School’s students have gained from long tradition of Sabbath observance
Last Sunday, Tiffany Shlain outlined the values of taking a Technology Shabbat, noting that the practice of a Sabbath away from technology has many early inspirations, including traditional Judaism (“A labor call to action: Take a tech Shabbat,” Ideas). The school where I work, the Maimonides School in Brookline, has wrestled with this dichotomy for its entire 80-year existence — embracing both the technologies of the day and also the calm, meaningful, focused time around a Sabbath without technology.
Our entire school community, parents and students, refrains from all technologies for the 24- hour Sabbath period in accordance with traditional Jewish practice. This has had a profound impact on our students’ abilities to form social connections with one another as well as on their relationship with their families, and has provided everyone with the time to take a breather from schoolwork.
Children also need to learn how to communicate with each other without phones — reading body language and measuring others’ feelings — and those skills can only be practiced on technology-free days. We recommend the idea for any school, and encourage whole communities to participate as one since the impact is muted when only some members of a student’s peer group do so.
Rabbi Yaakov Jaffe
The writer is dean of Judaic studies at Maimonides School.
Her life online is just fine, thank you
In “A labor call to action: Take a tech Shabbat,” Tiffany Shlain writes, “We can barely catch our breath in the tsunami of personal and work digital input, which results in our not being truly present for any of it.” But who is included in this “we”?
I am not. I get great pleasure and relaxation from my life online, which enables me to be fully present in literature, art, and music, as well as in interactions with a much more diverse range of people than I meet in my life offline. So I’m hardly about to follow Shain’s practice of staying “off all screens” for 24 hours a week.
Cyberspace-bashing has become part of conventional wisdom, but one size does not fit all.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman