Oy Gevalt! Yiddish cell phone launches in Israel

Mon May 9, 2011 11:56am EDT
 
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By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's kosher cellular phone market has a new model, a device with a Yiddish interface to help devout Jews combine tradition with modern technology.

Hundreds of thousands of mobile phones, popularly dubbed kosher because they block access to services frowned upon by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, have been operating in the Jewish state for years.

Last month, Israel's second largest mobile provider, Partner introduced what it hailed as the world's first Yiddish cell phone, manufactured by Alcatel-Lucent.

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

Yiddish, a mixture of medieval German and Hebrew, was the spoken language of millions of European Jews for centuries, but it is now spoken mostly by elderly Jews and in ultra-Orthodox communities.

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.

Seelenfreund said the market for Kosher phones was substantial, estimating there are up to 400,000 users in Israel and another 500,000 in the United States.

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