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Haredi Jewish youth in Jerusalem, reading a Pashkvil

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Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism, also referred to as Ultra-Orthodox Judaism,[1]—though the term is considered pejorative by some[2][3]—is the most theologically conservative form of Orthodox Judaism. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi (Haredim in the plural).

Haredi (חֲרֵדִי) is derived from charada, meaning fear or anxiety, which in this context is interpreted as "one who trembles in awe of God" (cf. Isaiah 66:2, Isaiah 66:5).[4] Originally, the term referred to Orthodox Jews in general, but this usage is no longer common (although sometimes the reverse occurs, with Orthodox used when Chareidi is meant.)[5]

Haredi Jews, like other Orthodox Jews, consider their belief system and religious practices to extend in an unbroken chain back to Moses and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. As a result, they regard non-Orthodox, and some Modern Orthodox, streams of Judaism to be unjustifiable deviations from authentic Judaism.[6]

Practices and beliefs

Views of halacha

One basic belief of the Orthodox community in general is that it is the latest link in a chain of Jewish continuity extending back to the giving of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai. It believes that two guides to Jewish law were given to the Israelites at that time: the first, known as the Torah she-bi-khtav, or the "Written Law" is the Torah as Jews know it today; the second, known as the Torah she-ba'al peh ("Oral Law"), is the exposition as relayed by the scholarly and other religious leaders of each generation. The traditional interpretation of the Oral Torah is considered as the authoritative reading of the Written Law.

Jewish law, known as halacha, is considered a set of God-given instructions to effect spiritual, moral, religious and personal perfection. As such, it includes codes of behavior applicable to virtually every imaginable circumstance (and many hypothetical ones), which have been pored over and developed throughout the generations in a constantly expanding collection of religious literature. An early written compilation of halacha, the Talmud, is considered authoritative.

Halacha is a guide for everything the traditional Jew does from the moment of awakening until the moment of sleep. It is a body of intricate laws, combined with the reasoning on how such conclusions are reached. Halacha incorporates as rules many practices that began as customs, some passed down over the centuries, and an assortment of ingrained behaviors. It is the subject of intense study in religious schools known as yeshivas.

Throughout history, halacha has addressed issues on the basis of circumstance and precedent. There have been some significant adaptations, including more formal education for women in the early twentieth century, and the application of halacha to modern technology. While Haredim have typically been more conservative than their Modern Orthodox counterparts regarding new practices and rulings on new applications of halachic concepts, Orthodox Judaism views these types of innovations as consistent with traditionally expounded halachic concepts. Haredi Orthodoxy's differences with Modern Orthodoxy usually lie in interpretation of the nature of traditional halachic concepts and in understanding of what constitutes acceptable application of these concepts.

Modern inventions have been studied and incorporated into the ever-expanding halacha, accepted by both Haredi and other Orthodox communities. For instance, rulings guide the observant about the proper use of electricity and other technology on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays. Most major points are the subject of consensus, although fine points are the subject of a greater range of opinions. While discussions of halacha are common and encouraged, laypersons are not authorized to make final determinations as to the applicability of the law in any given situation; the proviso is to consult one's local Orthodox rabbi or posek (rabbinical authority).

Lifestyle and family

Haredi life is very family-centered. Depending on various factors, boys and girls attend separate schools and proceed to higher Torah study, in a yeshiva or seminary respectively, starting anywhere between the ages of 13 and 18. A significant proportion of young men remain in yeshiva until their shidduch, a marriage often arranged through facilitated dating. Many also continue study in kollel (a Torah study institute for married men) for many years after marriage. In many Haredi communities, studying in secular institutions is discouraged, although some have educational facilities for vocational training or run professional programs for men and women. Most men, even those not in kollel, will make certain to study Jewish texts (collectively referred to as Torah) daily. Families tend to be large, reflecting adherence to the Torah commandment "be fruitful and multiply" (Book of Genesis 1:28, 9:1,7).

