information on the Net and send back answers by fax or e-mail.
‘Gemach’ is a Hebrew acronym for gemilut chasadim, or charitable acts, and refers to a service that is common among religious Jewish communities the world over. The traditional gemach extends loans on a short- or long-term basis for any need, including emergency loans, medical fees and wedding expenses. However, the concept has been expanded and there are now gemachs for everything from blankets through books to children’s pacifiers and silverware.
The idea for an Internet gemach was born among a group of community organizers who decided to do something in order to reduce the number of hareidi families with Internet access in their homes. They conducted a short survey and discovered that many hareidi people connect to the Internet because it makes discount shopping easier and because of the information available through Internet search engines.
Many of these people do not have Internet at home and instead go to friends’ homes, just to “check something small,” but wind up surfing the Internet for an hour or more.
In order to make these situations unnecessary, the Internet Gemach operators will conduct searches for the hareidi public. The person wishing to receive information will call the gemach and say what it is he wants to find out. There will be no need to identify himself – only to leave a fax number or a ‘kosher’ e-mail (from an Internet provider deemed reliable).
The service will be offered to a specific (but unnamed) hasidic community as a pilot project.