Jewish Ozzies' Inter.Net
The electronic voice of the Australian Jewish Community


The following article originally appeared in the

Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society,

Vol. XIV, Part 4, June 1999.

Please do not reproduce without permission from the author.

 

 

THE INTERNET AND AUSTRALIAN JEWRY: 1992–1998

by Benseon Apple

 

Amongst political pundits one often hears the catchphrase, “The only constancy in the Middle East is change”, though the phrase really belongs in the field of information technology. This century has seen momentous change in the way in which humankind processes, stores and transfers information. The development of IT has impacted upon virtually every aspect of our lives. The Internet[1] in particular has altered the boundaries of communication, becoming an integral part of nations’ defence mechanisms, a trading medium for business, a wealth of knowledge for both scholars and laymen, a pastime for many and a source of fascination for countless millions across the globe.

 

So powerful and ubiquitous is the Internet that in November 1998, the Eida HaCharedit rabbinical court in Jerusalem issued a proclamation banning its use.[2] This ban followed one placed on television, for both are seen to be negative influences on the mind of the Torah-true Jew. It is true that the Internet in particular has become a global medium for the purveyance of pornography and countless other secular resources which are inappropriate for an Orthodox Jew to explore. The Internet has however also become a watershed in the growth and vibrancy of Judaism in all its forms. Despite the rulings of some ultra-Orthodox authorities,  Jews have been instrumental in contributing to the formative development of the Internet and have made it part and parcel of their Jewish modus operandi.

 

This article will focus on the evolution of the organisations and various other projects which have played a part in the promotion of Australian Jewry and Judaism as a whole on the Internet since its “commercialisation” in 1992. In little over half a decade, the formation of two Australian Jewish community networks and the proliferation of Jewish Internet usage in a variety of forms, has provided fascinating material for a preliminary historical study such as this one. The constantly developing nature of the Internet means that in future years there will undoubtedly be new areas of endeavour for Australian Jewry in Internet expression. However, this article, which is perhaps somewhat of a radical departure from other historical pieces to date on Australian Jewry, is intended to open up this new subject of study for further analysis. In particular, the “early” times in which we live inhibit a detailed assessment of Australian Jewry’s response to the phenomenon of hate on the Internet, a subject which will certainly see further legal dispute in years to come.

 

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INTERNET: A DUAL EFFORT

 

The Internet owes its origins largely to the dual efforts of universities and US government bodies; both were instrumental in the continual development of enhanced Internet technology. However, it was the sharing of resources by universities using the Internet which was the pre-eminent force behind the startling growth in the worldwide proliferation of Internet usage.

 

The precursor to the Internet was ARPANET, a project of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which was formed within the US Department of Defense in 1957 in order to establish a US lead in the fields of science and technology for the military.[3] The aim of ARPANET was the creation of a decentralised network of computers, where information stored on computer would be accessible even if some went off line due to a nuclear attack.[4] In September 1969, the first Interface Message Processor (IMP) was installed at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), making it the first node in the network. By the end of the year the first message was sent across a four-node network, comprising four universities in the southwestern US – UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, the University of California Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. Over the next few years, other US universities were added to the network, and by 1973 University College London and the Royal Radar Establishment of Norway became the first international connections to ARPANET. In 1976, Queen Elizabeth II sent Britain’s first Royal e-mail. [5]

 

In December, 1970, the Network Control Protocol (NCP) was created as an ARPANET host-to-host protocol. A new version of the protocol was developed in the 1970s by Bob Kahn, eventually becoming known as the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). Other developments in the 1970s included the creation of the Unix to Unix Copy Protocol (UUCP) in 1978 and Usenet in 1979.

 

By the mid-1970s, there was a flurry in the number of networks, which were purpose-built for a closed community of scholars.[6] The exception to these was Usenet and later BITNET, the “Because It’s Time NETwork”, which in 1981 began electronic mail services, connecting IBM mainframe computers around the world. Also, by 1983, MILNET, an offshoot of ARPANET, was formed for exclusive use by the US defence system.