Haredi poskim (authorities in Jewish law) forbid television and films, reading secular newspapers and using the Internet for non-business purposes. They feel that mobile phones should be programmed to disable internet and other functions that could influence their users in undesired ways, and most companies in Israel now offer basic cell phones with limited capabilities to accommodate Haredim.[7][8] However, it appears that many Haredi people use the Internet, as evidenced by the large number of participants in "Haredi chat rooms".[9][10]

Another important stricture is the prohibition of publishing/viewing photographs of women; the newspaper Yated Neeman in April 2009 digitally altered photographs of the newly installed Israeli cabinet to replace two female ministers with pictures of men, while another newspaper blacked the women out of their published photograph.[11]


Many Haredim view manner of dress as an important way to ensure Jewish identity and distinctiveness. In addition, a simple, understated mode of dress is seen as conducive to inner reflection and spiritual growth. As such, many Haredim are wary of modern clothing (some of which may compromise their standards of modesty). Many men have beards, most dress in dark suits, and wear a wide-brimmed hat (typically black) during prayer and while outside, and men wear a kippah at all times. Women adhere to meticulous tznius (modesty) standards, and hence wear long skirts and long sleeves, high necklines and some form of head covering if married: scarves, snoods, shpitzelach, hats, or sheitels (wigs).

Hasidic men often follow the specific dress style of their group, which may include long jackets or coats in the style of Prince Albert (often called either a frock coat, kapote, or sirtuk), or a full-length suit jacket called a "rekel". Common formal wear include long silken jackets (bekishes), wide or high fur hats (shtreimels or spodiks). These clothes are worn on the Sabbath and festivals as well as to weddings and events of communal importance. During prayer many men wear a gartel (a long belt wrapped around the waist of the outer layer of clothing). Although common to the dress of Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews in pre-World War II Europe, present-day use of the gartel is primarily relegated to those with Hasidic customs. However, some non-Hasidic Haredim continue to maintain this garb.


The term "ultra-Orthodox" is controversial,[12] and is considered pejorative by Norman Lamm[2] and others.[3] Canada's Centre for Faith and Media, while stating that the term "sometimes... cannot be avoided", advises journalists to

Try to avoid the term ultra-Orthodox to describe very observant Jews, partly because ultra implies extremism. The term also lumps all fervently religious Jews together (there is much diversity among the observant). As well, there is no analogue on the other end of the religious spectrum (there are no ultra-Reform Jews.)[13]

On January 7, 2009, Hamodia reported that New Jersey attorney Stephen E. Schwartz, Esq., convinced the largest newspaper in New Jersey, The Star-Ledger, to drop the term ultra-Orthodox.[14] English-language Haredi media use the spelling chareidi or charedi.[15]

Especially outside Israel, a range of other expressions is used, such as frum (pious), heimish (home-like, i.e. "our crowd"), yeshivish and the like, varying with the exact affiliation of the individuals concerned. In Israel, many secular Jews use the slang word "dosim" as a derogatory term for haredim, playing with the traditional Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation of the word "dati" - meaning religious.[16]


Modern origins

For several centuries before the emancipation of European Jewry, most of Europe's Jews were forced to live in closed communities, where both the culture and their religious observances were preserved. This occurred both because of internal pressure within the communities and because of the outside world's refusal to accept them otherwise. In the overwhelmingly Christian society of the time, the only way for Jews to gain social acceptance was to convert, thereby abandoning all ties with one's own family and community. Few avenues existed, especially in the ghetto, for individuals to negotiate between the dominant culture and the community, because this was handled by the larger community as a whole.

This situation began to change with the Age of Enlightenment and calls by some European liberals to include the Jewish population in the emerging empires and nation states, as well as with Jewry's own Haskalah. These adherents held that acceptance by the non-Jewish world necessitated the reformation of Jews themselves, and the modification of those practices deemed inconsistent with this goal. In the words of a popular aphorism coined by Yehuda Leib Gordon, a person should be "a Jew in the home, and a mentsh (good person/man) in the street." For some Jews, the meticulous and rigorous Judaism practiced in the ghetto interfered with these new outside opportunities. This group argued that Judaism itself had to "reform" in keeping with the social changes taking place around them. They were the forerunners of the Reform movement in Judaism. This group overwhelmingly assimilated into the surrounding culture.

Other Jews argued that the division between Jew and gentile had actually protected the Jews' religious and social culture; abandoning such divisions, they argued, would lead to the eventual abandonment of Jewish religion through assimilation. This latter group insisted that the appropriate response to the Enlightenment was to maintain strict adherence to traditional Jewish law and custom to prevent the dissolution of authentic Judaism and ensure the survival of the Jewish people.

Hasidic boys in Poland, circa World War I.

