Women Banned from Owning Smartphones at Hasidic School

Mothers and daughters alike will be expected to abide by the school's new policy

Shalom Life/August 4, 2015

By B. Shane Morganstein

The Satmar sect has come across our radar before, most recently thanks to their banning of Hebrew due to it being "impure" and "sectarian".

And so, it is with little surprise that the sect has just announced a new rule at its Hebrew school in Kiryas Joel, New York, pertaining to female cellphone use. The rule was reportedly obtained via a letter sent home to parents:

"Since the very use of a smartphone is extremely dangerous, therefore doesn’t isn't extremely reliant for business purposes should never use it even with a filter," the letter said, adding that businessmen who require a smartphone must not only install a community-approved filter on their phone, but most also purchase a secondary, "Kosher cellphone… in order to avoid the usage of smartphone - even with a filter - in the home or in the synagogue."

Furthermore, women are forbidden from owning any smartphones whatsoever, and may only own a "basic phone," though any woman who believes her circumstances are exceptionally unique may contact the community's "committee of the filters."

Most concerning of all, however, are the repercussions for not abiding by the new rules: "Remember: we will not provide acceptance-cards if you're not in order with the technological rules." Yes, the school will refuse a woman's entry if her mother owns a smartphone.

Though such prohibitions may seem odd, many in the ultra-Orthodox community are already familiar with restrictions on their technology. Many ultra-Orthodox schools have strict rules governing television and computer ownership, as well as internet access, with the schools requiring parents to sign documents attesting that they are not connected to any forbidden forms of communication.

The Satmar announcement comes soon after a similar announcement by another ultra-Orthodox sect. The Belz sect in the United Kingdom made the news recently thanks to their new policy of refusing to admit children who were driven to school by their mothers.

"All survivalist-oriented minority groups maintain both distance from and boundaries against the larger society in which they dwell. The truth is, all committed Jews do so in various ways and to varying extent," commented Hebrew Union College sociologist Dr. Steven Cohen.

"Satmar Hasidim probably surpass all other Jews in fencing out the larger society. And, like other traditionalist religious groups -- Jewish and otherwise -- they seek to regulate sexuality and gender roles. All of which is to say about the most recent phone modesty rules, 'So, what else is new?'"

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