 

In 1984, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) began building a model of high-speed communication lines known as NSFNET in conjunction with the Department of Energy, NASA and the National Institutes of Health. By 1986 they had established five super-computing centres to provide high-computing power, allowing an explosion of connections from universities. They also created the Acceptable Use Practices which stated that the Internet could be used for non-commercial research only. By 1990, ARPANET was finally decommissioned as a result of the weight of the NSFNET program’s ecumenism and funding.[7] Also, by that stage, TCP/IP had become the dominant network protocol and hence the definitive mark of what constitutes the Internet: In a resolution passed by the Federal Networking Council (FNC) on 24 October, 1995, the Internet was defined as

 

the global information system that (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein.[8]

 

In March, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee of the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) proposed the notion of the World Wide Web for internal use at CERN.[9] It allowed the linking of multiple documents through hypertext, where highlighted reference points in a document act as reference points to additional information. The system’s success led to its general adoption on the Internet. Months after CERN’s proposal, Marc Andreessen of the Software Design Group of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) began a project to create a graphical user interface to the World Wide Web.[10]

 

Gopher, released in 1991, was developed at the University of Minnesota and was named after their mascot, “the golden gopher”. It was a smaller, rather than a mainframe, system, with client-server architecture. It became a popular method of making menus of material available over the Net, though over time it was largely superceded by the World Wide Web.[11]

 

In order to cut costs the NSF had, by 1992, begun contracting NSFNET’s operations to companies wishing to offer commercial access. By 1993 the NCSA had developed their “Mosaic” software for widespread practical application. These developments allowed the Internet to become accessible to the world at large. Since that time in particular, the Internet has grown radically: in 1969 there were only four “hosts”,[12] by October 1992 there were 1,136,000 and by July 1998 there were 36,739,000. Likewise, the number of sites on the World Wide Web has grown from 130 in June 1993 to 2,215,195 by April 1998.[13]

 

JEWISH OZZIES’ INTER.NET INC. (JOIN):

AUSTRALIA’S FIRST COMMUNITY NETWORK

 

In 1991 Quentin Jones, then a PhD student at the University of Sydney, after being active on a number of mailing lists, was approached by a member of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and asked to become the Australian representative of the Global Jewish Information Network. The Network, conceived in 1988 by Dov Winer, was established with the support of the Knesset and the Israeli Ministry of Communications.[14] Quentin agreed to take on the task, envisioning the Australian Jewish community running its own server for e-mail, Usenet news and a variety of other activities.[15] In the words of his mother, Geraldine Jones:

 

Quentin could see that the resources of the Internet offered a new way to participate in Jewish life, a new way of learning and sharing. The young and old, the secular and the religious, everyone could find something to enjoy and benefit from. The Australian Jewish community could gain from easier exchange of resources between Jewish day schools, savings on mailings and telephone calls for national organisations and the strengthening of links with other Jewish communities around the world.[16]

 

Quentin spoke to Bob Kummerfeld, Associate Professor in the Basser Department of Computer Science at the University of Sydney, who felt that the concept had “vast potential for bringing the Australian Jewish community closer to the rest of the Jewish world”.[17]

 

Kummerfeld was involved in Message Handling Systems (MHS), whose “The Message eXchange” (TMX) service sought commercialisation of their message handling software and the offering of dialup connections, initially for e-mail and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and later for full Internet service. It was agreed that Quentin would organise a group of PC and Mac users to beta test the software.

 

Quentin approached his mother for her help in setting up a Jewish network which would use and test the software, for the software processes had to be simple enough for use by someone without a technical background. Kummerfeld arranged that those testing the software would gain free connection via TMX. Geraldine organised with a manufacturer the supply of modems at a reduced price, in order to allow for broad participation in the network, and she actively encouraged acquaintances to participate in the venture, helping to install the software and training them in its use.

 

Ronald Cook of MHS set up an e-mail list with Geraldine as moderator and the network was named “Jewish Ozzies’ International Network” (JOIN). Quentin assisted Geraldine in the early stages of JOIN, but later moved to Israel where he now acts as the Israeli contact for JOIN. The aims of JOIN were to assist individuals and organisations to use the Internet to connect to the global Jewish computer network; to raise the profile of Australian Jewry worldwide; and to combat the purveyance of intolerance and anti-Semitism on the Internet.[18] JOIN was Australia’s first community-based network.

 

By late 1992, JOIN was beginning to make its mark in the global Jewish Internet scene. One of the first announcements that the organisation made of its existence to the global Internet community, was a posting on 15 December, 1992, to the “Liberal Judaism Mailing List”.[19] Geraldine notified the list that the Sydney office of Australia-Israel Publications (AIP) now had an e-mail address and that they would be supplying articles for JOIN to send to its “small band of beta users for enjoyment, information and comment”. Dov Winer also assisted in publicising the existence of JOIN to Jewish netizens worldwide. As a result of these efforts there were immediate expressions of interest and new subscribers to the JOIN list.

