Forward Thinking

WhatsApp Is Way of Life for Israelis

By Marcy Oster

  • Print
  • Share Share

(JTA) — When my simple Nokia flip-phone broke last year and could not be repaired because it was so old, I upgraded – kicking and screaming – to an iPhone.

My 14-year-old son – who is dying for a smartphone but has to make do with his iPod – handled downloading the apps, telling me he would put on all the essentials. One of the most useful ones turned out to be WhatsApp, which allows me to send free text messages throughout the world and to be part of texting groups.

The app, which has only been around a few years, recently made some headlines for being the latest piece of technology banned by haredi Jews. Der Blatt, a Yiddish-language newspaper published by members of the Satmar Hasidic group in Brooklyn, reported last month that rabbis overseeing divorces say that WhatsApp is “the No. 1 cause of destruction of Jewish homes and business,” the Forward reported this week.

In the United States, WhatsApp is gaining in popularity, particularly among niche users like teens, immigrants, people with friends and family abroad – and, apparently the fervently Orthodox — but it still lacks the wide, mainstream audience enjoyed by social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Google Chats.

Not so Israel. Here, WhatsApp is a way of life. I’m on several WhatsApp groups – including one for parents of my younger son’s Little League team, one for parents of my youngest daughter’s youth group and a family group that consists of me and my three oldest children (asking them to do chores when I am away from home became so much easier!).

I clearly do not use WhatsApp to its fullest potential. My kids’ phones are constantly dinging with messages from their friends and their groups of friends. On Saturday night after several dings on her phone, my oldest daughter took a look and started shouting – one of her former high school classmates had just announced her engagement to their entire graduating class, who have their own WhatsApp group.

My younger daughter who is a senior in high school recently got her first smart phone, and we did it in part because of WhatsApp. When she missed several social events because the news had been distributed only on WhatsApp, we told her to designate friends to call her when such news went out. But when her teachers started sending out notices for extra study sessions leading up to the Bagrut exams on WhatsApp, we knew we had been out-app-maneuvered.

I don’t know if WhatsApp has penetrated the haredi Orthodox community to that extent, but it’s clearly in wide use since a Satmar-run web and smart phone filtering company feels the need to develop a mechanism for blocking photos and videos sent through it. The WhatsApp filter will be available next week, the Forward reported.

I have no doubt that many haredi WhatsApp users are debating the finer points of the Talmud in their WhatsApp group, but others may be using it for (gasp) socializing.

I guess the next technological breakthrough will have to be a WhatsApp filter blocker.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: whatsapp, rabbi, jewish, israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.