Even as the debate raged, the rate of integration and assimilation grew proportionately to the degree of acceptance of the Jewish population by the host societies. In other countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, acceptance (and integration) was much slower in coming. This was especially true in the Pale of Settlement, a region along Russia's western border including most of modern Belorus and Ukraine, to which Jewish settlement in Russia was confined. Although Jews here did not win the same official acceptance as they did in Western and Central Europe, the same enlightened spirit of change pervaded the air, albeit in a local variant. Since it was impossible to gain acceptance by the dominant culture, many Jews either emigrated or turned to a number of different movements that they expected would offer hope for a better future. The predominant movements gaining support were socialism and communism, with other significant assimilationist alternatives including the cultural autonomists the Bund. There was also later support for the non-assimilationist, nationalist Zionists. These movements were not neutral on the topic of the Jewish religion: by and large, they entailed a complete, not infrequently contemptuous, rejection of traditional religious and cultural norms.

Those who opposed these changes reacted in a variety of ways.

In Germany, the usual approach was to accept the tools of modern scholarship and apply them in defence of Orthodoxy, so as to defeat the Reformers at their own game. One proponent of this approach was Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who coined the slogan Torah Im Derech Eretz (Torah with civilization) and led a secession from German Jewish communal organizations to form a strictly Orthodox movement with its own network of synagogues and schools, known as Adath Israel. His movement still has followers, and their standard of observance is very strict, but because of their acceptance of secular learning they are not normally classified as Haredim. Some Galician scholars, such as Zvi Hirsch Chayes, followed a somewhat similar approach.

A closer precursor to today's Haredi Judaism was the Chasam Sofer, Chief Rabbi of Pressburg (now Bratislava, Slovakia). In response to those who stated that Judaism could change or evolve, Rabbi Sofer applied the term chadash asur min ha-Torah (חדש אסור מן התורה), "The 'new' is forbidden by the Torah," in order to have textual support for his movement, the term originally referring to new (winter) wheat that had not been sanctified through the wave offering culminating in the Counting of the Omer in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Chasam Sofer held that any movement expressing the need to "modernize" Judaism, or expressing the dubiety of the verbal revelation of the Written and Oral Torah, were outside the pale of authentic Judaism. In his view the fundamental beliefs and tenets of Judaism should not, and could not, be altered. This became the defining idea behind the opponents of Reform and in some form, it has influenced the Orthodox response to other innovations.

In Eastern Europe there was little in the way of organised Reform Judaism, but the advocates of modernity came under the umbrella either of the Haskalah or of political movements such as Bundism or Zionism. The traditionalist opposition was generally associated either with the various Hasidic groups or with the growing network of yeshivas among the Lithuanian Jews, some of which (e.g. the Volozhin yeshiva) even closed rather than comply with the Russian Government's demand for secular studies to be incorporated into the curriculum.

In Germany the opponents of Reform rallied to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and his Adath Israel. In Poland Jews true to traditional values gathered under the banner of Agudas Shlumei Emunei Yisroel.[17] The decisive event came in 1912 with the foundation of the Agudas Israel movement, which became a potent political force and even obtained seats in the Polish sejm (parliament). This movement contained representatives of several of the streams of traditionalism already mentioned. The traditionalists of Eastern Europe, who fought against the new movements emerging in the Jewish community, were the forebears of the contemporary Haredim.

Present day (2009)


Meah Shearim neighborhood, Jerusalem

Israel is home to the largest Haredi population, at least 600,000–800,000 (out of 5.4 million Israeli Jews).[18] The number of Haredi Jews in Israel is rising steeply. In 1992, out of a total of 1,500,000 Orthodox Jews worldwide, about 550,000 were Haredi (half of them in Israel).[19] The vast majority of Haredi Jews are Ashkenazi. The Haredi community there has adopted a policy of cultural dissociation, but at the same time, it has struggled to remain politically active, perceiving itself as the true protector of the country's Jewish nature.

The issues date to the late nineteenth-early twentieth century, with the rise of Zionism. The vast majority of Haredi Jews rejected Zionism for a number of reasons. Chief among these was the claim that Jewish political independence could only be obtained through Divine intervention, with the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Any attempt to force history was seen as an open rebellion against Judaism (for a more complete exposition of this ideology see Three Oaths; Vayoel Moshe; Neturei Karta).

More important was the dislike that the political and cultural Zionism of the time felt toward any manifestation of religion. Spurred on by socialism, they taunted religion as an outdated relic, which should disappear (or, according to some extreme views, even be eradicated) in the face of Jewish nationalism. The Haredi Jews point out that even Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, at one time contemplated the mass conversion of the Jews to Christianity as a means of eliminating anti-Semitism . As with the nineteenth century Reform Judaism movement in Germany, the result was mutual recriminations, rejection, and harsh verbal attacks. To Zionists, Haredi Jews were either "primitives" or "parasites"; to Haredi Jews, Zionists were tyrannizing heretics. This kulturkampf still plagues Israeli society today, where animosity between the two groups has even pervaded both their educational systems.

