Religion & Beliefs

Religious Marketing: Is Your Toilet Paper Kosher?

Michael sent me a link to this fascinating article in the NY Times about how the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel is a complicated and basically isolated market with different rules and standards than secular Israeli society. A Modern Marketplace for … Read More

By / November 2, 2007

Michael sent me a link to this fascinating article in the NY Times about how the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel is a complicated and basically isolated market with different rules and standards than secular Israeli society.

A Modern Marketplace for Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel — When Larry Pinczower switches on his cellphone, the seal of a rabbinate council appears. Unable to send text messages, take photographs or connect to the Internet, his phone is a religiously approved adaptation to modernity by the ultra-Orthodox sector of Israeli life.

More than 10,000 numbers for phone sex, dating services and the like are blocked, and rabbinical overseers ensure that the lists are up to date. Calls to other kosher phones are less than 2 cents a minute, compared with 9.5 cents for normal phones. But on the Sabbath any call costs $2.44 a minute, a steep religious penalty.

“You pay less and you’re playing by the rules,” Mr. Pinczower, 39, said. “You’re using technology but in a way that maintains religious integrity.”

A community of at least 800,000 people — out of 5.4 million Jews living in Israel, a country of 7.1 million — the ultra-Orthodox, though comparatively poor, form a distinct, growing and important market, and Israeli companies are paying attention. While there are rabbinical strictures against watching television, using computers for leisure, immodest attire and unsupervised mixing of men and women, the Israeli market economy has adjusted in creative and surprising ways.

Full story The article treats the idea of a separate market for a religious group like it’s incredibly novel, but of course there’s plenty of it here in America. Veggie Tales are for evangelical kids, and there are Muslim cell phones. Communities with particular or unusual needs are generally able to command a small market of their own. To me, this article seems to be more about religious intolerance within the frum community than anything else. There’s a whole section about how psycho people are in Ramat Beit Shemesh B and we have heard this before.  Instead of marveling at how much toilet paper frum people buy, how about trying to figure out a way of dealing with haredim who will throw hot oil on a man trying to run a kosher pizza restaurant? Just saying.