The Shmooze

Yiddish Cell Phones Unveiled

By Michael Kaminer

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Like my new klingen? How about this cool schirm verteidikung?

Ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel might be asking those questions this week — about their ringtones and screen-savers, respectively — after an Israeli telecom company launched a new “kosher” cell phone with a Yiddish interface.

Reuters reports that “Israel’s second largest mobile provider, Partner, [has] introduced what it hailed as the world’s first Yiddish cell phone.” Hundreds of thousands of mobile phones, popularly dubbed kosher “because they block access to services frowned upon by ultra-Orthodox rabbis,” have been in use for years in Israel.

But Marc Seelenfreund, CEO of Israeli Accel Telecom — which imports and distributes mobile phones to all Israeli operators, according to Reuters — “had a special team of translators work for months to develop an interface entirely in Yiddish.”

Yiddish words such as chutzpah, schmaltz or schlep may have entered the English language, but Seelenfreund said ultra-Orthodox Jews would appreciate terms like “outgoing call,” “ringtone” and “vibrate” translated into Yiddish.

To win rabbinical approval for the device, which is based on an Alcatel T-701 handset, “Accel had to first prove that tech-savvy users would not be able to work their magic to circumvent the safeguards and succumb to sin,” YourJewishNews reports.


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