 

Apart from attaining a profile on Internet forums and by word of mouth, JOIN sought to make inroads among the Internet-illiterate in Sydney. Over the years, live demonstrations were made by Geraldine and others to Sydney’s Institute for Communal Development, the Association of Rabbis and Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, the Jewish Arts and Culture Council, WIZO, Friends in the Great Synagogue, and at the 1998 Jewish Book and Multimedia Fair. JOIN also featured in articles published in a variety of prominent magazines.[20]

 

The main function of the JOIN list was the “Letters from Jewish Australia”, articles posted infrequently to the list covering Australian-Jewish interest. The first letter was a piece written by Geraldine on the 1992 publication, “The Australian Haggadah” by Victor and Andrew Majzner. This, together with articles from AIP and others, were seen to be “a unique drawcard for initiating Australians into the Jewish Global Network”.[21] Other letters posted to the list over the years included pieces covering Australian Jewish arts and cultural expression, history and religion, as well as articles on politics, racism and Aboriginal reconciliation and Rosh HaShanah messages from parliamentarians.

 

In 1993, with the assistance of Avrum Goodblatt, one of the founders of Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium (Goodblatt had lent “moral support and encouragement” to JOIN in its early stages)[22] two more e-mail lists were created, JOIN-TALK and JOIN-HELP. The aims of the former included: sharing knowledge about various issues affecting Australian Jewish life, promoting Jewish community events, and facilitating private correspondence for discussion and friendship.[23]  JOIN-TALK today has in excess of 1500 subscribers. JOIN-HELP was created for discussion on technical issues, though today it has largely ceased to be active. By having these lists hosted by Shamash rather than TMX, JOIN sought to gain added international exposure. The original JOIN list remained as a TMX-hosted list, mainly for Letters from Jewish Australia and for media releases from Jewish communal organisations.

 

Over the years, JOIN-TALK has seen a wide variety of postings on topics ranging from intermarriage, to Hansonism, to the Demidenko/Darville affair. The list has become a melting pot of opinions representing virtually every aspect of Australian Jewish expression. On occasion, some postings have inflamed the passions of those with alternate views, especially on issues to do with Jewish belief and practice. Despite strict moderating by Geraldine, personal attacks and somewhat intemperate language have crept into a number of postings, and minority fringe groups have tended to dominate several of the discussions. After one unfriendly debate, a Sydney subscriber lamented in a posting to the list:

 

The atmosphere fostered by a strident minority in JOIN’s discussions is adversarial, antagonistic, and so focussed on minutiae that it frequently borders on pettiness. Where I’d anticipated a forum in which intelligent people could share views and ideas and perhaps solutions for the world within, and the world at large, there has been instead a sense of bitter infighting in which people – not their arguments – are attacked with unbecoming vehemence.[24]

 

The JOIN webpage began in August 1995. Linda Bergin, CEO of Linda Bergin Internet Education, provided Naomi Jones, daughter-in-law of Geraldine, with technical support in establishing the site.[25] The webpage has grown immensely, today featuring an A-Z guide to Jewish Australia on the Net, various articles of interest, several profiles of Australian Jews, reviews of Jewish/Hebrew computer software by Corporate Consultant Rabbi Ronnie Figdor, a guestbook, and links to other global Jewish Internet sites. The site has also featured advertisements for communal functions, media releases and other newsworthy topics; notably, at the time of the Maccabiah Yarkon River tragedy in which four Australians died, the site featured updates and other pertinent information for victims’ families and friends. In the week of the tragedy, the site had over 16,000 visitors.[26]

 

With the assistance of Naomi Jones and other volunteers, JOIN helped to develop and maintain websites for a number of Australian Jewish organisations, including roof bodies such as the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Zionist Federation of Australia and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. In mid-1998, the NSW Kashrut Authority website, set up with the assistance of JOIN, was chosen as the Jewish Communication Network “Cool Jewish Site” for July 1998.[27] In late 1998, JOIN created a site devoted to the Sydney Olympics Jewish Organising Committee (SOJOC), established under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Featured on the site was a survey aimed at determining the needs of visitors to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.[28]

