WhatsApp Spreads Fast Among Ultra-Orthodox — and Rabbis Cry Foul

Is Popular Free Messaging Service Kosher?

Kosher Message? Ultra-Orthodox rabbis pack Shea Stadium to condemn the internet in June 2012. With Hasidim flocking to WhatsApp, will the free messaging service be their next target?
josh nathan-kazis
Kosher Message? Ultra-Orthodox rabbis pack Shea Stadium to condemn the internet in June 2012. With Hasidim flocking to WhatsApp, will the free messaging service be their next target?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 06, 2014, issue of February 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

Some traced the app’s popularity within the Hasidic community to the 2012 rally at CitiField. Others said use had taken off only in recent months, after usage of the formerly popular BlackBerry Messenger collapsed amid the fading popularity of BlackBerry devices.

But sources agreed that the backlash against WhatsApp started only in recent weeks.

WhatsApp had a low profile at the time of the CitiField rally. Organizers of that 2012 campaign focused their opposition on more prominent sites, like Facebook and YouTube. Now, that’s changing.

“I know that the askanim [local organizers] are very concerned about this,” Oppenheim said.

“It’s not something they can control,” said one member of the Hasidic community who lives in Williamsburg. “Anything they can’t be in control of makes them nervous.”

The Hasidic community member from Boro Park downplayed the seriousness of the Der Blatt article, which condemned WhatsApp for distracting parents from their children and for spreading gossip. The article also suggested that Hasidic people were using the app to distribute explicit photos.

“This [article] is their way of saying WhatsApp is very in,” said this source, who argued that the report should not be taken literally.

Der Blatt is, in fact, known for its exaggerated tone. But Oppenheim said that the article was in earnest. Moreover, he said, the paper is powerful enough within the community to change communal standards by taking a stand against the app.

What’s more, Satmar spiritual leader Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum said in a speech in December that belonging to WhatsApp groups destroys one’s “Jewish spirit,” according to a report in Yeshiva World News.


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!
  • "Selma. Nearly 50 years ago it was violent Selma, impossibly racist Selma, site of Bloody Sunday, when peaceful civil rights marchers made their first attempt to cross the Pettus Street Bridge on the way to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama." http://jd.fo/r50mf With the 50th anniversary approaching next spring, a new coalition is bringing together blacks, Jews and others for progressive change.
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” 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.