Chairman's Message

Chairman’s Message – Spring 2011

I consider myself to be fairly well plugged into twenty-first-century technology. I have a BlackBerry; own several desktop computers and a laptop and use Bluetooth technology in my car. Remarkably, I have, at my fingertips, the ability to communicate with just about anyone within a 24,000-mile radius!

And yet, I’m not entirely sold on digital technology. Despite the soaring sales of e-books and the plethora of online publications, I just don’t believe that digital technology will entirely replace hard copy books, newspapers or magazines.

Am I too much of a traditionalist? No. I’m simply a lover of the printed word. Computers can give one access to oceans of information, yet they cannot mimic the wonderfully tactile experience of flipping through the pages of a well-worn book; they cannot inspire the same thrill of curling up on the couch with a favorite copy of Jewish Action magazine.

I recently read Yehuda Avner’s fascinating book The Prime Ministers, an engrossing and elegantly written 715-page tome. The book captures, in extraordinary detail, the experiences of four of Israel’s most prominent prime ministers. Could I have read such a long work on Kindle? Would I have enjoyed it as much? I think not.

I know the debate between e-books and traditional books is going strong, and there are compelling arguments on both sides. But let’s face it: along with the extraordinary advantages inherent in new technology, there are risks as well. The Internet Generation values, for the most part, immediacy over quality, efficiency over effectiveness, and as, Chaim and Dr. Aharon Fried point out in their article in this issue, “the urgent” over what is truly important. Most distressingly, the Internet is doing a fairly good job of destroying people’s ability to focus and reflect. Indeed, one of this publication’s unique strengths is that even amidst the endless tweeting and texting, we try to offer essays that are carefully crafted, reflective, and thoughtful.

In his thought-provoking article on technology in the schools, Dr. Marvin Schick warns of the danger posed by new technology: In welcoming the new, he writes, “we must not reject too much of the old.”

Some things simply cannot be replaced. Many people daven from their BlackBerrys when catching a Minchah minyan, but their BlackBerrys can never replace the tattered, tear-stained siddurim they inherited from their Bubbies.

I hope you enjoy our special section on the interface between Torah and technology. It is chock full of well-balanced, meaningful articles offering various philosophical and psychological perspectives on new technology and how it impacts the Torah Jew.
In this issue, we also present the second part of our two-part series on young Orthodox political leaders who are dedicating themselves to influencing public policy. Adhering to the dictates of halachah while working to better people’s lives, these individuals make an extraordinary kiddush Hashem representing Torah life to the general American public.

Additionally, this issue features a stirringly beautiful photo essay depicting the Jewish life that once existed in East Africa, including the little-known Adenite communities of Ethiopia, Eritrea and even Djibouti! Photos for this essay required extensive research; a few of the photos, sent to our office by Sami Cohen, the last Jew living in Asmara, Eritrea, have probably never been published in an American Jewish periodical before.
Finally, gearing up for Pesach, we offer practical tips on how to make Pesach more affordable in these financially stressful times and how to make sure children stay awake and alert during the Seder. Of course, this issue also includes stimulating book reviews, mouth-watering recipes, and informative articles on halachah, Israel and so much more.

I received many, many letters in response to my last message, and am looking forward to receiving even more this time. Before signing off, I would like to wish all of our readers a chag kasher vesameach.

This article was featured in the Spring 2011 issue of Jewish Action.
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