I love smartphones. I just HATE Facebook.
And Instagram. And Twitter.
And when I say I hate them, I don’t mean I hate the service they provide. ADRABA has accounts on all three platforms. (In 2019, one sort of has to…)
I hate how these entities turned what are mostly useful tools into information-gathering juggernauts that are designed to keep us rapt and swiping all the while filling their coffers with advertising revenue. (One of them may have even been involved in mucking up a “free” election… uh oh.)
Does this make me a Luddite? I suppose it does. Except it doesn’t make me anti-tech. Just the opposite. The original 19th century Luddites were quite adept at using tech, with many of them having worked as highly skilled machine operators in the textile industry. Yes, they smashed machines in protest. But the machines they destroyed were not particularly new. More importantly, their protest was directed against specific textile factory owners and manufacturers who used machines in what they called “a fraudulent and deceitful manner” to subvert standard labor practices. In other words, the Luddites stood up for their values, rejecting only the technologies that placed money and convenience over people.
At ADRABA, our core values of advancing Jewish literacy and engagement inform everything we do – including the kind of technology we use and how often we’ll use it. And I’m sure you’re still wondering if this means our students will be on screens 20 hours a day… The answer is still NO.
Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, the father of Modern Orthodoxy, entertained a similar dilemma about tech and Jewish learning when he considered the relationship between “religion” and “progress” in 1854. His conclusion: Progress is valid only to the extent that it does not interfere with religion.
When it comes to tech and Jewish learning at ADRABA. tech is only valid to the extent that it supports Jewish learning. And tech’s appropriate use, like Jewish literacy, will have to be learned through a process of bold questioning, discovery, trial and much error, and, most important, measured contemplation. As Pirkei Avot says: A person prone to being ashamed cannot learn. An impatient person cannot teach.
And a teen, when never given the opportunity, will never learn responsibility and moderation. No one ever said being Jewish – or a teenager – is easy. And being a “digital native” doesn’t guarantee experience or wisdom. At ADRABA, our students will hopefully acquire both.