Behind the Charedi PR machine
From the outside it looks like any other home in Boro Park, even the ground floor looks like a normal home. The cherry wood bookcases containing volumes of Talmudic discussion, the glass case filled with ritual silver, right down to the table filled with nosh and other heimishe food items, every detail is correct. Anyone coming to dinner, to collect for their local charity or to play with the children of the home would think it was like any other home off 14th avenue, but step into the basement and immediately upon passing the large servers you are greeted by a team of up to 10 computer programmers, hackers and everything needed to run a small tech startup.
Scattered about the floor are newspaper clippings, magazines and a scattering assortment of cd’s, books and computer parts. In the rear of the room Shmuely Bloom types furiously on a macbook air as he tries to get everything he needs to say into the small comment box on a blog notorious for its anti-Haredi content. Shmuely then makes sure his IP address cannot be traced and then slowly relaxes. “Do you know how hard it is to keep up these days?” Shmuely has been secretly protecting the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community from internet hate since 2004. “I was just sick of all the hate perpetrated against us for following Judaism as God laid out in the Torah”. Originally Shmuely had just started poking around the internet as a way to find answers to complicated halachic arguments and that’s when her came across the vitriol that was spewed by anyone with an internet connection on google’s Blogger software.
Ironically, the biggest threat to the Haredi power structure, long held onto by secrecy and cover ups, were fellow Jews, Orthodox Jews in fact. It seems like everyone modern orthodox person who’d never even been to Boro Park or Lakewood had something to comment on. Whether it was the Haredi socities special treatment of women because of their raised spiritual levels, or the way they tried to holkd onto the authentic Judaism of the 1800’s – you couldn’t go a few google searches without finding something blatantly false or anti-Semitic.
Through a system of detailed news alerts tracking everything from “orthodox rape” to “Heimishe crime” they are able to keep track of all the falsehoods being perpetrated throughout the internet. Although Klean Web is mainly a company that tracks the users who sign up for its services, their internal affairs division was founded by Shmuely Bloom and Yaakov Teitelbaum who both invested their own time and money to try and stem the flow of hateful propaganda on the web. Each day they scan the big 5 blogs for news stories and blog postings that may need some carefully worded comments or hacking. They rarely use hacking because of the halachic implications. Then it’s onto the news sites, forums, videos and whatever else they may have in their inbox from their google alerts.
“I literally just started visiting and commenting on blogs and forums” Shmuely smiles as he wishes for simpler times. “Then the false molestation accusations against upstanding heimishe citizens started and nothing has ever been the same”. Shmuely grits his teeth every time another one of his friends, relatives or acquaintances is accused falsely, by people whom he calls “mamzerim”. “These mamzerim haven’t seen so and so in 20 years, maybe he hit them in cheder, but it was so long ago – why ruin families and shidduchim over your own inadequacies” You literally see Shmuely’s tremble as he talks about the narashkeit of sexual abuse in the frum community, especially the Haredim. “We are not like the Catholics we believe that marriage and children are the purpose in life, so why would someone who’s married molest someone? It makes no sense and that’s because 99% of the time it’s false.
When asked about the current state of affairs he shakes his head and looks very sad. One can tell it’s a sore subject, the other bearded men in the room look up and for the first time they are listening. “I’m not sure we should get started on that one, it’s like God almighty is trying to pave the way for the Messiah” Shmuely is practically in tears “Rubashkin was bad enough, we turned him into a kiddush Hashem, but Feldman – we thought we had it under control and then suddenly the desecration of Pearl Perry Reich was added to the mix.”
Klean Web’s internal affairs division hasn’t been this busy since Troppergate. Yehuda Leib Tropper was another Rabbi falsely accused of sexual impropriety, but unlike most cased in the Ultra-Orthodox community, this was a legal heterosexual affair – the only problem was that the woman involved had everything on tape and it took a small army to spin the story into something that made many frum people stand behind Tropper. “Thanks God Feldman actually lied, we really didn’t need to do much” Klean Web mobilized a team of volunteer reservists around the community to flood book review sites like Amazon with long diatribes about how false the book was, but that didn’t stop the book from becoming a New York Times Bestseller and makiing everyone think that every family in the Ultra-Orthodox community was exactly the same. “We’re all kind of scared that the mainstream media has suddenly discovered us and they plan to keep putting out falsified stories that don’t showcase the lovely community we have. Why are there never stories about the charities, the beautiful large families or the way we welcome people on shabbos?” Shmuely ponders for a moment before turning back to the Imamother forum where he posts pro-Haredi links and flags stories which make them look bad.
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