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Close Facebook Accounts or Risk School Expulsion

An Orthodox Jewish high school in Brooklyn, N.Y, has ordered students to close their Facebook accounts, pay a $100 fine, or be expelled.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 3/30/2012, 12:15 AM

Schoolgirls (file)
Schoolgirls (file)
Flash 90

Beth Rivkah, an Orthodox Jewish girls' high school in Brooklyn, N.Y, has ordered students to close their Facebook accounts, or risk paying an $100 fine - or even being expelled.  

“Girls are getting killed on the Internet — that’s the reason for it,” Benzion Stock, administrator of the Crown Heights school, said.

In Israel recently, two girls almost succeeded in committing suicide after classmates insulted them on social media and a man was arrested for harassing young girls on Facebook.

Stock said that the school has banned Facebook because it encourages girls to violate the Orthodox code of modesty. It should be noted that parents have a wide range of Orthodox schools to choose from, with differing levels of stringency in halakhic interpretations and parents as well as schools expect the lifestyle rules of the particular school to be kept by  students.

“The Internet is a good way to ruin marriages and families. We don’t want them there, period. It’s the wrong place for a Jewish girl to be. Facebook is not a modest thing to do,” stock said. 

“Socializing on Facebook could lead to the wrong things,” she continued.

The issue arose, last week, after several 11th-graders were found to have what the school deemed to be inappropriate content on their Facebook pages. The students were forced to pay the fine.

Chaya Tatik, 17, who is currently a senior at Bnos Chomesh Academy said she was expelled from Beth Rivkah when she was in ninth-grade for dressing immodestly - and using Facebook - and was interviewed by the New York Post.

“It’s not right that they’re keeping them from such a thing,’’ she said.

“Everyone uses Facebook. It’s a way to communicate. I communicate with my cousins from Israel, who I don’t get to see that much,” she added. “A lot of teenagers have been talking to guys on Facebook. They’re my friends. I don’t see a big thing about it.

“Blocking them from using it gives them hatred... They want to take revenge and rebel. I know because I’ve experienced it,” she contended.

Internet and Facebook pose an educational challenge for all parents, especially on the issue of the amount of time spent on the web rather than on schoolwork, but are even more of a problem for in educators in strictly Orthodox communities which adhere to a dress code in accordance with halakhic rules and, in Hassidic and hareidi circles and schools, to strict separation of the sexes before marriage.

Filtered internet screens out violence and pornography, but cannot screen undesirable Facebook friends.

Beth Rivkah, of the Chabad stream, seems to have decided that Facebook's negative influence on students outweighs its usefulness. 

Israeli educators, too, are challenged by the Facebook phenomenon. Recently, a conference titled ‘The Internet – Dangers or Challenges?’, took place at the Talpiot Teachers College in Tel Aviv. Rabbi Yona Goodman of the Education faculty at Orot College and a frequent contributor to A7's Hebrew site, spoke on the subject of Facebook and how to deal with it from a Jewish point of view.

"It depends on our willingness to look at the challenge head to head or eye to eye and to learn what it’s all about because our kids are living there and we don’t even know what’s going on.” He said that as far as social media and intenet are concerned, parents are new immigrants to a country in which their children are natives.

“Our kids are not hanging out now only in the streets. The streets are in the computer, in Facebook.”