Kosher Smart Phone Arrives as Ultra-Orthodox Tech Taboo Shifts

Israeli Rabbis Approve Phones That Don't Surf Web or Call

Not Too Smart: New rabbi-approved ‘kosher’ phones are being marketed to ultra-Orthodox Israelis. They are like their high-tech treyf cousins, but disabled to avoid the internet or even phone calls.
getty images
Not Too Smart: New rabbi-approved ‘kosher’ phones are being marketed to ultra-Orthodox Israelis. They are like their high-tech treyf cousins, but disabled to avoid the internet or even phone calls.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published September 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The taboo among the ultra-Orthodox in Israel about using smart phones is no longer, with the launch of models deemed appropriate for the devout.

That’s a real milestone for Haredi leaders, who have denounced the technology as a new form of evil. Last year the renowned rabbi Chaim Kanievsky declared the destructive capacity of smart phones to that of weapons, and another rabbi, Lior Glazer, publicly smashed one.

But on October 22, the cell phone company Rami Levy Communications will start selling niche Haredi smart phones, complete with a certificate stating that a rabbi has inspected the technology.

So how does a smart phone cross from treyf to kosher? It has to be de-smarted.

The Haredi objection to smart phones is that they allow free access to the internet, putting all aspects of secular thought, culture and media, as well as sexual content like pornography, at the fingertips of the observant.

“We get new cell phones in the shrink wrap, open them, and modify them,” Rami Levy Communications’ manager Shlomi Gulian told the Forward. The alteration completely disables web browsing. It is, Gulian stressed, irreversible.

And which model of telephone is his company modifying? “We’re selling the Google Phone — without Google,” he revealed.
The LG Nexus 4 is widely known as the Google Phone because it was developed by the internet services giant and configured especially to showcase its products, including its search engine — all of which are deactivated by Rami Levy.

Though there’s no web browsing, the neutered Nexus allows users to do far more than the existing “kosher phones” which only allow communication by voice calls. Users can send and receive text messages and emails, and use apps.

The phones have access to a special application store that contains only applications that Rami Levy’s rabbinic advisors have deemed appropriate. Digital banking, satellite navigation, interfaces for booking health appointments and Haredi-style religious reading are in; secular news and most other general content is out. There are currently 600 approved apps, and the company hopes to increase that eventually to 20,000.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.