Despite the animosity, it was necessary for the two groups to work out some modus vivendi in the face of a more dangerous enemy, the Nazis. This was achieved by a division of powers and authority, based on the division that existed during the British Mandate in the country. Known as the "status quo," it granted political authority (such as control over public institutions, the army, etc.) to the Zionists and religious authority (such as control over marriage, divorce, conversions, etc.) to the Orthodox. A compromise worked out by Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson even before statehood ensured that public institutions accommodate the Orthodox by observing the Sabbath and providing kosher food.

Notwithstanding these compromises, many Haredi groups maintained their previous apolitical stance. The community had split into two parts: Agudat Israel, which cooperated with the state, and the Edah HaChareidis, which fiercely opposed it. Both groups still exist today, with the same attitudes. The Edah HaChareidis includes numerous Hasidic groups, such as Satmar, Dushinsky and Toldos Aharon, as well as several non-Hasidic groups of Lithuanian and Hungarian background.

A small minority of Jews, who claim to have been descended from communities who had lived peacefully with their Arab neighbors during the 18th and early 19th centuries, took a different stance. In 1935 they formed a new grouping called the Neturei Karta out of a coalition of several previous anti-Zionist Jewish groups in the Holy Land, and aligned themselves politically with the Arabs out of a dislike for Zionist policies.

As part of the Status Quo Agreement worked out between prime minister David Ben Gurion and the religious parties, Haredi leader Rabbi Avraham Yeshayah Karelitz (known as the Chazon Ish) was promised that the government would exempt a group of religious scholars (at that time, 400) from compulsory military service so that they could pursue their studies.

Finally, the Agudat Israel party representing the Haredi population was invited to participate in the governing coalition. It agreed, but did not appoint any ministers since that would have implied full acceptance of the legitimacy of non-religious actions taken by the government.

Haredim proved to be able politicians, gradually increasing their leverage and influence. In addition, the Haredi population grew exponentially, giving them a larger power base. From a small group of just four members in the 1977 Knesset, they gradually increased the number of seats they hold to 22 (out of 120) in 1999. In effect, they controlled the balance of power between the country's two major parties.

Campaign poster for Shas (w/ ballot letters) party proclaiming "social revolution"

In the early 1980s the Shas party of Sephardic Haredim was set up. By appealing to disempowered Sephardim who felt marginalized by the dominant Ashkenazi Zionist establishment, it gained 17 of the 22 Haredi seats in the Knesset. Taking the attitude that restoring Sephardic pride and restoring Sephardic religious observance are one and the same, Shas has created devoted cadres of newly religious and semi-religious men and women with the zeal of neophytes and an animosity toward the country's secular European political establishment. Furthermore, the movement has gained unwavering and determined obedience in its supporters to the teachings of it spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.

A chief antagonist of the Haredim (from the Haredi point of view) is the Israeli Supreme Court, which does not base its rulings on halachic beliefs or policy. A notable case of this trend is the "Who Is a Jew?" case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Ministry of the Interior (then controlled by Shas) must recognize Reform and Conservative converts to Judaism. In many instances, the Haredim have responded to these and other threats angrily, verbally defending against those who would challenge their hegemony. At the same time, they recognize the animosity many secular Israelis feel toward them and have embarked on various public relations campaigns and other media projects to improve their image among the general public. In practice, the Israeli Haredim remain firmly entrenched in seats of political power, with both blocs doing everything they can to gain their support.

Following the 2003 elections, the Haredi parties lost their place in the government to the ultra-secular anti-religious Shinui party. In 2005 Shinui left the government and Ariel Sharon brought the Haredi United Torah Judaism back into his ruling coalition. Shinui runs under the flag of stopping extra funding to mostly Haredi schools and resistance to Tal Law which gives legal status to their exemption from military service. Nevertheless, in recent years as many as 1000 Haredi Jews have chosen to volunteer to serve in the IDF, in a Haredi Jewish unit, the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, also known as Nahal Haredi. (The vast majority of Haredi men, however, continue to receive deferments from military service.[20])

The Haredim are relatively poor, compared to other Israelis, but represent an important market sector.[21] Sixty percent of the men do not have regular jobs, preferring religious study, which is heavily subsidized by the government.[22] Consequently, the Israeli Haredim "probably spend more time in formal study than any other class of humans ever has in the history of the planet."[23] "More than 50 percent live below the poverty line and get state allowances, compared with 15 percent of the rest of the population…"[18] Their families are also larger, usually having six or seven children.[24]

Haredim going to the synagogue in Rehovot, Israel.

