The sign at right hangs in a RW Yeshivish shul Flatbush. It is a sign that encourages Jews to reach out to their non-frum brethren and encourage them to explore Orthodox Judaism.
Interestingly enough, it encourages people to point non-frum Jews to (Orthodox) Jewish websites for information on Judaism.
On the whole, I found this to be a rather refreshing approach. It's not often that you find the Yeshivish crowd actually *encouraging* people to use the internet for Torah learning. They even advise having the prospective frum person come back and discuss what they found on the website. Could it be that the internet might gain some acceptence, even if only for Torah purposes?
Toward the bottom of the poster, it says (emhasis in original):
(This is not at all to suggest that the Frum community should see any websites. Also, it is not at all necessary to see any websites before telling others about them; if asked "Have you seen these websites yourself?" and you haven't, you can say that we have live mentors and study sessions and don't need websites.)
To be honest, I'm of two minds about this:
On the positive, it's a step in encouraging Jews to become frum, and all legitimate methods should be utilized toward that goal, including the internet. The internet houses a bonanza of information about Orthodox Judaism and should be utilized to encourage people to observe the mitzvos.
On the negative, however, the disingenuousness of the sign turns me off terribly. The sign is disingenuous in that it encourages lying to the prospective frum Jew. The truth of the matter isn't that the reason that they avoid the internet is because they learn from live mentors - the reason is because they maintain that the internet is a place that frum Jews shouldn't visit. If you want to maintain that opinion, fine - I may disagree with it, but you're free to express your opinion. But don't then lie to the prospective "convert." You're asking them to make a major lifestyle change and a lifelong commitment. The least you can do is be honest with them.
So, where does that leave us?
There have been those who have been of the opinion that it's OK to "lie" to prospective "converts" to encourage them to keep the mitzvos. Whether it be telling them about "rock-solid proofs" to the Torah (Kuzari, Four animals, etc.), the sociological aspects of shmiras hamitzvos,("Jewish men don't beat their wives") or anything else, I've always felt that lying does far more harm than good. Eventually, your lie will be found out, and when it does get found out, you'll have taken a person that had a neutral (and positive-leaning) attitude toward Shmiras haMitzvos and turned it into a negative - in the end causing more harm than good - a classic case of "yatza scharo b'hefseido."
There is nothing wrong with stating that you don't have the answer to every question, and there is nothing wrong with admitting that frum Jews aren't perfect and have our own share of societal ills. And if you believe that the internet is simply a bad place to be, then don't go there. But don't encourage others to go while you maintain it's not good and then lie to them about your reasons for abstaining. Above all else, be honest - your lies will be found out eventually anyway.
Note: Photo courtesy of Torn of Hashkafah.com