 

JOIN has survived financially by relying on the pro bono services of Geraldine and Naomi Jones and on the technical and administrative assistance of volunteers. JOIN’s communication costs have been financed largely by its relationship with TMX: JOIN helps people set up their Internet access, offering them connection through TMX; it bills those subscribing through them to TMX, for which it receives a commission. It also raises funds by membership; e-mail subscriptions to the Jerusalem Post, where a percentage is taken from the price charged; and through organisations’ donations for creating and maintaining their webpages. In February 1996, JOIN became incorporated and at the same time Jewish Ozzies’ International Network was shortened to Jewish Ozzies’ Inter.Net. (The former name had, at the time of its creation, been suited to a Jewish community largely ignorant of the term “Internet”.)

 

THIN END OF THE “WEJ”

 

WEJ was the brainchild of four young adults in Sydney working in the computing industry: Paul Chait, Barry Grossman, Seon Rozenblum and Simon Foster. Prior to JOIN establishing its own webpage and communal website set-up service, the four developed the notion of providing free webpage set-up for Australian Jewish organisations under the umbrella of one communal website. The name WEJ was chosen as a catchy version of the word “Jew” in reverse. In August 1995 the four met with Peter Wise and Ken Lander of the Jewish Communal Appeal, Rabbi Mendel Kastel of the Great Synagogue, Dr Hilton Immerman of Shalom College, and others, to present their ideas and offer to set up websites for these institutions (at this stage they were not concerned with finances).[29]

 

Their initiative met with support from these organisations and others, and over a period spanning almost two and a half years, the WEJ directors assisted some twenty-six Jewish organisations Australia-wide to set up websites, allowing the visible presence of the Australian Jewish community on the World Wide Web to become an established fact. Over time, the WEJ site grew to feature separate link listings for communal organisations, schools, synagogues, youth, Israeli trade and tourism, and upcoming communal events. The links were not only to websites set up by WEJ, but also to sites of other organisations, including those established by JOIN. Until the time of WEJ’s demise in early 1998, the page featured the most thorough listing of Australian Jewish sites.

 

The large number of sites achieved were a result of the directors’ involvement in and contacts amongst a variety of Sydney Jewish organisations; notably, Barry Grossman’s communal activity – other than in a WEJ capacity – spanned AUJS, the Young Adult Forum, New Moon magazine, Young UIA, Young JCA, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Network, and the Great Synagogue. Coupled with this, the directors’ efficient, courteous and cost-free service, and the opportunity to gain Internet exposure by coming under the WEJ website umbrella, motivated the organisations to participate in the venture.

 

WEJ obtained its own server hardware which meant that the organisations’ sites could be freely maintained either by WEJ or by the organisations themselves. The latter involved giving the organisations their own “log-ons”, allowing them to update their own pages. The hardware was situated at the Internet provider, FASTmail, who provided WEJ with assistance both in this and other areas for a merely nominal fee. From the outset WEJ was incorporated, though financed largely through contributions by Chait and Grossman. Outside funding was never sought due to the time constraints of the directors.

 

There were a few changes in the composition of the WEJ team between 1995 and 1997, with Chait and Grossman remaining as the two main directors throughout the period. When Simon Foster moved overseas he was replaced by Ronnie Altit, who later also moved overseas, as did Seon Rozenblum. Others who assisted with webpage set-up included Carly Einfeld and Mark Havas. In 1997 Robi Karp became a director.

 

The organisation’s mission of “enabling every Australian Jewish organisation to place their information on the Web for free under one banner site” was broadened from mid-1996, when the notion of an Australian Jewish Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel was conceived. IRC was developed in 1988 by Jarkko Oikarinen as a multi-user real-time chat facility. Jewish-dominated chat channels already existed both on local and foreign IRC servers. In particular, the local Israel channel over the years became a valuable medium for Jewish youth from around Australia to meet one another. (The use of such channels in promoting social opportunities for Jewish youth is worthy of a future study.) The WEJ directors had initially experimented with a Web-based chat channel, but found it to be too unstable, therefore creating a permanent WEJ IRC channel. With the assistance of the Network coordinator, Shana Kerlander, group e-mails and flyers were used to promote a weekly Tuesday chat session on the channel at 9.30pm. At its peak, the channel attracted forty to fifty people and topics discussed included the Maccabiah Yarkon River tragedy and the report of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ Continuity Taskforce. The chat remained active from early to late 1997, but eventually folded as the impetus of the innovative concept declined.

