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Oct 28, 2010

Breaking the non-kosher cellphone rule

When I first read this story, I had decided not to write about it. I didn't see it as much of a story.

The story is that various news media reported this week that 9 girls from Bais Yaakov Yashan (BJJ as it is known in English, but BJJ is really an American girls program. This incident happened in the Israeli Bais Yaakov Yashan) were caught using non-kosher cellphones. They were expelled form school as a result.

They were caught because one of the girls received an SMS during class that her friend had gotten engaged. She told her other friends, and the teacher figured out that she got the message via a non-kosher cell phone. After her phone was confiscated, the principal figured out, by going through her contact list on her phone, which other girls had non-kosher cell phones. he then threw them all out of school.

So, I wasn't going to write about it, but then Jameel wrote about it (and he's got a cute pashkevil at the end of his post), and his post made me think about it some more and I decided to write something.

I think the rules in the haredi community that are for the purpose of controlling people, be they the kosher cellphone, he forced internet filters or webchaver or no internet, or any of the other ones (read a school takanon to find some more), are all stupid.

I have no problem with an individual doing any of these things, if he chooses to do so - I dislike the community imposing it on the people. People should be treated as adults, and they should be able to choose what to do and what not to do, they should know their own weaknesses and be educated enough to find solutions to protect themselves. Society imposing it on everybody because they trust nobody to think for themselves is stupid and demeaning, in my mind.

That being said, the school has a rule, and the kids studying in that school have to follow it. If the school threw the kids out because they found the parents had non-kosher cellphones, that would be completely wrong. To throw the kids out because they themselves broke the rules is not so bad.

Throwing a kid out for breaking one rule is pretty harsh. Perhaps the phones should have been confiscated, kids suspended for a day, parents spoken to, etc. To throw them out for one infraction seems overly harsh. However, maybe they were kids who regularly break the rules, or have already been warned about this or other things. I do not support throwing them out for this, but perhaps in some universe it was warranted, for reasons we are not aware of. if this was the only infraction, it seems too harsh to me.

Jameel made a point to me, in the comments of his post, that the principal violated their privacy by searching through the contact list. I agree, but principals regularly do that if they suspect violations of rules that they consider bad. It might not be right, but I dont think the violation of their privacy changes the issue.

I tell my kids all the time, even if the issue at hand is a rule I disagree with, that as long as they are in the school they are in they have to follow the rules. While on a societal level I think the non-kosher cellphone ban is stupid, these kids broke a school rule and should be punished in some way, albeit expulsion is probably too harsh.


  1. Has anyone even thought that the principal in his zealousness was covering his reputation at the same time, and thus this is what induced his unethical search into her private name directory?

    How was he so familiar that he also knew how the cell phone works?

    There is more than one perspective here.

    Yes, they broke school rules, but to be so vigorous in response is too much; and I venture the same would not apply to boys/talmudic?!

    I agree with Jameel's keen insight and with Rafi.

  2. Neshama, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to go through a contacts list - it's the same whether the phone is kosher or non-kosher. Many yeshivot also throw boys out for having non-kosher phones, and you know what, I think they are right. Once you allow non-kosher phones, the kids will be bringing phones with internet access and spending all day on facebook etc. as well as sms'ing the whole day. Did you know that the average 12 year old in the USA sends over 300 sms messages a month? This is not what the schools are educting their students for.

  3. "People should be treated as adults, and they should be able to choose what to do and what not to do, they should know their own weaknesses and be educated enough to find solutions to protect themselves."

    Come'on Rafi, you know that this logic doesn't work on the Internet. One click of the mouse, and... it's "יתגדל ויתקדש" on the neshama.

  4. thats why education, and mussar perhaps, is important.

    many many years ago I took classes at Touro College. At the time they were located in downtown Jerusalem. Right down the block, I had to pass it on my way to the school, was a little magazine shop. They had probably every magazine available in various languages, including an "adult" section. I had to pass that little shop at least 4 times a week, for nearly two years. I would regularly see yeshiva boys in the adult section of the store perusing the magazines.. (this shop was on a little side street where they likely thought nobody [they knew] would walk by and see them in the window).

    That is the way of the world. Porn has always been around, and always will be. the temptation is there and people are susceptible. some will pass and some will fail. the internet made it more easily accessible, but dont think this didnt exist before.

    Educate, and then trust people to make responsible decisions. Sure, some will fail, but some (I think most) will pass.

    Life is dangerous. teach people how to live it responsibly.

  5. I think rules at the high school level still serve a purpose. I'll quote Devorah Simon, the principal of girls' Magen Avot, that one reason we keep kids away from the technological stuff as long as possible is so that they realize one can live life without it. If you live and breathe SMS's from age 14 it's much harder to stop the habit at age 20 when you realize what a distraction it is to your life. And that's without the "content" aspect of it.

    The problem becomes when the rules are presented as an absolute way everyone should live their lives or else they'll fall into an abyss. Some people believe that oversimplification, but most get turned off from "daas Torah" or at least slightly less responsive to authoritative guidance as a result.

  6. I have no problem with that. my kids schools have rules I dont live my life by. I send them there anyway for other reasons, despite those rules, and I tell my kids they have to follow those rules. I try as much as possible not to contradict anything of the school, and when it happens and they notice and ask I explain but tell them that while in the school it doesnt matter because the school has rules. they are fine with that.


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