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!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “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.
  • 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.