 

In mid-1997, the notion of WEJ mailing lists arose. Unlike JOIN-TALK, which encouraged discussion on any and all issues pertaining to Australian Jewry, the WEJ concept was to create separate discussion and information lists for individual fields of interest, such as Jewish humour and Divrei Torah. Further, the discussion (i.e. non-information) lists were to be unmoderated. To that effect, Grossman approached Benseon Apple suggesting that he administer a Torah list in conjunction with the Great Synagogue. Since 1995 Rabbi Raymond Apple, the Synagogue’s senior rabbi, had been publishing a weekly Torah pamphlet, “HaShavua”, edited and produced by his son Benseon, and since the end of June 1997, Benseon had adapted the pamphlet and sent it weekly by group e-mail to over seventy people. At the beginning of October, the Great Synagogue e-mail Torah list transformed into an automated list, TORAH-WEJ, with Benseon as list administrator and Robi Karp as technical list administrator. The planned discussion lists did not eventuate.

 

Preceding TORAH-WEJ as the first Australian-based Torah list was that of Rabbi Benzion Milecki of South Head Synagogue, Sydney. Started in 1993 as a list for the propagation of Mashiach material, it later became for the sporadic distribution of sermons and other Divrei Torah. It initially functioned through Virtual Jerusalem, but after costs became prohibitive it switched to Shamash in June 1998. TORAH-WEJ was, however, Australia’s first weekly e-mail Torah service and by the end of 1998 had over 330 subscribers from around Australia and the world. The success was in part due to feature articles about the list in the Australian Jewish News, and other publicity in Australian and New Zealand communal publications and on a variety of Internet sites and other mailing lists. Various publications reprinted TORAH-WEJ pieces on a regular basis.

 

The list was purposely positioned differently from overseas Torah lists, such as those of the massive Torah Internet consortium, Project Genesis. The two e-mails per week – one a D’var Torah, the other an Ask the Rabbi forum – frequently focussed on topics of Australian interest. Subjects addressed included: Aboriginal sacred sites; exorcism; transsexuality; Hansonism; racism; freemasonry; Native Title; celibacy; prayers for the Queen; giving land to Palestinians; beauty contests; women and Torah; smoking, autopsies; artificial insemination; gambling; taxation; organ donation; etc.

 

The demise of WEJ began in January 1998 when the server crashed. The site had not been backed-up for several weeks and hence after the crash reverted to its old visual format of some time before. The amount of work required to restore the site to its updated format was prohibitive, and both Grossman and Chait were now pursuing other work-related interests. Since that time no further organisational website set-up has been done by WEJ, and the site remains unchanged and now outdated. The only aspect of WEJ which is still active is TORAH-WEJ, which, after the crash, functioned through the computer system of Robi Karp who is technical director of Fluffy Spider Technologies. As of the end of 1998 the future of the WEJ website remained unclear, though Grossman and Chait had begun approaching several organisations and individuals to take over and resuscitate the site.

 

OTHER INITIATIVES

 

Several other projects have appeared since 1992 which have played a significant role in promoting Australian Jewry and Judaism on the Internet. The projects have been sporadic, with few Jewish organisations adopting serious initiatives to utilise the Internet to its full potential. The Great Synagogue’s Cyber Cheder in 1996 was perhaps the exception to this.[30] Rabbi Mendel Kastel was the impetus behind the program which sought to provide an educational focus for teenagers. Implemented with support from WEJ and the Sydney Business Centre – where most of the classes were held – the Sunday morning lessons saw a dozen youth between the ages of 12 and 15 participate. The students explored various Jewish websites and learnt to set up their own individual sites, chatted over the Net with other Jewish children, and discovered the various uses of the Internet for Judaism and Jews. Classes were facilitated by Rabbi Kastel with support from Ronnie Altit, Barry Grossman and Paul Chait from WEJ, together with Amanda Slade. The program did not continue the following year, but the Synagogue subsequently set up a computer classroom for future programming.

