Sunday, February 2, 2014

Do you have a kosher cellphone?

The whole kosher cellphone phenomenon fascinates me.

It’s a real thing, and it’s a really important new development in Ultra-Orthodox (“Haredi”) society. Until very recently all ‘modern’ forms of technology were just banned across the board: internet, cellphones, you name it. But what happens when you want to integrate people into the workforce, but still preserve their lifestyle? We need to encourage the Haredim to get good jobs and lift their families out of poverty – but we need to do it in a way that encourages dialogue and respect, and shows them that they don’t need to lose their identity.

So the kosher cellphone, like the filtered internet, is a really important phenomenon.

I was in a Haredi girls’ school the other day to visit our “Career Alternatives” program.  Career Alternatives works with some of the best Haredi seminaries in Israel to train their young women to enter professions that are more gainful and in higher demand than the over-saturated field of teacher education.  And the teacher shows me her cellphone – you can see the hechsher (seal of kashrut approval) on the back, so it won’t have internet and texting, and the camera has been destroyed (you can see the hole in the second photo). It’s stripped down to the basic function of making and receiving calls. Well over 20,000 have been bought so far.

There are also kosher phone numbers. You can tell by the digits after the 3-number prefix from the phone company, so you know if someone is calling you from a kosher phone.

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