In recent years, there has been a process of reconciliation and a merging of Haredi Jews with Israeli society, for example in relation to employment.[25] While not compromising on religious issues and their strict code of life, Haredi Jews have become more open to the secular Israeli culture. Haredi Jews, such as satirist Kobi Arieli, publicist Sehara Blau and politician Israel Eichler write regularly to leading Israeli newspapers. Another important factor in the reconciliation process has been the activity of ZAKA—a voluntary rescue organization run by Haredim, which provides emergency first response medical attention at suicide bombing scenes and rescues human remains found there to provide proper burial. Another important Haredi institution of charity is Yad Sara, established by Uri Lupolianski (mayor of Jerusalem since 2003) in 1977. Yad Sara, the only Israeli institution of its kind, provides patients and the handicapped with medical equipment (such as wheelchairs) on loan at no charge, and it is open to all Israelis. Religious Zionists, mainly from the National Religious Party and publicly-involved Haredi Jews are trying to bridge the gaps between secular Jews and Haredi Jews.

Between Haredi Judaism and National Religious or Religious Zionist Judaism, there is also a category of Orthodox Jews known as 'Hardalim', who combine Religious Zionism with a stricter adherence to Halacha.

United States

United States is home to the second largest Haredi population. The University of Manchester cited an estimate of 468,000 as of 2006.[26] While there has been a Haredi presence in the U.S. since the start of the 20th century, the various groups began to emerge as distinctive communities only in the 1950s, with the influx of refugees from the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, who quickly filled leadership positions. Before then, the distinctions that are now commonly made between Haredi and Modern Orthodox Jews were moot at best; dividing lines between the two camps can now be drawn, though it is important to recognize that there is a substantial overlap between the two communities.

As the tides of Jewish immigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries became more settled and affluent, they looked to Europe to provide rabbis and other spiritual leaders and teachers for their emerging communities. While some rabbis accepted the challenge, a number of them returned to Europe soon after, frustrated by what they found in the United States. Unlike Eastern Europe, where Jews constituted a distinct minority group, the United States offered Jews an opportunity to blend into the dominant culture. Many of the new immigrants dropped their traditional customs and laws, both out of choice (the U.S. offered them a chance to escape what they viewed as the constraints of religious identity) or not (Jews refusing to work on the Sabbath were almost always fired at the end of the week; the large majority of those who desisted from working on Saturday had to face the formidable challenge of finding new work each week).

The groups that arrived en masse after the Holocaust found a religious and social infrastructure already in place. While they feared that their communities might assimilate into the mainstream of American society, they were also able to create more insular communities, devoid of all but the most necessary contacts with the surrounding society. As the communities became more affluent, they were able to assume more and more roles of the city and state for themselves. Today, there exist many autonomous communities in places such as Borough Park, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights in Brooklyn, as well as more recently the yeshiva centered community of Lakewood, New Jersey, with their own economies, educational systems (yeshivos) welfare institutions and gemachs (free-loan funds for everything from money to household items to tools, clothing, books and services), medical services (such as the Hatzolah ambulance corps), and security (the Shomrim neighborhood patrol). Some smaller, more isolationist Hasidic groups actually founded their own small towns, such as New Square, New York and Kiryas Joel, New York patterned after the communities they left in Europe. There are still other, smaller, communities throughout the United States which at first did not have all the established institutions of the dominant community in New York. Eventually, even they managed to put many of these institutions in place, thereby preserving their cultural separation.

Signs in both Yiddish and English in Kiryas Joel, New York.

With these in place, the communities were able to grow and flourish, both because of an extremely high birthrate (eight or more children is normal), and because of outreach programs geared toward other Jews. Most notably the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement embraced outreach with a passion, conducting nationwide campaigns to introduce Chabad Judaism to unaffiliated Jews, as well as to Jews of other affiliations. This helped ignite the Teshuvah Movement that now attracts thousands of new adherents to Haredi Judaism yearly.

On the other hand, despite all their efforts at cultural separation, the Haredi leadership could not ignore the appeal of American life to their own youth. While certain few concessions to American society were made (for example, some groups allowed some of their children to pursue some higher education under certain circumstances), for the most part the response was to adopt an even more extreme approach to insularity. In effect, anything that might be perceived as a threat to the cultural homogeneity of the community was disparaged, including secular newspapers, radio, and television. Instead, a program of total immersion in study was encouraged for the younger generation.