 

Public demonstrations have been given on the use of the Internet for Jews, with the majority presented by Geraldine Jones. In December 1998, Rabbi Sholem Bloom of Melbourne’s Kollel Menachem delivered a multimedia class to businesspeople on “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on the Internet”, though such initiatives have been few and far inbetween.[31]

 

Although not a project as such, one would be remiss not to mention the growth in the number of websites devoted to Australian Jewish organisations and individuals. Both with and without the assistance of JOIN and WEJ, the proliferation of Australian Jewish sites has been significant, though perhaps less than has been the case with overseas sites. A number of organisations and individuals have taken advantage of cost-free offers and have created webpages through Victoria’s VICNET and GeoCities, whereas others have registered their own domain names. Many sites have been somewhat basic in design and updated infrequently, if ever; others are constantly updated with the latest news, pictures of recent events, media releases and articles. Some even provide links to organisations’ databases. A website venture of note was established by Sydney young adults Michelle Tuch and Adam Nir in late December 1998. Entitled “The Sydney Jewish Singles Webpage”, it lists singles’ names and basic details and encourages those interested to contact each other.[32] The success of such sites in promoting Jewish continuity is likely to become the subject of future research. Due to the existence of JOIN and WEJ, it is Sydney rather than Melbourne that has been the focus of much of the Jewish web-based activity, but coming years may correct this imbalance.

 

THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE

 

A recurring problem faced by Australia since 1788 has been the “tyranny of distance”. Recent decades have however seen a greater shift towards an Australia with a global outlook and identity, in an economic, political and broader sense. This process has been facilitated by radical improvements in communication technology, in which the Internet is now playing a not insignificant part. Australian Jewry too has increased its global focus, not simply because of the demographic transitions arising after the Holocaust. The Internet has provided an international forum for Jews to interact with unbelievable ease and at minimal cost. The educational, social, cultural, spiritual, political, and economic ramifications of the Net have created a surge in opportunities for Jewish learning, continuity and general expression. The Internet has allowed the “tyranny of distance” affecting Australia and its Jewish community to all but disappear.

 

The dual effort between universities and the US government in the development of the Internet reflects the fact that, from time immemorial, knowledge has been the key to achievement. In every field – academic or military or other – the attainment of, and access to, information can mean the difference between success and failure. Arguably, therefore, the Internet has already become a vital technology for the future of Jews and Judaism: the axiomatic call of the Shema to transmit the Jewish spiritual heritage has previously been reliant on verbal, written, printed and visual mediums, all of which are destructible. Throughout history, personages such as Yochanan ben Zakkai and Yehudah HaNasi adopted unique measures to ensure that the spiritual heritage would not be lost. However, the mass devastations of Jewry throughout the millennia, culminating in the Holocaust, nonetheless succeeded in destroying not only vast numbers of Jews and Jewish artefacts and literary treasures, but also depleted the global level of Jewish knowledge and cultural expression. It is no surprise therefore, that the Internet has become eagerly accepted as a crucial new transmission mechanism for the Judaic legacy.

 

The remarkable speed with which Australian Jewry, and indeed Jewry worldwide, has come to use the Internet in promoting Jews and Judaism, lends credence to the prediction that the Internet will become “the history of the future”. Oxymoronic? Perhaps; but the continuing advancements in Internet technology and the proliferation of Jewish websites, mailing lists, chat forums, and a variety of other applications, will provide much material for historical and other analyses in future years. As one Internet historian so cogently put it, “We live in interesting times!”.[33]

 

 



[1] The Internet is spelt with an uppercase I, as internet with a lowercase merely refers to the interconnection of two or more networks. (I am indebted to Robi Karp, technical director of Fluffy Spider Technologies and WEJ director, for checking the technical accuracy of this paper.)

[2] See IsraelWire (daily news from Israel by e-mail), Vol. 1, Issue 260, 3 November, 1998 (http://www.israelwire.com). 

[3] ARPA changed its name to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1971, then reverted to ARPA in 1993 and then back to DARPA in 1996. The original name has been used in this instance.

[4] Apparently, there may be cause to doubt that ARPANET was created to safeguard the US defence mechanism in the advent of a nuclear war. Some Internet historians argue that the RAND study was responsible for spreading this false rumour. One authoritative historical study however notes that “the later work on Internetting (sic) did emphasise robustness and survivability, including the capability to withstand losses of large portions of the underlying networks”: see Leiner, B. Cerf, V., Clark, D., Kahn, R., Kleinrock, L., Lynch, D., Postel, J., Roberts, L and Wolff, S., “A Brief History of the Internet”, http://www.isoc.org/internet-history/brief.html, accessed on 18/12/1998, ftnote 5.

