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At a recent campgrounds Shabbaton sponsored by a local Modern Orthodox high school, the teenage participants broke into small groups after the meals, as is usual, to talk with their friends.On their cell phones.Of the 17 students who attended the weekend program, said 17-year-old Julia, a junior at the day school, most sent text messages on Shabbat – a violation of the halachic ban on using electricity in non-emergency situations.“Only three [of the 17 students] didn’t text on Shabbos,” Julia says. Most did it “out in the open,” sitting at picnic tables. “They weren’t hiding it.”The students at the Shabbaton were not the exception for their age group. According to interviews with several students and administrators at Modern Orthodox day schools, the practice of texting on Shabbat is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially, but not exclusively, among Modern Orthodox teens.It’s a literally hot-button issue that teachers and principals at yeshiva day schools, whose academic year ends this week, acknowledge and deal with it in both tacit and oblique ways. For the most part, they extol the virtues of keeping Shabbat rather than chastising those who violate it.The practice has become so widespread – some say half of Modern Orthodox teens text on Shabbat – that it has developed its own nomenclature – keeping “half Shabbos,” for those who observe all the Shabbat regulations except for texting; “gd Shbs,” is the shorthand text greeting that means good Shabbos.Not surprisingly, because of texting’s high-tech nature, it is the frequent subject of bloggers and discussion groups on the Internet.Schools are still looking for ways to deal with the issue, how to recognize the extent of the problem without issuing directives that are likely to be ignored.Bottom line: The teens who text probably won’t stop.“It’s a big problem,” says Rabbi Steven Burg, international director of the Orthodox Union’s NCSY youth group. Teens who text on Shabbat are an open secret in their schools and social circles, he says.Continue reading.
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