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!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • 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.