Hareidi.org's Kosher Internet

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First of all, let us say that "Kosher internet" does not exit, yet. There is no known solution to the various problems that internet poses to a hareidi family. There are partial solutions and this article discusses them.

In addition, hareidi.org recognizes that pornography and sexually abusive content on the internet is a significant problem that affects families who do not follow the rulings of the hareidi rabbinical authorities, as well as those hareidim who are required and permitted to use the internet.

The reports on the quantity and popularity of this material on the internet[1] (reaching, according to some estimates, 20%-30% of non-commercial internet usage) are astounding. The medical reports on the health and psychological aspects of this problem[2] reflect a medical problem which is attracting the attention of both Jewish and non-Jewish medical experts worldwide.

This article is devoted to explain the issues involved, and recommend possible solutions. There is a complete software Internet Filter system based on the PRIVOXY available for download on this page.

Rabbinic response

There have been several Rabbinic admonitions against the use of the internet.[3][4][5][6]

In 5765 (2005), after examining internet filtering technology, various ISP's offering "kosher" service, and reviewing the number of case where individuals in religious households were affected by this problem, the halachic authorities of several important hareidi communities ruled that current technology does not provide adequate safeguards to prevent these problems. It was ruled that internet usage must be minimized and in most cases eliminated, and for the first time the Gedolei Hador took the unusual step of requiring physical security of any internet appliance, and externally verifiable compliance by religious households.

  • Reducing usage means "casual" internet usage is forbidden. This means that using the internet for entertainment, online shopping or even education is not allowed. In general the only two permitted reasons for using the internet were parnasa (making a living) and kiruv (jewish outreach).
  • Physical security means that any internet capable device must be disabled, even if not physically connected at the time to an internet service provider. Desktop computers, laptops and palm computers must stored in a locked room, and whenever they are used, they should not be used in such a way to lead others in the household (particularly children) to think that being used in a casual way.
  • Externally verifiable compliance means that individuals are not trusted[7] to decide for themselves whether their usage qualifies as allowed usage, but are required to go to ask a shailah of a Rabbinical authority and receive a legal decision.

In summary, it was decided in 2005 that internet filters and add-on software were considered inadequate and of no consequence, due to the "mistakes" these systems make and the ease that they can be bypassed (by connecting alternate software, proxies, or even using the account on another machine). It is clear that the ideal hareidi home is without a computer, much less one connected to the internet.

Takana of Lakewood

One example of this legal ruling is the Takana of Lakewood[8]

  1. Internet access is only permissible if required for a person’s job, and should be done at work.
  2. Internet access in the home is prohibited if it is only for the purpose of entertainment or casual use (shopping, airline tickets etc.)
  3. Anyone who requires access to perform their jobs should be required to have a Rabbi certify the validity of this need.
  4. Computers with internet access must be physically protected from use (in a locked room, etc), as current software filtering technology is not sufficient to protect their use.
  5. Computers even without internet access will be required to have software installed which will prevent them from being configured to connect to the internet by the use of external modems, WIFI etc.

Halachic Issues

Main page Kosher Internet Halachic Issues

"Kosher internet" is often compared to "Kosher food". Both rabbinic authorities and religious families expect a solution which is similar to the system of certification which has been developed for food production. The expectation is that some organization will go around checking websites for objectionable content and issue certification for compliant websites. Religious jews who surf the internet would limit themselves to certified content and the matter would be settled. In reality, there are many significant differences between food and websites. First and foremost is quantity and variety. Second, the halachic issues involved with food are very different than internet content. Thirdly, there is a psychological and addictive factor which is not normally present with food products. Lastly, imagery plays a large role on the internet.

Technical Issues

Main page Kosher Internet Technical Issues

Several methods have been tried to remove objectionable content from the internet. They have had various degrees of success depending on the two audiences that have been targeted. The first audience has been "family use". The second audience has been "professional use".

Most modern internet filters combine schemes to provide an integrated approach. Some are PC based, with enhanced security to prevent tampering, and some are ISP based with a 24 hour hotline. Even though security has been enhanced, due to the increased question whether hareidi families, particularly children, really benefit from the internet - there has been no change in Rabbinical ruling forbidding the internet for casual use. Theoretically individuals who are required and permitted to use the internet for parnasa reasons could make use of these services, however they are often too cumbersome to be practically used in the workplace. These service can help a lot with people working in areas of Jewish outreach, who are producing (not consuming) internet content and look for some kind of solution against unwanted advertisements and objectionable material.

Permitted Use

Basically, internet use is forbidden. However there are some exceptions. If internet use is needed to earn a living, and other options are not available, it is permitted to use the internet. It is also permitted for case of Jewish outreach, research and in certain cases for educational purposes.[9] If already permitted for one of the above reasons, then it is also permitted to do "internet shopping" for oneself or others.

