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Haredi Judaism (Hebrew: חֲרֵדִי Ḥaredi, IPA: [χaʁeˈdi]), (also spelt Charedi), is the most theologically conservative stream of Orthodox Judaism. Its members are often referred to as strictly Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox outside of Israel. Haredim view themselves as the most religiously authentic group of Jews,[1] and although this claim is contested by other streams, it is a perception which is often held in wider Jewish and non-Jewish society.[2][3]

The term 'Haredi' Judaism emerged in response to the 19th-century Jewish Enlightenment which had given birth to the Reform movement. In contrast to the ideals of Modern Orthodoxy which attempted to embrace modernity, the approach of the Ultra-Orthodox was to maintain a steadfast adherence to Jewish law by segregating itself from modern society.[4]

Adherents of the Ultra-Orthodoxy do not form an institutionally cohesive or homogeneous group,[5] but are divided into a broad range of various streams and sects. Their communities are primarily found in Israel, North America and Western Europe. Their estimated global population numbers between 1.3-1.5 million and due to a virtual absence of intermarriage and high fertility rate, their numbers are growing rapidly.[6][7][8][9] Their numbers have also been boosted by a significant number of secular Jews adopting a Haredi lifestyle.[10][11][12]


Haredi is a Hebrew adjective derived from the verb hared which appears in the

Haredi Jews also use other terms to refer to themselves. Common Yiddish words include Yidn (Jews) or erlekhe Yidn (virtuous Jews),[17] Ben Torah (literally "son of the Torah"),[13] frum (pious) and heimish (home-like, i.e. "our crowd"). In Israel, Haredi Jews are sometimes also called by the derogatory slang words "dos" (plural "dosim"), that mimics the traditional Ashkenazi Jewish pronunciation of the Hebrew word "datim", meaning religious,[20] and more rarely, "blacks" (sh'chorim), a reference to the black clothes they typically wear.[21]


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 their own families 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 (Hebrew for Enlightenment). 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 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.

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 the Russian Empire's western border including most of modern Belarus and Ukraine, to which Jewish settlement in the empire 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. Some Jews, particularly secularized young people, embraced various versions of social radicalism, particularly Social Democracy in its Bundist, Polish nationalist-socialist (PPS), and Menshevik forms; some later became Communists as well, particularly in the Soviet Union.

A much larger number of East European Jews chose a less radical 'politics of exit': they embraced or grew more sympathetic to some version of Jewish nationalism, particularly Zionism (which they often combined with some form of liberal politics vis-a-vis citizenship rights in Eastern European states). Beginning as a popular but insurgent movement in Russia in the 1880s, Zionism attained something like communal dominance by the close of the First World War (except in the Soviet Union, where the Communist regime suppressed it beginning in 1918). In the context of the general shift toward ethnonationalist politics across Eastern Europe during World War I and the devastating effects of the war on traditional Jewish society and its certainties, Jewish nationalist parties (particularly Zionists of various stripes) consistently won a plurality or even a majority of Jewish votes in the various local-communal and national elections that took place in Russia and Ukraine in the brief interim period after the fall of the Tsarist regime and in newly emergent nation-states with large East European Jewish minorities like Poland and Lithuania.[22] Concomitantly, by the period between the world wars, the leading (i.e. most popular and widely sold) Yiddish daily newspapers in Poland and Lithania were broadly identified with Zionism. Both the socialist and the Jewish nationalist 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.

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.[23] 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.


The formation of the Haredi stream of Orthodox Judaism is widely attributed to Rabbi Moses Sofer ("the Chasam Sofer"), Rabbi Elijah of Vilna (Vilna Gaon), Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov and their disciples. Sofer, Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox community in Pressburg (Bratislava) was a pupil of Rabbis Nathan Adler of Frankfurt (who was a Master of Kabbalah) and Pinchas HaLevi Horowitz of Frankfurt, a renowned Talmudist. Thus Sofer was respected by the Hasidim and Misnagdim alike.

Sofer applied a pun to the Talmudic term chodosh asur min ha-Torah, "'new' is forbidden by the Torah" (referring literally to eating chodosh, "new grain", before the Omer offering is given) as a slogan heralding his opposition to any philosophical, social or practical change to customary Orthodox practice. Thus, he did not allow any secular studies to be added to the curriculum of his Pressburg Yeshiva. Sofer's student Rabbi Moshe Shik together with Sofer's sons Rabbis Shimon and Samuel Benjamin took an active role in arguing against the Reform movement but showed relative tolerance for diversity within the Orthodox camp. Others, such as the more zealous Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein based a more stringent position to orthodoxy.