Some Haredi leaders realized that the communities could not be kept completely insular and established ways to connect to society without compromising on their intrinsic beliefs. In several instances, yeshivos such as Torah Vodaas, Chaim Berlin and Ner Yisroel started allowing the boys (or bochurim) to pursue a secular education while remaining in the yeshiva. This was helped largely by the establishment of Touro College by Dr. Bernard Lander, a college based in New York City geared towards Haredi students seeking college degrees. One of the most noticeable things in Touro is the fact that the classes are separate for men and women to keep in line with strict Haredi lifestyles.

Another, perhaps greater threat, was seen in those Jewish groups that attempted to bridge the gap between the religious and secular worlds, since this was perceived as possibly more alluring to the youths of the community, including those who could not conceive of a total break from their Jewish upbringing. Reform, Conservative, and even Modern Orthodox Judaism were seen as threatening to the very continuity of the community.

In the case of Reform, this animosity could be traced to the early nineteenth century in Germany, where Reform waged a battle to wrest control of the communities from Traditional Jews. At that time, both groups attacked each other incessantly in the struggle for hegemony over the Jewish community. Until quite recently, the Reform movement felt secure and was not leveling the same attacks on the Orthodox. In many instances, they sought ways to cooperate on common issues. To the Haredim, however, they were seen as a steppingstone to assimilation, to be disparaged and discouraged within their own communities. The criticisms of two centuries earlier were also applied to the Conservative community. Their beliefs and practices were held to be incompatible with authentic Judaism and, as such, rejected.

The Haredim maintain a delicate balancing act: on an individual level, Conservative and Reform Jews are seen as "innocents led astray" (R' Moshe Feinstein). As such Haredim have created extensive outreach programs, conducted out of a deep love and concern for the spiritual well-being of other Jews; on a philosophical level, the generation and beliefs of these movements are condemned as stemming from the widespread denigration of religion of the 19th century. It is this viewpoint that defines the Haredi community's relationship to the larger Jewish community to this day.

However, the issue is more complicated when considering their position vis à vis the Modern Orthodox community. There is a mutual dependency between the two communities: the Modern Orthodox generally respect and adhere to the religious rulings of the Haredi leadership, while the Haredi often depend on university trained Modern Orthodox professionals to provide for needs that members of their own community cannot. For example, since there are so few Haredi physicians, the community will prefer to go to a Modern Orthodox physician, since he or she will have a better understanding of the implications of the treatment in Jewish law (halakha). Furthermore, Haredi rabbis will consult with Modern Orthodox physicians before issuing rulings on medical procedures (an example of this is on issues relating to the precise moment of death). Nevertheless, the leadership is unwilling to accept the liberalism of their Modern Orthodox colleagues. In some cases, Modern Orthodoxy is perceived as balancing precariously on a very narrow wire between the Jewish and secular worlds: a tenable but, to the Haredi, unnecessary position. In other cases, Modern Orthodox leaders are considered to have passed the bounds of religious propriety and condemned for this in severe terms, since those leaders, unlike Reform and Conservative rabbis, are believed to have the requisite learning and should know better.

No matter how sharp the discourse, it does not have the same intensity as earlier arguments that led to or threatened real schisms among the Jewish people. For instance, with the rise of Hasidism, Rabbi Elijah of Vilna declared that his followers must not marry Hasidic Jews (the ruling was never put into practice). While there are tensions between Haredi and other Jews, the leadership of all the factions involved have taken care to prevent a complete break, while respecting the desire of the Haredi for autonomy and separatism. And there is common ground too, especially in the field of learning. It is not uncommon for Haredi scholars to take advantage of the vast library holdings, including rare manuscripts, in the libraries of Yeshiva University (Modern Orthodox), the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative), and Hebrew Union College (Reform).

In 1988, it was estimated that there are between 40,000 and 57,000 Haredim in Williamsburg. The Jewish population in Boro Park (70,000 in 1983) was also mostly Haredi.[19] One must keep in mind that the numbers provided are inconclusive, however given the tremendous birthrate of Haredi Jews in Wiliamsburg and Boro Park, some estimate their population has doubled or tripled in the last 20 years.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the largest Haredi communities are located in London (Stamford Hill, Seven Sisters, Golders Green, Hendon, Edgware), Salford/Bury (Broughton Park, Sedgley Park and Prestwich) and Gateshead. The majority of UK Haredim descend from Eastern-European immigrants. The Haredi community in London is organized into a group known as the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC).

The UK Haredi community is vibrant and growing, maintaining hundreds of synagogues, although many are smaller scale shtiebels. It also maintains numerous schools, yeshivas, kolels and mikvas. The community also supports dozens of kosher food shops, bakeries and to a lesser extent, restaurants.

