The Forbidden Fork, the Cell Phone Holocaust, and Other Haredi Encounters with Technology
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Haredi Jews valorize tradition and explicitly reject the idea of progress on ideological grounds. Concomitantly, they are opposed to many innovations and are highly critical of the destructive potential of modern communication technologies such as cell phones with Internet capability that serve as pocket-sized portals between their insular communities and the wider world. In response to this perceived threat, Haredi authorities have issued bans on the use of certain technologies and have endorsed the development of acceptable alternatives, such as the so-called kosher cell phone. And yet, many Haredim, both in the United States and Israel, are highly sophisticated users and purveyors of these same technologies. This tension indicates that Haredim have a much more complicated relationship to technology and to modernity, itself, than their “official” stance would suggest.
KeywordsHaredim Ultra-Orthodox Jews Hasidim Internet Cell phone Technology Israel Holocaust Modernity
The inspiration for writing this essay came from an invitation to participate in a forum on Haredim and technology at the Center for Media and Religion of New York University, on April 13, 2007. My thanks to Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler for organizing the event. Also, thanks to Samuel Heilman and the anonymous readers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this essay. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from the Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic are my own.
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