However in all these cases, a hareidi religious Jew cannot decide for himself that that their use qualifies as "permitted use", but must ask a shailat Rav and receive a letter in writing authorizing the use.

Visual and addictive aspects

This paragraph discusses the issues that face a hareidi Jew who has been authorized to use the internet.

It is recommended that a hareidi Jew use a content and URL filter, and most importantly an image filter that will still provide access to the majority of material required for the workplace, or other professional purposes. Hareidi.org's Kosher Internet add-on software is one such filter.

Free Download

The developers at Hareidi.org have put together a package which address some of these needs. It is based on the open source Privoxy internet filter, which is free to download and available for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and other operating systems. Privoxy software was originally designed to remove unwanted advertisements, and we use it here to remove unwanted graphics and warn (or prevent) users from visiting "untrusted" websites. Hareidi.org's Kosher Internet add-on software was designed to be used by hareidim who are required and permitted to use the internet but are bothered by the amount of unwanted graphics they must encounter.

Hareidi.org's Kosher Internet was developed in three versions:

  • The "closed list version" is based on a list of 3000+ websites, and requires authorization for each new websites requested. This version is designed for people who must regularly visit the same websites. The user can indicate which websites are to be displayed in full graphics, and which websites in a fully functional, text only form. Unauthorized websites cannot be viewed.
  • The "open list version" is the same as the closed list version, except that all websites which are referred by reliable search engines (such as google, or altavista in their "family friendly" form) are automatically added to the list of viewable websites. These automatically added websites will be viewed in a in a fully functional, text only form. This version is designed for people who must regularly visit new websites to collect information. It presents the websites in a fully functional, but text only form.
  • The "warning version" is the same as the "open list version", except that the user is giving the choice to them proceed and view the blocked information. This version is designed for people who want to be minimally restricted in their internet usage, but wish to avoid graphics from all websites, except those authorized.

Closed list version

  • Download and install Privoxy for your computer
Microsoft Windows
other operating system
  • Replace the Main Configuration file by clicking here
  • Replace the User Actions file by clicking here
  • Replace the Trust List' file by clicking here
  • Click Start->Settings->Internet Options->Connection->LAN Settings and check "Use a proxy server" Address Port 8080. Click OK
  • Restart your computer

Open list version

  • Download and install Privoxy for your computer
Microsoft Windows
other operating system
  • Replace the Main Configuration file by clicking here
  • Replace the User Actions file by clicking here
  • Replace the Trust List' file by clicking here
  • Click Start->Settings->Internet Options->Connection->LAN Settings and check "Use a proxy server" Address Port 8080. Click OK
  • Restart your computer

Warning version

  • Download and install Privoxy for your computer
Microsoft Windows
other operating system
  • Replace the Main Configuration file by clicking here
  • Replace the User Actions file by clicking here
  • Replace the Trust List' file by clicking here
  • Click Start->Settings->Internet Options->Connection->LAN Settings and check "Use a proxy server" Address Port 8080. Click OK
  • Restart your computer

Security considerations

Hareidi.org's Kosher Internet add-on software was not designed to be a censorship device. It is not meant to allow parents to leave their children to surf the internet unattended, and it does not change the legal ruling of the Gedolei Hador. For those who are required and permitted to use the internet however, it provides a valuable service. It is meant to be a voluntary filter of unwanted graphics in the same spirit that privoxy was originally designed - to remove unwanted advertisements.

It is relatively easy to remove, disable or modify the software. The software also only filters webpages, it does not affect email, instant messaging, file sharing or internet gaming. To filter these other services, or to prevent tampering with the software, it is necessary to filter at the ISP level.

  • For email, the easiest way to filter at the ISP level is to sign up with one of the major free email services such as Yahoo or GMail and enable their "filtering services" and disable "view images in email".
  • For instant messaging, file sharing or internet gaming the best solution is to sign up with a filtering ISP such as Internet Rimon (see resources below).
  • If a filtering ISP is not available in your location, or is prohibitively expensive, you can create your own filtering ISP by using a dedicated computer:
Bridge computer.png

