Yeshiva students throughout the country are offering a new volunteer service to block laptops from connecting to wireless networks so users will not find themselves surfing the World Wide Web by accident.
The "internet disconnection charity" has been operating for several months and according to its founders it has assisted some 800 customers so far. In recent days, thanks to a major rally held by haredi rabbis in the US on the dangers of the internet, they have started to publish their services in haredi newspapers and have invited the public to call a hotline in order to disconnect their computers from wireless networks.
"There are many yeshiva students who purchase computers for the purpose of torah study and suddenly they discover that they brought the dangers of the internet into their home," one volunteer told Ynet.
The 'anti-internet' rally in NY (Photo: AP)
Last week's massive rally at the CitiField Stadium has become a launchpad for the war against the web in the US, a war which has been dormant for the last few years. The number one target on the haredim's most wanted list: Smartphones.
At the beginning of the week the rebbe of the Satmar hassidic sect laid down an ultimatum for his followers: Get rid of their smartphones within a month or find a new rebbe.
The spiritual leader reminded his followers of the rule forbidding the ownership of a computer with internet access. He noted that the only exceptions were for those using their computer to make a living – but even then, only a filtered internet service was permitted.
The rebbe then focused his ire on smartphones stating that any hassidic man whose job was connected to the yeshiva world or those who acted as 'holy vessels' i.e. work related to aspects of Jewish life, were not allowed to own a smartphone.
The rebbe then gave his followers a timeframe in which they would be allowed to rid themselves of their devices – they had one month to replace the smartphone with an acceptable device, failure to comply with his ruling would mean they would not be allowed to continue in their positions.
The only exception to the smartphone rule was for men who use their smartphones to earn a livelihood. This exception does not apply to women who are forbidden from owning a smartphone under any circumstances.
The Satmar rebbe: The phone or me (Photo:Yitzhak Weiss)
The smartphone ban is not something that can be taken lightly, at a recent wedding of a daughter of one of the leaders of the Satmar community in the US, the rabbi asked the witnesses to show him which phone they owned.
When one of the witnesses took out a smartphone he was banned from acting as a witness.
Apparently haredi rabbis are holding a competition among themselves over who can take the most extremist view on smartphones. Another wedding provided one yeshiva head with an opportunity to show just how far he was willing to go in order to rid the community of impure devices.
When he noticed a smartphone peeking out of a woman's purse and discovered it was the bride's phone – he destroyed it, without first seeking the bride's permission.
And while he is known as one of the more extremist yeshiva heads, the bride and groom are now afraid of approaching him with a request to reimburse them for fear that he will lecture them on their lack of 'kosher' phone.