The New Slavery? – Rabbi Elizabeth Sarah

Just before 6:00 on Thursday, March 1, I was sitting at my computer enjoying the wonders of modern technology, as I dictated an article for Kemp Town News on to the screen in front of me. Since developing RSI two years ago, as a result of typing furiously with one finger, I have been using a voice recognition programme. Once I had completed the first paragraph, I came out of the document and at around 6:30, I logged on to my e-mail.

But then, as they say, all hell broke loose. When I got into my e-mail account, it was empty: nothing in my ‘inbox’, except a single ‘holiday response’ message that had just arrived; nothing in my ‘sent’ folder; nothing in my subject folders; no contacts. Nothing. I tried not to panic. I got out of Mozilla Firefox, and tried Internet Explorer. But the result was the same. What had happened?

Just as that question was pounding insistently and pointlessly in my head, the phone rang. It was one of my friends, calling to find out if I was okay? She’d just received an e-mail from me saying that I was in Mallorca, and had lost my bag, money and credit cards, and needed her assistance…

So I had an answer: my e-mail had been hacked into. But what to do about it?  The truth is, while I’m happy to reap the benefits of all the new technologies, I have no idea how they work, and not a clue what steps to take, when things go wrong. There was no alternative; I had to wake up Jess: she would know what to do…

Getting a message to my e-mail provider was the first hurdle, but, eventually, Yahoo got to work. It took all morning. Well, it didn’t take me all morning. It took Jess all morning. After phoning the fraud squad, at the advice of another friend, and responding to some of the texts and phone calls that had begun pouring in, I left home at 10:30 in order to get to my Thursday morning 11:00 Hebrew class.

I felt deeply shaken. I was also taken aback by the number of people, who phoned, concerned that, actually, I was stranded in Mallorca… I even had three calls from Spain – that is, from people, who really were on hand to help with my emergency:  a member of the Barcelona progressive congregation, the daughter of a deceased congregant, and a cousin.

Recalling the liberation of our ancestors from slavery in Egypt, Pesach is z’man cheiruteinu, ‘the season of our freedom’. While we celebrate the festival this year, perhaps, we might pause to think about our relationship with modern gadgetry. It’s all supposed to liberate us – but, increasingly, it dominates our lives completely. Are we the ‘masters’ of it, or have we become ‘slaves’?