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Introducing Yossie Strickman

We need a system that enables kids to get a personalized filter, I thought

As told by Yossie Strickman to Bayla Hersher

In a soundbite:

I am the founder of Project TRUST, which I run out of Passaic, New Jersey, where I’ve lived for 25 years.

My background:

I began my career working as a network administrator for a real estate developer, and then for ArtScroll/Mesorah. Friends and neighbors were always calling me with technology questions and asking me about setting up their phones.

I started working on Internet security in an official capacity after TAG was founded, following the Internet asifah at Citi Field in 2012 — I joined the team as a volunteer. Eventually, I was hired to manage their main offices, and even after I left in 2020, I continued volunteering there for about ten years.

Why I started my own organization:

Working on the inside of a filtering company, I saw so many people, specifically teenaged bochurim, coming in for one-size-fits-all filters — but I knew this wouldn’t help them in the long run. I knew they would get frustrated by filters that didn’t take their individual needs into account, and in the end, they’d abandon the filter altogether.

We need a system that enables kids to get a personalized filter, I thought. Chanoch l’naar al pi darko; everyone is different, everyone has his own needs. (Obviously, my job would be a lot easier if our teens adhered to the recommendations of rabbanim and professionals to stay away from smartphones during their school years. But those who do own these devices — regardless of the reason — are often open to guidance, and that’s where I come in.)

I wanted to be able to hold my clients’ hands and make sure that every step of the filtering process worked for them personally. With that in mind, I launched Project TRUST, an organization that offers support and personalized solutions for people struggling with unhealthy technology usage.


Growth and expansion

When I started Project TRUST in 2020, it was a side gig. I was working as a logistics manager for a medical supply company during the day and for Project TRUST in the evenings and on weekends. I knew I’d keep that up as long as I could manage both, but I didn’t plan on abandoning Project TRUST when having two jobs became unmanageable — I planned on leaving my actual job instead.

Two years ago, I told my wife, Sabrina, that I thought it was time to run Project TRUST full-time.

“What about the work you actually get paid for?” she asked.

I need to give her credit for accepting a very out-of-character answer from me.

“I’m going to be doing Hashem’s work,” I responded. “He’ll take care of us.”

From the first moment, I’ve seen an unbelievable amount of siyata d’Shmaya in every aspect of building Project TRUST. I went from working for myself and getting no salary to employing three people, and we’re all salaried, baruch Hashem.

How I came up with the name

I knew I wanted something everyone could relate to, regardless of religious background. The word “trust” felt perfect. It even became an acronym that reflects our goals: Taking Responsibility Using Safe Technology.

Getting our clients to trust themselves and to be responsible with technology are our main objectives. In order for them to be healthy and functional, they need the self-awareness to know whether everything they’re doing is good for them, no matter what anyone else is doing. Only when you’re honest about your needs as well as about what’s dangerous for you can you really trust yourself. Trusting yourself when you use technology comes second.

What I’m up to now

Contrary to popular belief, my main focus is not filtering — it’s education. My goal is to help my clients learn what is good for them in regards to technology.

That starts with validating the way a client thinks and feels about technology (and about life in general). After that, my goal is to make them realize I will do everything in my power to help them feel happy with their tech use. Yes, happy — I want clients to be happy to have a filter, and with how they’re using their filtered device.

Ultimately, my job is to help people live happy, healthy, and functional lives by using technology responsibly. Join me in this column as I give you a glimpse into the lives of some of my clients, people whose stories will offer practical solutions and valuable insights for you and your family.

Anything but Kosher
“What is an app, exactly?”

The question came from me, even though I know exactly what an app is.

It was Mrs. Abramoff who clearly didn’t.

“I’m not sure I understand,” she responded, confused.

Mrs. Abramoff was in my office with her 17-year-old daughter Aliza to have a filter installed on Aliza’s brand-new smartphone.

The night before our meeting, both of Aliza’s parents had sat with her to discuss her new device. They reviewed the apps she wanted, ensuring each one was suitable for Aliza and aligned with the Abramoffs’ values.

Rabbi Abramoff, a renowned posek, had relied on his daughter’s harmless descriptions of social media apps to pasken that they were kosher. With his stamp of approval, the Abramoffs had come to me to disable the browser and prevent further downloads from the app store.

But it seemed that Aliza had failed to mention the actual purpose of most of the apps I was looking at on her home screen.

In addition to the popular social media apps, like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, Aliza downloaded some newer ones that had only recently started gaining traction, like Tellonym and BeReal. I could see that Aliza had capitalized on the opportunity to install everything she could before a filter limited her options.

But now, as she watched me scroll through her pages of apps, Aliza was starting to look very uncomfortable.

Almost as uncomfortable as Mrs. Abramoff herself, who was still trying to figure out how to explain the meaning of the word “app.”

“Mrs. Abramoff, I’m sorry to ask you this in front of your daughter,” I said, interrupting her thoughts, “but how could you have decided the appropriateness of these apps if you don’t know what an app actually is? Or what it can do?”

“Aliza explained each one to me and my husband,” she replied simply. “We had an open and honest conversation with her last night — she told us what each app does, and we decided which ones were appropriate for our daughter.”

I looked at Aliza, who was blushing furiously.

So much for open and honest.

“How did you describe TikTok to your parents?” I asked her.