The Haredi population in the UK was estimated at 27,000 in 1998, out of 200,000 UK observant Jews.[19] However, a 2007 study published by the University of Manchester asserted that three out of every four British Jewish births are Haredi, who now account for 45,500 out of around 275,000 Jews in the UK, or 17%.[26] Within the next three decades, the Haredi community is predicted (by the Board of Deputies) to be the largest Jewish group in the UK: in comparison with the national average of 2.4 children per family, Haredi families have an average of 5.9 children, and as of 2006 membership of chareidi synagogues had doubled since 1990.[27]

Western Europe

About 25,000 Haredim live in France (mostly Sephardim of North African descent).[19] Important communities are located in Paris, Strasbourg and Lyon. Other important communities, mostly Ashkenazi, exist in the Belgian city of Antwerp, in the Swiss city of Zurich, and in the Dutch city of Amsterdam.


Haredi Jewish groups

  • Agudath Israel, worldwide and local (such as Agudath Israel of America)
  • Hasidic Jewish groups such as: Belz, Bobov, Boston, Boyan, Breslov, Chabad Lubavitch, Ger, Karlin, Munkacz, Puppa, Satmar, and Vizhnitz.
  • Shas: Mizrahi Sefardi Haredi party in Israel
  • United Torah Judaism: Ashkenazi Haredi political grouping in Israel
  • Edah HaChareidis: rabbinical council of anti-Zionist Haredi groups in and around Jerusalem, including Satmar, Dushinsky, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, Neturei Karta Mishkenos Horoim, Spinka, Brisk and a section of other Litvish Haredim.
  • Toldos Yeshurun: Organization of Haredi Russian Jews

Rabbinical leaders

  • The Baal Shem Tov (18th century founder of Hasidism)
  • The Vilna Gaon (of Lithuania)
  • Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (19th century founder of the Lithuanian yeshivoth)
  • Rabbi Moses Sofer (18th-19th century leader of Eastern European ultra-Orthodox)
  • Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen Kagan, the Chafetz Chaim
  • Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Alter, driving force behind Agudas Yisroel in Poland
  • Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the highest halachic authorities for much of the twentieth century
  • Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (leader of Haredim in Israel)
  • Rabbi Aharon Kotler (founder of the Lakewood yeshivas in America)
  • Rabbi Ovadya Yosef (leader of Israeli Sephardi Haredim)
  • Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (present-day leader of Israel's non-Hasidic Ashkenazi Haredim)

Rabbinical organizations and dynasties

  • Rabbis of the Edah HaChareidis rabbinical council of Jerusalem
  • Rebbes of the Satmar Hasidim (originally Hungary, now New York)
  • Rebbes of the Gerrer Hasidim (originally Poland, now Israel)
  • Rebbes of Lubavitch

