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Introducing Faceglat: The 'Kosher' Facebook

Facebook is certainly a lot of fun, but for some Orthodox Jews, it can also be a bit risqué. In an effort to keep social networking both clean and kosher, an enterprising young Israeli has come up with a virtual compromise: Faceglat!

Two separate windows for entering this pious social network
Two separate windows for entering this pious social network
Véronique Falez

TEL AVIV – Faceglat is a new social network that allows its users to chat online, share information and pictures, and add new friends – all the while strickly separating men from women, just like in synagogue. Launched in Israel last month by a young Hasidic geek, this website boasts a social structure designed especially for ultra-Orthodox Jews. The name "Faceglat" comes from the fusion of two words: Facebook, and glatt, meaning highly kosher, according to the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut.

When men go on Faceglat.com, they sign up by clicking on the arrow on the right of the screen. Women click on that on the left. From this moment on their respective paths will never cross. "One day, a couple of friends paid me a visit, and while we were chatting, the young woman said it was a pity that there was no website where she could share pictures with her female friends without other people being able to see them," says the site's creator, Yaakov Swisa. "We started thinking about a religious social network, where there would be no indecent pictures, and which would garantee that men could not see photos posted by women, and vice versa."

And so, six busy months later, the first kosher Facebook was born. But the 25-year-old Faceglat founder does not wear the traditional wide-brimmed black hat, nor does he dress in the ultra-Orthodox dark suit. Wearing a checkered shirt, a black kippah on his head, carrying his laptop bag on his shoulder, he bridges the gap between his Lubavitch community from the village of Kfar Chabad, located 8 km south-east of Tel Aviv, and the thrilling world of new technology.

No one could have predicted that the young boy who went to school in a yeshiva to study the Torah and the Talmud would one day become part of the Internet big league. "I taught myself on the family computer, during holidays," he recalls. His goal is not to push traditional communities towards change. Instead, he wants to protect them. "Orthodox Jews need the Internet, at home and at work alike," says Swisa. "My website allows them to browse freely, while offering them maximum security. It also reassures parents who worry about their children going on pages that everybody can consult."

Keeping the content kosher

Trust demands extremely strict rules. For example, a program tracks and deletes inappropriate words. And users who mischievously put photos of men in the women-only space, or who posted pictures that were deemed indecent, are simply banned from the website. For the time being, administrating Faceglat still involves a lot of improvisation. But in order to "move quicker," this Mark Zuckerberg of hasidic neighborhoods wants to buy a software that can identify and automatically delete pictures showing "more skin than is necessary."

Though the website is only a newcomer on the Internet, Faceglat has already attracted more than 2,000 users, mainly by word of mouth, and about 100 new accounts are being created every week."It's only the beginning. There are lots of curious people, most of them men from Israel, but actually about 15% of our users live in Russia," says the active young man with a smile.

The website is only available in Hebrew and English at the moment, but it will be translated in French and Russian in the next few weeks. It will then lead to an online advertising campaign, on orthodox forums and on religous singers' fanpages. A brand new feature of the Facebook revolution.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Faceglat

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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