Rabbi Yitzhak spotted using iPhone, despite ban

A recent picture of a rabbi in a compromising position that scandalized the haredi community is finally explained.

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A recent picture of a rabbi in a compromising position that scandalized the haredi community was finally explained on Sunday.
Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, renowned for his outreach work among Sephardi Jews, was photographed several weeks ago holding what looked suspiciously like an iPhone. This was surprising, to say the least, since the device has been roundly denounced by several senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis as being incompatible with a haredi lifestyle.
Yitzhak initially did not respond to the publication of the picture, but today the website of the organization he heads, Shofar, published a notice, titled “a clarification to prevent slander.” It said that the rabbi does indeed posses an iPhone but that he received permission to own one from Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the most senior Ashkenazi haredi rabbi in Israel.
“[Regarding] that which fools ask out of ignorance, ‘How is it that Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak has an iPhone?’ – the leader of the generation, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, personally permitted the use of an iPhone by the rabbi and his staff for the purposes of bringing people back to Judaism,” the notice read.
“Anyone who doubts his rabbi is as if he doubts the divine presence,” the announcement concluded darkly.
In recent months, a host of senior haredi rabbis have issued harsh denunciations of smartphones and iPhones in particular, and the haredi press reported on Sunday night that a major conference of all the highest-ranking rabbis in the land, including Shteinman, will be convening on Monday to discuss the issue.
In February of this year, the radical Eda Haredit communal organization put up notices around Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood banning the iPhone, Android smartphone, BlackBerry and similar devices, declaring that they have brought a “spiritual holocaust” and “seriously endanger the holiness of the House of Israel.”
In September, a Bnei Brak rabbi held a ritual iPhone smashing ceremony and later that month Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, one of the five most influential rabbinic authorities in the country, issued a public notice in the haredi media calling on anyone who owns the iPhone to burn it.
Additionally, Vishnitz Hassidim leader Rabbi Yisrael Hager said during his post- Rosh Hashana sermon that anyone who owns an iPhone or smartphone should not dare approach him for a blessing.
The rabbinic leadership of the haredi world has objected strongly to smartphones because of the ready access they provide to unfiltered Internet content, including pornography and sources of information beyond the strict confines of the haredi world.