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.
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Some were critical of the potential ban. Schmeltzer said that banning WhatsApp is part of a losing strategy. “It’s like banning a shopping center and then feeling the need to ban particularly aisle nine,” he said. “We’re in the shopping center, we see it didn’t work, but at least in aisle nine….”

In fact, it’s not clear how closely any of the Hasidic community’s Internet bans are followed, even by apparently pious community members.

The Williamsburg Hasidic community member said that some Hasidic men have started carrying two cell phones since the anti-Internet rally at CitiField in 2012: one filtered phone to show to administrators at the Satmar schools, who require that phones be filtered, and another without a filter. Another Hasidic man, the member of the Satmar community, said that he has a flip phone with no data capabilities to show in public plus an unfiltered smartphone.

Both of these men said that they had Internet-enabled computers in their homes despite communal bans. The Satmar man said that at home in front of his children he referred to his home computer as a “Mac” rather than as a “computer” so that it wouldn’t cause a problem if the children discuss it at school. The teachers at the Satmar school, he said, are the most sheltered adults in the community.

“Nobody in the school system knows what a Mac is,” he said. “They’ll ask my child if their father has a computer at home. They say no.”

Additional reporting by Frimet Goldberger.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kais at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis


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