Other resources

Filtering ISPs

  • The Jnet, a company that offers filtering with its own dial-up and DSL service in New York area.
  • Ayinroah, meaning a watchful eye, and is based on the hevrusa system of Talmud study. As their website states, "עין רואה Rabunim say a computer is user byichud" or prohibited to use alone. It is a service wherein clients have a hevrusa, or an internet "accountibility partner," who receives an email report of all sites you have visited.
  • YeshivaNet Developed initially to provide yeshivas with limited access to the internet in order to purchase books and supplies, YeshivaNet’s services are also available to businesses and individuals. YeshivaNet provides what is called a "whitelisted web," or access only to sites approved by the company's internet mashgikhim.
  • Internet Rimon - Available in Israel, this organization developed a content filter that filters objectional content from within a website, and permits viewing of the rest of the website. Sites can be added or reported through use of a 24 hour support telephone number. Filtering is done at the ISP level, so theoretically there is no way to bypass it. Four levels of filtering are offered, and it is priced comparable to other Israeli ISPs. It is has the approval[10] and encouragement of leading Rabbonim, including: Harav Mordechai Eliyahu, Harav Yig'al Kaminetski, Harav Yehoshua Shapira, Harav Yaakov Ariel, Harav Elyakim Levanon.
  • Moroshet - Available in Israel. מורשת רשת האינטרנט הבטוחה. http://moreshet.co.il. "מורשת - רשת האינטרנט הבטוחה", קהילה שהיא סביבה חינוכית ערכית.

Commercial filters

  • IShield - The most sophisticated commercial internet filter. It works by doing image processing on each image (or anywhere on the computer screen) and identifies unwanted content by color, texture and shape. It was developed by the Islamic community[11]. Unfortunately tends to filter out only the worst examples.

Free filters

  • Naomi - freeware internet filter Naomi is an advanced internet filtering program, easy to use and totally free, intended for families, and kids in particular. Naomi is able to constantly monitor all internet connections, protecting children from inappropriate online material. It does not rely on a list of banned sites; instead, it examines in real-time all the data being transmitted and received through any internet application - such as web browers, chat programs, news readers, etc.
  • X3 Watch - free accountability program (informs about accesses to questionable sites - for PC and MAC)
  • Care2's Race for Children - click daily (for free) to help provide children in need with food, medical attention and education
  • Safe Families - free internet filtering and parental control software
  • SurfPass - free version of the SurfPass filter, which also allows time limits, logging, etc.
  • B Gone - free web filter based on keywords list
  • NoWorrys - allows access to trusted sites (list) only (see also: PpGuard)
  • ICRA Plus - free tool, offers control over access to labelled sites
  • Censornet - a free filter for Linux (another alternative: DansGuardian) They also provide Internet Safety & Management solution tohelps hundreds of businesses, schools and libraries world wide keep their employees and students safe online whilst improving productivity and accountability.
  • Hosts-File.net - easily block scammer, phishing and other malicious websites (Windows only)
  • KidRocket - web browser for young kids (limits access to web sites)


  • LogProtect - prevent your child from transmitting his personal coordinates (can be bypassed, though)
  • SpyBot - free program to remove dialers, spyware, and other malware from your pc
  • HiJackThis - invaluable tools for removal of hijackers, dialers, and more (download CWShredded and HiJackThis)


  • Squid - proxy/blacklisting for administrators


  1. Availability of pornography
  2. Internet addiction
  3. In the late 1990s, when the world wide web was exploding with new websites, a brief, informational site on Satmar Hasidism, apparently published by an independent-minded Satmarer, issued a warning in Yiddish at the top of its home page which said, “if you can read this, you should not be using the internet. It is muktse.” - Topic: Haredim and the internet
  4. In early 2000, a group of prominent Haredi rabbis in Israel representing Hasidic, Lithuanian, Sefardic and Mizrahi precincts, issued a ban on use of the internet. They argued, "The Internet is a danger 1,000 times greater [than television, which was banned 30 years ago], and is liable to bring ruin and destruction upon all of Israel." - ibid.
  5. In November of 2003, the official English language journal of Agudat Israel, The Jewish Observer, dedicated an issue to the dangers of the internet. The article offers excerpts from the Novominsker Rebbe’s address given at the Torah Umesorah convention on the problems of the Internet, in which he alleged that “The internet, with a flick of a button, invades a Jewish home, a Jewish soul, and makes moral disaster.” The Rebbe added that “if your business cannot get along without it, you must create the strictest controls around its use. Do not give it free rein! Remember that you are dealing with a force that contains spiritual and moral poison.” - ibid.
  6. In the same issue, Rabbi Leyb Keleman writes that, “the internet has penetrated our community, but with the same strength [with which we avoided television], we shall uproot it…. Our gedolim have advised us to remove internet from our homes, and so we will do.” - ibid.
  7. The same thinking is even more apparent in the "kosher" cellphones, where a distinctive unique set of "kosher" phone numbers were made available. Some hareidi newspapers will only accept ads listing these phone numbers, etc. Even though it was suggested that would be possible to add a "kosher" filter to their existing phone, the new numbers were required as an external verifiable means of knowing if someone was indeed using a filtered system or not.
  8. Takana of Lakewood
  9. There are some (non-Hareidi) rabbinical authorities who permit the use of internet for news and activism, given the generally anti-religious nature of the Israeli media.
  10. It is not known whether these rabbonim give their approval for general use, or only in pressing situations.
  11. Asia Pacific Institute of Information & Technology (A.P.I.I.T) Research and Development Team