|Rabbi Shmuley Boteach|
“I love technology,” said Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Indeed, he could not manage his many projects without it. But, he told The Jewish Standard, there have to be limits. “Unplugging” is a major component of his “Turn Friday Night Into Family Night” campaign – but unlike the Sabbath Manifesto, “we’re not asking for a 24-hour unplugging. I’m a little more realistic.” Although he himself is a lifelong Sabbath-observer, his campaign, targeting Jews and non-Jews alike, “is only asking for two – two hours without movies, TV, mp3s, texting, e-mails, the Internet. If you don’t go offline for a limited period, you will suffer extreme burnout.”
“I truly believe that the Internet is becoming an addiction,” said the Englewood rabbi. “I see it with my children, and I think most parents see it with their kids.”
As for cellphones, Boteach said, the elder four of his nine children have them. But, he added, “if a kid needs to stay in touch it’s for reasons of transportation. Our kids go to school all over New York; it’s logistically complicated, so they need a phone.”
Noting that “young people today communicate primarily by texting,” he has harsh words for the practice. “The human dimension of communication is being lost” in texting, he maintained. “When you speak face to face there’s a certain warmth, facial expressions, subtlety, intonations. When you text you can hide behind the screen. I believe that technology should enhance the human experience, not supplant it.”
The author, most recently, of “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life” (Basic Books), he is passionate about his Friday night/family night initiative. Posted on its Website, fridayisfamily.com, are startling statistics attesting to a nationwide decline of family interaction. Among them are the results of a survey of 1,045 mothers conducted by Impulse Research that “revealed that the average family spends only 26 minutes eating together (27% of families spend less than 20 minutes eating dinner together) and only 39 percent of moms said their families turn off the TV during mealtime while even fewer families (30%) refuse to answer the phone during dinner.”
At least, both Boteach and the Sabbath Manifesto would say, turn off the phone.