NEW YORK – Two US marketers are trying to start a revolution with the flick of a
switch – specifically, the off-button on wireless communication
Eric Yaverbaum and his partner, Mark DiMassimo, call it
“offlining” – deliberately being out of constant touch – and have started an ad
campaign calling for Yom Kippur to be a “No-Device Day” for people of all
“You don’t have to be Jewish...to atone for your texts on
Yom Kippur,” one ad reads, featuring a picture of shamed golfer Tiger
Another ad, accompanied by a picture of Mel Gibson, reads, “You
don’t have to be Jewish to give up drunk dialing for Yom Kippur.”
are these guys selling? Nothing, at least not yet, Yaverbaum said last week.
Rather, they’re trying to influence behavior as a public service
Since starting their initiative in June, more than 10,000
people have signed the pledge on the Web site, http://offlining.com, to have 10
device-free dinners with their families. But, Yaverbaum said, this is just the
beginning of the campaign to put a finger in the breaking dike of personal
“In a culture that is getting faster and faster with
technology, where people are working 24/7 and the multitasking has gone
the roof, you’re seeing the beginning of cultural changes,” Yaverbaum
noting numerous studies that have suggested that excessive use of
technologies renders us more impatient, narcissistic and forgetful,
of the things that matter.
“It’s time for all of us to recognize where
our culture is going, how wired up we are, and to take a breath,”
“We’ve got to sit down and talk to each other, and realize how all
this technology will change the way people socialize, and not always for
So why attempt to persuade people to “turn off and drop out” on
Yom Kippur, of all days? “It just seemed to be the perfect holiday for
to make amends, to atone, to do something different,” Yaverbaum said.
great time to think about their behavior and what they’ve done during
whether they’re Jewish or not.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many rabbis
“I happen to think turning our phones and other devices off on
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur would be a wonderful way to demonstrate to
and others that we are serious about making people, not electronic tools, our priority,” said Rabbi Maurice Salth of Central Synagogue
in New York, who plans on speaking about the role of technology in his 5771 High
Holy Days sermon.
“I am hoping this New Year will be a time for those of
us with a penchant for electronic and other personal technology to take the time
to prioritize what is most important to us so that we can say hineni, here I am,
to those most important to us,” he said.
Rabbi Dan Ain, rabbi in
residence at 92YTribeca, teaches a class at New York’s Academy for Jewish
Learning on “Faith, Technology and Halacha.” For Ain, the offlining initiative
alone doesn’t do enough.
“Their hearts are in the right place, although
these campaigns are not unlike fad diets,” Ain said.
short-term gains might make us feel good about ourselves, we’ll more than likely
yoyo to a place where we’re worse off than where we started.
“We need to
ask for more than a time-out every now and again,” Ain said. “We need to think
bigger and ask whether or not the price we pay – in the loss of our freedom, our
privacy, and our selfdetermination – is worth being able to watch the latest
episode of Modern Family on the way to work.”
And at least one rabbi took
the idea a step further.
“I think that if people adopted one day when
they would turn off all their cellphones, computers, etc., they might find it so
exhilarating that on other days they might restrict their gadgets to certain
times of the day,” New Jersey Rabbi Azriel Fellner said. “We’d all be