“As an easy way for me and my friends to send each other videos,” she answered meekly, now completely red in the face.

Mrs. Abramoff looked from Aliza to me and then back to Aliza, slowly catching on to the fact that her daughter hadn’t been entirely truthful.

But I still didn’t think Mrs. Abramoff realized just how misled she’d been. Then again, how could she?

She couldn’t possibly understand the actual purpose of the apps her daughter had requested — she didn’t even know what an app was. But without knowing what apps can do, parents are not equipped to guide children of any age to use them appropriately or safely.

I turned back to Aliza.

“Aliza, I want to go through these apps with you,” I said. “You don’t have to fully explain each one, but how about you give me some examples of how they can be used to be oveir an issur d’Oraisa.”

Mrs. Abramoff gaped at her daughter. “Can they really be that bad?”

“We’re about to find out,” I answered matter-of-factly. “Let’s start with Snapchat.”

Aliza nodded slowly; she could tell she didn’t have a choice in the matter. She thought for a minute.

“Someone can send you inappropriate pictures on Snapchat,” she said haltingly. I gestured for her to continue. “And you can watch stories from anyone, even non-Jews, so I guess that could be inappropriate too.”

“Watch stories?” Mrs. Abramoff actually laughed. “Aside from the talk we’re going to have tonight about your phone, we’re going to discuss getting you an English tutor.”

“No, Ma.” Momentarily forgetting her embarrassment, Aliza barely suppressed an eye-roll. “There’s something on Snapchat called stories, but they’re videos. You watch them.”

“I see,” Mrs. Abramoff replied.

She still looked confused. This was the first she was hearing about Snapchat stories, after all.

“And people can post whatever they want? Even inappropriate videos?”

Aliza shrugged, shamefaced again.

“Let’s move on to Tellonym,” I said.

“Well, people can post things about people anonymously or ask whatever they want. So that could lead to cyberbullying, which is probably assur.”

“Right, ona’as devarim is assur. Anything else?”

“Anyone can start a conversation with me, and I won’t know who they are,” Aliza added weakly, the blush creeping back up her cheeks. “Like a man pretending to be a high school girl.”

We went through the apps on Aliza’s phone one by one, and within just a few minutes, we had effectively overturned her father’s psak. The social media apps Aliza had downloaded were anything but kosher.

“I’m sorry I lied to you, Ma,” Aliza said softly when we finished.

Aliza, like most teenagers, didn’t understand how important it is to use technology safely.

To avoid the possibility that she would be forbidden from using social media, Aliza took advantage of her parents’ complete ignorance to download things they would never have approved of had they understood their actual functions.

In Aliza’s defense, she felt her actions were justified by the fact that she had no intention of doing anything wrong on any of these apps. Even though social media could potentially end up being detrimental to her, that risk didn’t seem as important to her as the risk of her parents making it off-limits altogether. But now that Aliza had verbalized some of the spiritual, emotional, and physical risks of abusing technology, she looked like she was beginning to regret what she had done.

Mrs. Abramoff put her hand on her daughter’s arm.

“I know, sweetie,” she said, and paused briefly. “But there’s something I don’t understand.”


“How could you talk about these things with Mr. Strickman if you wouldn’t talk about them with your parents? You were so straightforward with him, and you don’t even know him! Why weren’t you comfortable enough to be honest with us?”

“It’s not that I wasn’t comfortable with you,” Aliza said without hesitating, “it’s just that he already knows.”

“Knows what?”

“He already knows what these apps can do. I can’t fool him. You and Tatty didn’t know what I was talking about, so I just said whatever I thought would get you to let me download them.”

There are so many ways parents can get information about technology and social media.

You can Google your questions, look at the App Store for details about what apps your kids are using, or speak to someone who understands technology better than you do. But by opting to blind yourself to the dangers your children may face, you are effectively endorsing these apps — both their risks and their consequences.

I didn’t want that to happen to the Abramoffs.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Abramoff,” I said, passing Aliza’s phone back to her. “I can’t filter this phone for your daughter.”

“Why not? Can’t you just delete the inappropriate apps, and make sure she can’t download them again?”

“I can’t put a filter on a device that you, as the parent, know nothing about,” I explained. “It will be kosher today, but your daughter can find a way to pull the wool over your eyes again tomorrow. You’ll end up being matir assurim, and I can’t facilitate that. Before I do anything to Aliza’s phone, we need to have a conversation about technology and what it can do. Then we can talk about what will be best for your daughter.”

The Abramoffs left that day without a filter on Aliza’s phone.

Two weeks later, Mrs. Abramoff was back in my office — this time, with her husband.

“Thank you for meeting with us, Yossie,” Rabbi Abramoff said. “Can I start with a question?”

“Of course,” I answered.

“What is an app, exactly?”


Identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of subjects, their families, and all other parties.


Yossie Strickman is the founder of Project TRUST, an initiative that offers comprehensive support to those navigating the dangers of technology, including exposure to improper content, unhealthy Internet habits, and cyberbullying. He is based in Passaic, New Jersey, and speaks about safe technology use across the United States.


Brain Trust: Tips for parents of teens
Continuing Education

A lack of knowledge about the apps and technology teenagers are using leads you to make uninformed decisions with unexpected consequences. You need to continue learning about technology as it evolves so you can guide your children through challenges as they arise.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1000)

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