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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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What’s Wrong With the Star-K Kosher Phone?

A kashrus agency should be concerned with one thing and one thing only: the kosher status of our food.
kosher phone

About a month ago the Star-K, a world renowned Kashrus agency, announced that they were certifying kosher phones. These phones have no access to the Internet, cannot place or receive text messages, cannot take photos, and most importantly, cannot be hacked to perform any of these tasks.

It’s not troubling to me that people would want a phone that is insulated from certain tasks. Although I think it is an unnecessary measure and perhaps counter productive, I don’t begrudge people their personal self control restraints.

What is troubling is that a kashrus agency is part of this initiative. A kashrus agency should be concerned with one thing and one thing only. Their singular concern should be the kosher status of the food. I don’t even think that a kashrus agency must concern itself with humanitarian or other ethical issues that may arise. I have no problem with a secondary agency coming in and providing a secondary level of supervision. But the kosher status of the food cannot be affected by anything other its status as kosher food.

So when I see a kashrus agency entering into the phone market, I see an agency that should be worried about kosher status of food but is now legislating morality. It’s not even as if the technical skills involved in kosher supervision overlap the neutering of cell phones. They have nothing to do with each other. I don’t think it is smart for kosher supervision to be intertwined or even related to morality supervision.

Similarly, when kosher supervision agencies make demands on the clientele or ambience of an eating establishment I believe they are overstepping their bounds. There are restaurants that are not allowed to be open at certain hours because they will lose their hechsher if they are open. This is far beyond the scope of kosher supervision. Tell me if the food is kosher and I will decide if I want to patronize the restaurant. That is all we need from a kashrus agency. The stretching of their authority serves no important purpose for the public. It seems to me that it is merely a self-serving, self-righteous way to legislate their morality. If they can legislate phones and who can eat where, what’s next?

I am not making a slippery slope argument. I am pointing out that there is no logical connection between the kosher status of food and the kosher status of a phone. There is also no relationship between the kosher status of a restaurant and whether teenagers are hanging out. In other words, the kashrus agencies are already legislating their morality. There is no reason to think it only will apply in these two instances because there is no connection between these two things and the kosher status of food.

We need to stop using the word kosher for things other than food. Yes, the word is a general term but it has evolved into a word that describes whether food can be eaten by orthodox Jews who keep kosher. We don’t eat anything that is not kosher. Using the word kosher for phones and Internet implies that the non-kosher versions are not allowed to be used. This is sophomoric and divisive.

If anything, the kashrus agencies should be concerned with the ethics and morality of the actual food. This is something they have resisted time and time again. I am not recommending they get into the ethics of food business, but if they must expand their business and purview of supervision I think that is the first place they should be looking to legislate seeing as they have the knowledge and expertise to monitor and report on that aspect of food production. But teens mingling and phones? They don’t belong there at all.

Visit Fink or Swim.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


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8 Responses to “What’s Wrong With the Star-K Kosher Phone?”

  1. Ilene Keller says:

    Reminds me of when the Kashrut agencies told the Glatt Yacht that they could not have mixed dancing or lose their hechsher.

  2. CpaHoffman says:

    Star-K is into technology – they’ve done a lot of work in the area of appliances and their use on Yom Tov and their passive status on Shabbat.
    That said, the status of a phone as kosher is as subjective as the status of the moon.

  3. This article utterly fails to explain what the objection is to a primarily kashrus organization certifying a phone.
    The comparison to imposing conditions on restaurants completely fails since the issue there is they tack the extra conditions to the kashrus status, as opposed to here where there is a free-standing phone certification.
    The author also fails to notice that the Star-k performs many functions besides kashrus, and is the main orthodox communal organization in Baltimore, and their role is in now way limited to food production. Thus the entire article is premised on a mistake.
    At most, the article hints in passing that the term kosher should not be used for stringencies, but that fails to note that the food standards also include stringencies, and assumes–without stating– that star-k thinks internet is only a stringency.
    This article is conceived in ignorance, and executed in arrogance. It is beyond me that Jewish Press carries articles by known ignoramuses such as Fink, who merely come to grind their axe on our kup.

  4. Does that bother you?
    Is there anything that a restaurant could do that you think should make them lose hashgacha?
    What if it were a brothel in Nevada?
    So aren't we really arguing about a matter of degrees, rather than the concept in general?

  5. Ahron Ebert says:

    What is the problem with texting? The text message is no different than the voice message.

  6. It is psychologically easier to text someone you shouldn't, than to call.

  7. Jacqueline Nurit says:

    You really shouldn't try to take the high stand on morality when your post include so much lashon hara. His post made perfect sense, and even if you disagree with it there is no need to bash Rabbi Fink, who is a good man and a fellow Jew. Think about it this way, if you've ever read Talmud you know that a lot of the Rabbis disagreed on various points but they never resorted to calling each other "ignoramuses". Its okay to disagree with the points Rabbi Fink is making, it's not okay to be rude and insult other people.

  8. Jacqueline Nurit That's true, I could have been nicer about it. But at least agree that his article makes no sense because he is mixing unrelated issues, and woefully neglected to research the nature of the organization he criticizes.

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