Rabbi Yosef Kazen talks about Chabad's venture in Cyberspace.

The questions come from the far reaches of the world: from a scientist in Antarctica who is holding a seder thousands of miles away from his family; from a student in New Mexico wanting to know if smoking marijuana is permitted before Shabbat services; from a mother who wants vegetarian recipes for Passover.

These are some of the daily questions former Clevelander Rabbi Yosef Kazen receives and answers over the Internet. Rabbi Kazen is director of the world's largest Jewish Web site, Chabad in Cyberspace, which has received over 1 million hits since its inception in 1994. The Chabad in Cyberspace Web site is listed among the top 5% of best Web sites across the Internet; and for its innovation and popularity, it has earned a permanent pictorial exhibit in the digital cave at the American Smithsonian History Museum.

Rabbi Kazen spoke recently at the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies about Judaism over the Internet. The event was held in honor of the 95th birthday of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, sponsored by Chabad House of Cleveland and the College.

"Internet technologies developed by the U.S. military during the Cold War now allow educators to spread Judaism around the world," said the rabbi. "People can be united in study of Torah."

"Personal contact is the key" says Rabbi Kazen who answers most e-mail personally, and types at his computer until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., at which time he will have answered, on average, 150 requests a day.

After receiving e-mail from the New Mexico student want to smoke dope, Rabbi Kazen replied that the boy didn't need extra assistance to find his spirituality. He could meditate and study Judaism, absent any drugs. Four months later, after many conversations, the boy began to study at a New York Yeshiva.

For frequently asked questions, Rabbi Kazen draws upon answers that he keeps on file. Many who visit the Web site are Jews looking to re- discover Judaism; people of other faith have also written to Chabad after discovering that their parents are really Jewish.

"Perhaps I've become a closet Orthodox Jew who will one day come out," wrote one man. Other people write with questions about Jewish law as it applies to a variety of interesting scenarios. "I poked myself with a knife," wrote one woman. "Is it still Kosher?"

Jews are not the only ones surfing the Web with the Lubavitchers, notes the rabbi. The Chabad Web site - which includes colorful screens of Jewish Knowledges and information such as the weekly Torah portion or daily study calendar - also captures the interest of gentiles. One woman, who maintains a frequent correspondence, expressed how important it was to her that Chabad Lubavitch in Cyberspace cares. "And I'm not even Jewish - yet."

"Hopefully," says Rabbi Kazen, "we've fostered closer understanding of Judaism."

The next challenge, explained the rabbi, is to create a CD-ROM of Jewish History. Also under development: a multimedia project that will allow users to access text, audio and video.

"The entire canon of Jewish Literature has to be out there in an accessible way," says the rabbi, "so that Jews can continue moving closer to Yiddishkeit."