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Monday, January 09, 2006

Sabbath Observance

Very nice article in the Business section of today's NY Times. The piece is about Orthodox Jewish online retailers who stop all transactions over Shabbos. One of those retailers is Shmuel Gniwisch, chief executive of Ice.com, an online jewelry retailer.
Mr. Gniwisch, who is also a nonpracticing rabbi, says that the company shuts down completely for 25 hours starting Friday evening before sunset, when the Jewish Sabbath begins. During busy periods, customer service representatives, warehouse workers and some technology employees go back to work on Saturday evening when the Sabbath ends.

When visitors call customer service during Ice.com's day off, they receive a message saying that the company is closed and will return their messages Sunday. Ice.com also responds to e-mail messages on Sunday.
Impressive. Gniwisch's quote is even nicer:
"My customer service managers are always telling me to find a way to stay up on Saturday by outsourcing," he added. "But I think it's more important when the people around you see you practice what you preach. It changes your relationship with your employees."
Operating a web-based business is even more complicated in the days of eBay and other online auctioneers:
Other companies have gone to similar lengths to observe the Jewish Sabbath. Abraham Steinberg, director of online marketing for Adorama Photo, which sells photographic supplies on the Web and in its Manhattan store, said that the company sometimes sold goods through eBay but had to be careful not to schedule auctions to end on the Sabbath, because a transaction technically occurs the moment bidding closes.
Jewish eBay sellers who observe the Sabbath and have eBay stores, Mr. Steinberg said, often use "vacation settings" that de-list products on the Sabbath.
The article also covers the complicated issues of online marketing over Shabbos:
One uncharted area for Internet merchants who observe the Jewish Sabbath is online marketing. After all, Google and other shopping engines post advertisements constantly, and they charge the sites each time someone clicks on their ads. Mr. Steinberg said that sites typically pay for the ads in aggregate - and not on the Sabbath - but that Jewish scholars had not yet studied the matter thoroughly.
Interesting piece, and definitely a Kiddush Hashem.


Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

It's interesting (and encouraging) to see that religious behavior and observance is awarded and more so -- a news item that is publicized in such a way.

At the same time, you run a risk of taking things too far, and having people turned off by such behavior.

There's a wonderfully-written essay entitled "Internet Commerce on Shabbat" by Rabbi Alfred Cohen in the Fall 2005 issue of The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society that disucsses the problems and solutions of this specific issue. If you can get your hands on it, it's worth the read.

The article states that in most cases, the issues of having a website "doing business" over shabbos isn't much of an issue because transactions don't occur on Shabbos or Sundays because the Federal Reserve Bank is closed then -- all "official" transactions occur during weekdays. The problem exists for Yom Tov and the article discusses those issues.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I believe the NYTimes of all places had a long article about internet commerce on Shabbos that focused on Rav Heinenman, who at first said it was a problem, then researched it again for a few months and came out that it was muttar. Fascinating article, but I don't have a link...

This is still a wonderful kiddush Hashem.

12:09 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

Of all places??

When will you let go of the idea that the Times hates you?

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Times does hate Ezzie. I have it on good authority. Just don't tell him.


4:26 PM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

The NY TImes is a client of mine -- they actually speak of Ezzie often -- especially when someone spills coffee or stubs their toe...

4:35 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Wow, a lot of people went after me for no reason. The "of all places" was because it was about halacha, and I didn't expect a non-Jewish paper to spend so much time on it.

Nice of y'all to think of that.

4:52 PM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

???? What risk? Who are you so afraid of "turning off"? Haven't we learned anything throughout history that hiding our religious observance does nothing for us?

Gabe, I'm referring to people who are Jewish but who are not observant. Since I work in a corporate environment, I come across many people who are Jewish but who reject their faith. They fuel their arguments on "those fanatics" as they say.

No one said anything against hiding our religion. I agree that's bad. But at the same time, we don't have to go running around trying to educate everyone about it either.

4:51 PM  
Blogger topshadchan said...

The arayos on his website doesnt seem to me to be a kiddush hashem.
What if he was running a pornography website, but didnt accept payment on shabbos? would that be a kiddush hashem?

5:11 PM  
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Still, honoring the Sabbath was easier in Puritan New England, where almost everyone took the Sabbath seriously.

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