See also


  1. Sources using "Ultra-Orthodox," instead of Haredi:
    • The Encyclopaedia Britannica [1]; The New York Times [2]; The Times of London [3]; The Washington Post [4]; The Sydney Morning Herald [5]; The Guardian [6]; Haaretz [7]; Macleans magazine [8]; Time magazine [9]; BBC News [10]; CNN [11]; ABC News, Australia [12]; Associated Press [13]; Reuters [14]; scholarly books e.g. [15]; scholarly articles [16]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lamm, Norman. Seventy Faces: Articles of Faith, KTAV Publishing House, 2001, p. 1. " distinguish it from the Haredi or more reclusive branch of Orthodoxy (often referred to as 'Ultra-Orthodox' or 'Fervently Orthodox'; I prefer the Hebrew term Haredi because it is not pejorative and is the one used by the Haredim to identify themselves)."
  3. 3.0 3.1
    • Kobre, Eytan. One People, Two Worlds. A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them, reviewed by Eytan Kobre, Jewish Media Resources, February 2003. Retrieved August 25, 2009. "'Indeed, the social scientist Marvin Schick calls attention to the fact that "through the simple device of identifying [some Jews] . . . as "ultra-Orthodox," . . . [a] pejorative term has become the standard reference term for describing a great many Orthodox Jews . . . . No other ethnic or religious group in this country is identified in language that conveys so negative a message.'"
    • Winston, Hella. Unchosen: the hidden lives of Hasidic rebels, Beacon Press, 2005, p. 184. "Among the Hasidim, 'ultra-Orthodox' is considered a misnomer, and, to some, a pejorative term."
    • Ganchrow, Mandell I. "With Jewry in crisis, Reform are still pushing disunity agenda. WHY!?", Jewish World Review, September 10, 2001. "Isn't it time to declare 'ultra-Orthodox,' a pejorative term and discard it from our vocabulary?"
    • Katz, Abbot. "Stop Calling Me an ‘Ultra-Orthodox Jew’", The Forward, April 11, 2008. "But in fact, “ultra-Orthodox” is a revisionist coinage, one that skews the dialogue and skewers the segment it means to identify. If “Orthodox” denotes a temperate, sensible, comfortable Judaism, then “ultra-Orthodox” has been made to counterpoise a fierce, immoderate and relatively new take on our faith."
    • Gross, Netty C. "Katamon on the Rhine", The Jerusalem Report, January 22, 2007. "... viewing the term "ultra- Orthodox" as pejorative."
    • Scherman, Nosson. "Non-Negotiable Judaism", CLAL Encore Archive, National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership website, April 3, 1981. Retrieved August 25, 2009. "In my community there are many self-help organizations supported and staffed exclusively by Orthodox volunteers - primarily the sort of commonly described by the fashionable pejorative - 'ultra-Orthodox.'"
  4. The etymology might be compared to the name "Quakers" for the Religious Society of Friends.
  5. For example, the hebrew form of the name of Union of Orthodox Jewish Congragations of America originally included "Chareidi", but this was changed to Orthodox, transliterated to Hebrew.
  6. Yated Ne'eman, about Reform and Conservatives; esp. this article; and this one
  7. Proud to be Chareidi - Jewish Media Resources
  8. Is that cellphone kosher?
  9. Gad Barzilai, Karine Barzilai-Nahon, "Cultured Technology: Internet and Religious Fundamentalism" The Information Society 21 (1)
  10. "Diaspora haredim dominate Israeli Internet forum", The Jerusalem Post.
  11. "Papers alter Israel cabinet photo", BBC News, 3 April 2009
  12. Wailoo, Keith; Pemberton, Stephen Gregory. The troubled dream of genetic medicine: ethnicity and innovation in Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell disease, JHU Press, 2006, p. 190. "The term Ultra-Orthodox, though controversial, often refers to Haredi Judaism or Hasidic Judaism..."
  13. "A Journalist's Guide to Judaism", Centre for Faith and Media website, Resources, Religion Guides, pp. 2-3. Retrieved August 25, 2009.
  14. Avraham Weissman interviews Stephen Schwartz in Ten to One on January 7, 2009, page A3
    • Hamodia (English edition), every issue
    • Jewish Tribune, every issue
    • Mishpacha (English edition), every issue
    • Yated Ne'eman (English edition), every issue [17]
  15. [18]
  17. 18.0 18.1 Erlanger, Steven (November 2, 2007). "A Modern Marketplace for Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox". Middle East. The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  18. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Baumel, Simon D. (2005). Sacred speakers: language and culture among the Haredim in Israel. New York: Berghahn Books. LCCN 2005-053085. ISBN 9781845450625. OCLC 226230948. 
  19. Sheleg, Yair. 2000. The new religious Jews: recent developments among observant Jews in Israel (HaDati'im haHadashim: Mabat achshavi al haHevra haDatit b'Yisrael). Jerusalem: Keter (in Hebrew).
  20. Israel's ultra-Orthodox drive a thriving kosher economy - International Herald Tribune
  21. Bartram, David. "Cultural Dimensions of Workfare and Welfare." Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 7:3, 233-47, 2005
  22. Israel Turns on Itself. Efron, Noah. Foreign Policy, 7/20/2009.
  23. Momi Dahan, an economist at the School of Public Policy at Hebrew University quoted by Steven Erlanger, "A Modern Marketplace for Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox," New York Times, November 2, 2007
  24. Ruth Sinai, "Quiet revolution under way in Haredi sector", Haaretz, 28 Dec 2005
  25. 26.0 26.1 "'Majority of Jews will be Ultra-Orthodox by 2050'". University of Manchester. July 23, 2007. Archived from the original on 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  26. "Is this the last generation of British Jews?". The Telegraph. 2006-11-25. 

External links

ar:يهودية حريدية ca:Haredí cs:Charedim da:Haredisk jødedom eo:Ĥaredoj lad:Haredi lt:Haredi judaizmas ja:超正統派 (ユダヤ教) no:Haredisk jødedom nn:Ḥaredisk jødedom pt:Haredi ru:Харедим simple:Haredi sl:Haredi fi:Haredi tl:Hudaismo#Hudaismong Haredi yi:חרדים