New York, NY – The last time Chaim Stein logged onto OnlySimchas.com, the popular Jewish website that "brings simcha to the web," he was reveling in the sense of optimism the website brings to him in his daily life. But according to a statement issued by the popular website late Wednesday night, it might be some time before Mr. Stein reaffirms that sense of self-worth.
On Wednesday, Dov Katz, webmaster of OnlySimchas.com, announced to the OnlySimchas community that OnlySimchas.com was informed by its network provider that the hardware dedicated to the site had malfunctioned and that the thousands of simcha galleries that make up OnlySimchas.com had been lost. Not since the Sara Lee Corporation's announcement a year ago that their Stella Doro Swiss Fudge cookies would no longer be parve, has the Jewish community been so devastated.
Late Monday evening, OnlySimchas.com received a desperate phone call from newlyweds Shmuel (known to his parents as Steve) and Malkah Cohen. Calling from their yichud room, the couple complained that they could not download images of their chuppah.
"I first thought my sister Chani was totally irresponsible and didn't scan the pictures in as we were escorted to the yichud room," a sobbing Mrs. Cohen explained, "but when we weren't able to download pictures from the chasan's tisch and bedeken, I knew there was a problem." Mr. Katz, not aware at the time that his server had crashed, dismissed the couple's complaint and suggested to them that their AOL dial-up connection was at fault.
But another phone call a minute later from an exasperated husband calling from the Beth Israel Hospital's maternity ward left Mr. Katz suspicious.
"Just as I was getting off with the Cohens, a man called to tell me that he could not view the pictures he took of his eight second old son," Mr. Katz recalls. "I was surprised, because our newest feature, 'the birth cam,' was working fine just ten minutes earlier."
Trying to quell the man, Mr. Katz calmly told him that the pictures should be up in no time and that perhaps he should tend to his sure-to-be-exhausted wife. Unsatisfied by this response, the irate husband hung up on Mr. Katz and violently shook his fist at his cell phone for several hours.
By the end of the night, the phone lines at OnlySimchas.com were tied up, and thousands of web browsers across the world were frozen.
Concerned that there was indeed a hardware problem, Mr. Katz eventually called his network provider, Sprint. After making his way through eighteen automated answering service messages, Mr. Katz finally got in touch with Stewart Jacobs, OnlySimchas.com account representative.
After describing the technical difficulties to Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Katz waited eagerly for an explanation. After a long pause and heavy breathing, Mr. Jacobs admitted that the server crashed, but was too scared to report it. Worse yet, he revealed that there were no back-up files.
Outraged, Mr. Katz vehemently questioned why the information wasn't backed up, leading an embarrassed Mr. Jacobs to explain that the money OnlySimchas.com was paying to back up its website was instead being used by the Sprint mailroom staff to bet on cockfights.
Why, exactly, the website crashed is still a matter of speculation. Muhammad Hassin, a technician for Sprint, suspects that it was simply an issue of system overload. "With so many Jews off for the holidays, and with an unprecedented number of Stern College girls rushing to get engaged in time to have their dorm doors decorated before winter break, the site experienced more traffic than usual."
But OnlySimchas.com IT technician, Mike "the computer guy," thinks otherwise. "We recently have been receiving harsh e-mails from a woman threatening to crash the site," he explained. "Apparently, she was offended by "immodest" engagement pictures where the guy and girl were touching and was out to teach us a lesson."
It's not clear what impact the crash of the website will have on the Jewish community. One frequent visitor to the website was frightened by the prospect that he will have to rely on his memory to recall milestones in his life, while a nervous paralegal wondered what she'll do at work for the next few weeks. "I guess I'll just spend more time on bangitout.com," she suggested disappointedly.
Addressing the predominantly single congregation on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Rabbi Alan Schwartz reassured his congregants that, "Simcha would continue to be celebrated by the Jewish community around the world." However, many worshipers remained skeptical, despite the recitation of an extra chapter of Psalms
after the Friday night services and an elongated singing of the popular Jewish anthem, "Acheinu."
In one attempt to keep the simcha network alive, Sally Kovacs, a physical therapist and notorious yenta living in Brooklyn, NY, is working on creating an extensive e-mail forwarding list which would inform people of births, engagements, elementary school honor roll recipients, nominations to synagogue boards and other important milestones:
"So far, I've really worked up a good forwarding list of my own, about 25 people in all. Besides my brother and some other relatives, the list includes my husband, a bunch of his coworkers in the diamond district, the people in my office, some of my old high-school friends, my podiatrist, my insurance agent, and a few folks I met last year on a vacation to Israel. There are also a few addresses on the list, like email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, where I can't remember to whom they belong. Oh, well: Whoever they are, I know they'll appreciate knowing that the Ruderman's had their sixth girl."
The OnlySimchas.com staff is uncertain when the site will return, but reassure visitors to its website that "With some help from above, we should have the site up and running soon."