The Magnitude and Root-Causes of Today’s Kedusha Crisis
> Also you said that GYE is connected to 20,000 religious jews who are trying to do teshuva (get help) for viewing illicit images and acting out. Do you have a general sense how many of these 20,000 live on the east coast of the US?
We have about 22,000 members worldwide. Of those, about 11,000 are English speaking. I did a quick check in our system of 1,000 random users (see the map below) and I see that over 90% of our U.S. based members are in the East Coast. About 60% of our world-wide English speaking members are on the East Coast.
> Also what is your estimate of how many more are struggling with these issues and are not ready to try to do teshuva for it? Can one make a projection such as "if there are 20,000 religious jews trying to change, then there are likely ---- (40,000? or 100,000?) who are trapped but not ready to change?
Please see the chart below for some recent stats. Indeed we have over 22,000 members, of which about 6,000 signed up in the past year (2016). But this is likely still just a drop in the bucket. I'd be surprised if even 1 in 10 frum people who struggle from around the world actually sign up as members to GYE. So I think it's safe to estimate that upwards of 200,000 frum Jews are struggling/falling, if not more. (We've had over 100,000 unique visitors to our English website in the past year alone!)
Listen to this powerful 4 minute audio file from Rav Yosef Viener from back in 2009. If it was as bad as he describes then, just imagine how much worse it must have gotten in the past 8 years with smartphones in practically everyone’s pockets! At 1.48 min in the recording he says "keep in mind that the people who come to me are so frum and so upset about what's going on that they're willing to talk to their Rav. That means that there are thousands of people who would never even think of speaking to their Rav...". I think that a similar sentiment can be expressed regarding GYE.
> I also think the fact that many frum people have started watching rated R movies on a regular basis on their phones or tablets is an underreported problem. Based on my anecdotal interviews, i suspect that between 40-50% of religious jews are watching R rated movies or shows at least twice a month.
Yes, this is yet another tragic consequence of the prevalence and ease of viewing these kind of things. One used to have to go to a shop to rent videos, and there was still some level of shame to rent R rated movies. But today it's so accessible and in private, and once the line between kosher and nonkosher becomes blurred, it is so easy to slip into viewing things that no frum person would once have dreamed of viewing!
I think the solution to these problems needs to be twofold, (1) strengthening ourselves inside--as discussed above, and (2) better chinuch and awareness about technology in general, especially for our youth.
I happen to be close with the Stoliner Rebbe who holds that the approach that many Rabbanim took to "banning technology and the internet" back in the day (and even today, on some level), caused damage in Klal Yisrael, because it led people to just learn to disregard what the Rabbanim say, since they felt they needed it. And once they felt that they were anyway a "sheigitz" and doing something assur by using it, they felt they may as well do whatever they want. This led to terrible breaches in kedusha that perhaps could have otherwise been prevented with proper foresight and education to the masses about HOW to use technology responsibly, instead of just trying to ban it.
Recently, one of the Rabanim discussed the issue in depth with the Stoliner Rebbe, after which he gave a beautiful shiur on the topic (at which I was present). I had the zechus of translating the shiur from Yiddish into English, and it made a lot of waves in the frum world. You can see the translation on Matzav.com over here. This shiur came about 10 years too late in my opinion, but it really is a breath of fresh air and gives much needed clarity on this cloudy issue.