Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Israeli rabbis demand that cell phones be kosher

As reported by Moshe Heller of Ynet News, June 6, 2015:

The rabbinical battle against the Internet has reached the synagogue: A synagogue in Jerusalem's Bukharan Quarter recently announced that a person who owns a cellular phone with Internet access or text messages will be banned from serving as a cantor or reading the Torah.

According to an announcement made by the Musayof Synagogue, which is considered a Shas stronghold in the neighborhood, the synagogue manager and the great sages of the generation, led by late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, "A person in possession of a non-kosher phone cannot serve as a leader in prayer."

While the ultra-Orthodox leadership has been radicalizing its attitude towards haredim who use cell phones that have not been authorized by rabbinical committees, Rabbi Yosef Cohen publicly expressed his negative opinion about the strict rabbis last week.

"It's not true what all the rabbis say, that one must not possess a non-kosher phone," he said. "Everything in the world can be exploited for kashrut purposes. I don't have an iPhone, and I don't know how to use one, but I have heard from God-fearing people that they are blocked and can't commit any offense with it," the rabbi stated in his weekly lesson at the Bukharan Quarter.

During the lesson, which was quoted by the Haredim 10 website, Cohen lashed out at Ashkenazi rabbis, accusing them of being greedy. "Everyone must have a kosher number. Why? Because the Ashkenazi rabbis have to steal people's money? Where is it written? They go to rabbis who don't understand what a phone is and how to speak on a phone – and they are lured into taking a kosher cell phone. It's wrong," he said.
And as reported by Moshe Keller on December 27, 2015:

The Rabbinical Committee for Communication Affairs is demanding that the prominent ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit organization employ inspectors to patrol authorized cell phone stores in haredi neighborhoods and ensure that the devices sold in those stores are indeed "strictly kosher" - with no camera or Internet access.

The committee is active among the haredi public in a bid to convince the sector's members to use their cell phones for conversations only. In addition, it acts as a control system of cellular companies in terms of filtering and blocking content services which are perceived as unsuitable for the haredi sector, and occasionally warns against cellular providers who fail to meet the criteria.

The rabbis' demand to employ inspectors follows several incidents in which workers of cellular stores in haredi neighborhoods were caught selling unauthorized devices or tampering with devices which appear "kosher," allowing customers to surf the Web on their phones.

In one incident, the Rebbe of Strykow staged a protest outside a cellular store selling Internet-supporting phones. He stood outside the store with his followers for an hour, trying to convince customers to avoid buying there.

The move's supporters argue that the lack of supervision could create a breach, with stores selling under the table like in the kosher food industry. On the other hand, there are those in the committee who believe that the supervision alongside the rabbinical boycott of Internet-supporting cell phone users are sufficient, and that adding inspectors would boost the non-profit committee's expenses.

The debate between the rabbis has been joined by interested parties criticizing the committee's representatives. Street ads distributed in haredi neighborhoods claim that due to the lack of supervisors, many stores tamper with cellular phones, allowing yeshiva students to evade the rabbinical ban.

"Yeshiva students are seen visiting impure and detestable stores on Bnei Brak's Jabotinsky Street and in the Davidka Square in Jerusalem, buying devices without any supervision and protection," the ads state.
Meanwhile, one rabbi ruled that a lost cell phone doesn't have to be returned to its owner--if the phone is "non-kosher." As reported by Moshe Heller, July 29, 2013:

An innovative halachic ruling issued recently states that there is no need to return a lost "non-kosher" phone to its owner.

The ruling was given following an incident which took place in a bakery in the central city of Bnei Brak, when a saleswoman refused to return a smartphone to its owner. The case sparked a halachic debate on social networks on whether the saleswoman had violated the "thou shalt not steal" commandment.

The new halachic ruling, issued by Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, states that banned cellular phone are not considered a property which, if lost, must be returned to its owner according to the Torah.

Meanwhile, a new court on communication affairs was established in the ultra-Orthodox sector at the initiative of Refael Meir, the brother of haredi journalist Yedidia Meir. The court will headed by five leading rabbis, who will issue rulings on the use of cellular phones and the Internet.

The decision to set up the new institution was made during a meeting held at the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the leaders of the haredi Ashkenazi public.

The court will also run a PR campaign against haredi websites which rabbis have ordered their followers to boycott. Some of these websites have been taken down as a result of the boycott calls, yet many other websites have been launched recently.
See also my post Ultra-orthodox Israeli rabbi claims he has permission to use an iPhone--as other haredim smash smartphones (January 13, 2013)

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