Kosher phones ring the changes

Kosher phones — adapted to prevent access to the Internet — have finally arrived in London with the blessing of the strictly Orthodox rabbinate.

Rose Communications, a company in Stamford Hill, north London, is inviting customers to trade in their old mobiles free for the new handsets, which can also be modified to exclude the text messaging service.

Although kosher phones have been available in Israel for several years, it took the efforts of a local non-profit organisation, Hakol Kol — meaning “voice only” — to introduce them to London.

Maxi Rose, director of Rose Communications, said he had imported a couple of thousand of the mobiles which have been modified by Israeli engineers.

“We are astonished by the demand and the willingness of the people to give up their all-singing, all-dancing phones for the new handsets,” he said. “We’ve had inquiries from non-Jewish organisations who want them for their kids.”

Rabbinical leaders have been concerned to protect children from unsuitable information accessible via the internet, while a problem with text messaging, Mr Rose explained, has been unsolicited messages sent by companies trying to promote adult sex material.

In Israel, he said, kosher phones had succeeded “beyond anyone’s belief” with even non-Orthodox parents
buying them.

On Sunday, the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations issued a notice to say that from now on, only internet- and message-free mobiles should be used.

If anyone required a phone with Internet access for business, they should consult a qualified rabbi first, the Union authorities said. There was “no permission to use it for matters which are not connected to earning a living” and a person should not be seen with it “in public places like shuls… and weddings”.

They added: “For their private use they should have a second mobile which is approved by the rabbis.”
Text message connections were also “very dangerous” and had “caused much destruction in important families”, they warned.

Young boys and girls, they said, should not be given mobiles at all.

Last updated: 5:04pm, July 30 2009