Flip phones: not just for Haredim anymore, says NY Times

In a recent profile of Haredi-owned Fabuwood cabinet manufacturer, columnist Kashmir Hill praised the company’s no-smartphone policy

Classic flip cell phone. Photo: Shutterstock

Feb 16, 2024 1:45 PM


In a column advocating less smartphone use, New York Times writer Kashmir Hill held up an unlikely exemplar: a Haredi-owned cabinet manufacturer in Newark, New Jersey.

Last May, Joel Epstein, the Hasidic owner of Fabuwood, instituted a new policy by asking employees to deposit their smartphones on a shelf outside each meeting room. Employees are also asked to generally abstain from using their smartphones during work hours. Fabuwood also offers to pay for employees’ phones for anyone who switches to a flip phone. After six months, Fabuwood reported a 20% increase in productivity as a result of the new policy.

Back in October, Epstein posted to his LinkedIn account reflecting on the positive benefits of giving up his own smartphone seven years ago. 

In an article titled “A Practical Guide to Quitting Your Smartphone,” Hill described how she learned about Fabuwood after writing an earlier article about the benefits of switching to a flip phone, which, in her experience, helped her reduce stress, allowed her more reading time, and reminded her of the pleasure of conversation while running with her husband.  

Last week, Der Yid, a Satmar-affiliated Yiddish-language newspaper, took particular satisfaction with the Times’s article, saying that Mr. Epstein, a Kiryas Joel resident, made a “Kiddush Hashem” — loosely translated: made observant Jews look good. Der Yid has otherwise been no fan of the Times, criticizing it especially in recent years for its coverage of Hasidic yeshivas and their failure to provide students with legally required secular studies education.

Der Yid reporting the New York Times article with satisfaction

Smartphones are frowned upon within many Haredi communities, especially when they come with unfiltered internet. In some Hasidic communities, smartphones are forbidden altogether. Many Haredi synagogues have signs prohibiting the use of smartphones inside prayer and study areas.

One Jewish, but non-Haredi congress member, Senator Chuck Schumer, has been known for using a flip phone despite his high profile and his busy schedule.