Stamford Hill’s most senior rabbi has backed the use of 'kosher' telephones to conduct school lessons for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, while issuing a stern warning on the “minefield” of smartphones.
Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, the rabbinical head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) said in a letter on Thursday that in this “time of great distress” teachers and community workers had continued to organise “programmes of learning via telephone communication.”
Rabbi Padwa commended their ingenuity and wished that “they be well rewarded for their efforts.”
He added that “many of them are using satisfactory kosher mobile phones to make it easier to communicate.”
The use of unfiltered internet and mobile phones is generally prohibited in strictly Orthodox communities, while specially programmed – ‘Kosher’ – smartphones which filter out unwanted content are permitted for certain tasks.
Rabbi Padwa continued with a stern warning on behalf of the entire UOHC Rabbinate, writing that congregants ought not to interpret the crisis as providing grounds to “relax” previous rulings “concerning the usage of instruments of technology such as the Internet, smartphones and the like.”
The letter also touched on the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The crisis has severely damaged or diminished the livelihoods of numerous people,” wrote Rabbi Padwa.
He called on the strictly Orthodox to “purchase as much as possible from traders in our own community” and to increase charitable contributions.
Rabbi Padwa has headed the UOHC rabbinate since 2000.