[5] For the historical development of ARPANET I am indebted to Hauben, M., “Behind the Net - The Untold History of the ARPANET”, http://www.dei.isep.ipp.pt/docs/arpa.html, accessed on 4/11/1998; Howe, W., “A Brief History of the Internet”, http://www.delphi.com/navnet/faq/history.html, accessed on 18/12/1998; and “The 25th Anniversary of ARPANET”, http://www.cbi.umn.edu/darpa/arpanet.htm, accessed on 4/11/1998. See also Michael and Ronda Hauben’s detailed analysis, NETIZENS: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet, 1998, and Zakon, R., “Hobbes’ Internet Timeline v3.3”, http://www.isoc.org/guest/zakon/Internet/History/HIT.html, accessed on 18/12/1998.

[6] See Leiner, et al., loc. cit.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] CERN was originally named after its founding body, the “Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire”.

[10] For a historical overview of the World Wide Web, see Zeltser, L., “The World-Wide Web: Origins and Beyond”, http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~lzeltser/WWW/, 1995, accessed on 26/7/1998. See also Hughes, K., “Entering the World-Wide Web: A Guide to Cyberspace”, http://www.hcc.hawaii.edu/guide/www.guide.html, 1993, accessed on 26/7/1998.

[11] See Howe, loc. cit.

[12] For a glossary of Internet-related terminology, see Enzer, M., “Glossary of Internet Terms”, http://www.matisse.net/files/glossary.htm, accessed on 14/12/1998.

[13] Zakon, loc. cit.

[14] For information on Dov Winer and the Global Jewish Information Network, see http://mofetsrv.mofet.macam98.ac.il/~dovw, accessed on 27/7/1998.

[15] E-mails from Quentin Jones on 27/7/1998 and 27/12/1998. The remainder of this section on JOIN is based on an interview with Geraldine and Naomi Jones on 5/2/1998.

[16] Jones, G., “JOIN: Australia’s First Community Network”, Open House, No.7, April, 1994.

[17] E-mail from Bob Kummerfeld, 26/7/1998. For information on Bob Kummerfeld, see http://www.cs.su.oz.au/~bob/, accessed on 26/7/1998.

[18] See http://www.join.org.au/thankyou.htm, accessed on 27/7/1998.

[19] Vol. 2, No.63.

[20] For example, Cairns, R., “Welcome to Cyberspace”, Reader’s Digest, Dec. 1995.

[21] Posting by Geraldine Jones to the “Liberal Judaism Mailing List”, 15/12/1992.

[22] E-mail from Quentin Jones on 28/12/1998.

[23] Posting to JOIN-TALK by Geraldine Jones on 26/7/1998.

[24] Posting to JOIN-TALK by Peter Ford on 3/11/1998.

[25] For information on Linda Bergin see http://www.bergin.com.au/company.htm, accessed on 27/7/1998.

[26] A woman identifying herself only as “Louise” posted the following to the JOIN guestbook on 17 July, 1997: “I think that you have done a wonderful job of sending out up to date information about the tragedy in Israel. If it was not for this service … I would not have been informed of the events in Israel as quickly.”

[27] See http://204.141.25.3/scripts/jcn18/paper/Article.asp?ArticleID=1755, accessed on 27/7/1998.

[28] See http://www.join.org.au/sojoc/index.html, accessed on 17/10/1998.

[29] This section on WEJ is based on an interview with Barry Grossman on 9/2/1998, and on knowledge of WEJ developments deriving from my personal involvement in WEJ.

[30] See http://www.wej.com.au/cheder, accessed on 29/12/1998, and Kastel, M., “Youth Report”, The Great Synagogue 119th Annual Report, August 1996.

[31] See Kleerekoper, V., “Around the Shules”, The Australian Jewish News, Melbourne edition, 18/12/1998.

[32] See http://www.angelfire.com/il/singlesjewish/main.html, accessed on 24/12/1998.

[33] Howe, loc. cit. The evolutionary nature of the Internet is matched to that of the computer, as one historical study argues: “One should not conclude that the Internet has now finished changing. The Internet, although a network in name and geography, is a creature of the computer, not the traditional network of the telephone or television industry. It will, indeed it must, continue to change and evolve at the speed of the computer industry if it is to remain relevant”: see Leiner, et al.

 

 


Return to J.O.I.N. Articles Page