Starting in 1830, about twenty disciples of Sofer settled in the Holy Land, almost all of them in Jerusalem. They joined the Old Yishuv, which comprised the Musta'arabim, Sephardim and Ashkenazim. They settled in Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron. Together with the Perushim and Hasidim they formed a similar approach to Judaism reflecting those of their European counterparts

A major historic event that facilitated the redefinition of Judaism was the meltdown after the Universal Israelite Congress of 1868–1869 in Pest. In an attempt to unify all streams of Judaism under one constitution, the Orthodox offered the Shulchan Aruch as the ruling Code of law and observance. This notation was dismissed by the reformists, leading many Orthodox rabbis to resign from the Congress and form their own Social and Political groups. Hungarian Jewry split into two major institutionally sectarian groups, Orthodox and Neolog. However, some communities refused to join either of the groups calling themselves Status Quo.

In 1871 Shimon Sofer, Chief Rabbi of Kraków, founded the Machzikei Hadas organisation with the Hasidic Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach of Belz. This was the first effort of Haredi Jews in Europe to create a political party and may be seen as a part of the developing rebranding of the traditional Orthodoxy into a self-defined group. Rabbi Shimon was nominated as a candidate to the Polish Regional Parliament under the Austraian emperor Franz Joseph. He found favor over his modern counterparts and was elected to the "The Polish Club" in which he took active part until his death.

Shik demonstrated support in 1877 for the separatist policies of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in Germany. Shik's own son was enrolled in the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary that taught secular studies and was headed by Azriel Hildesheimer. Hirsch, however, did not reciprocate and expressed astonishment at Shik's halakhic contortions in condemning even those Status Quo communities that clearly adhered to halakhah.[24] Lichtenstein opposed Hildesheimer and his son Hirsh as they made use of the German language in sermons from the pulpit and seemed to sway to the direction of Modern Zionism.[25]

Shimon Sofer was somewhat more lenient than Lichtenstein on the use of German in sermons allowing so only if it was a medium for keeping cordial relations with the various governments. Likewise, he allowed extra-curricular studies of the gymnasium for students whose rabbinical positions would be recognized by the governments, stipulating the necessity to prove the strict adherence to the God-fearing (Haredi) standards per individual case.[26]

In 1912, the World Agudath Israel was founded to differentiate itself from the Torah Nationalists Mizrachi and Secular Zionist organisations. It was dominated by the Hasidic rebbes and Lithuanian rosh yeshivas. Agudah nominated rabbis who were elected as representatives in the Polish government Sejm, such as Rabbis Meir Shapiro and Yitzhak-Meir Levin. Not all Hasidic factions joined the Agudath Israel, remaining independent such as Machzikei Hadat of Galicia.[27] In 1924 Agudath Israel obtained 75 percent of the votes in the Kehilla elections.[28]

In 1919, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (student of Ksav Sofer) and Rabbi Yitzchok Yerucham Diskin (son of Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, from Brisk, Lithuania) founded the Edah HaChareidis as part of Agudath Israel in then Mandate Palestine.

The Edah HaChareidis was actively anti-Zionist and opposed to the armed struggle of the Hagana. They attempted to gain political recognition and peacefully attain autonomic authority over parts of the Holy Land. Their ambassador Dr Jacob Israël de Haan met with Hashemite leader Hussein bin Ali on this issue. Hussein granted him a handwritten letter outlining a draft understanding between the Orthodox Jews and their Arab neighbors, which would require them to denounce the Balfour Declaration in return for autonomy over parts of Transjordan. This letter was presented to the first Agudath Israel Convention in Vienna in 1923 by Rabbi Moshe Blau.

The Orthodox community polled some 16,000 of a total 90,000 at the Knesseth Israel in 1929.[29] But Sonnenfeld lobbied Sir John Chancellor, the High Commissioner for separate representation in the Palestine Communities Ordinance than that of the Knesseth Israel explaining that the Agudas Israel community would cooperate with the Vaad Leumi and the National Jewish Council in matters pertaining to the municipality, but seeks to protect is its religious convictions independently. The community petitioned the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations on this issue. The one community principle was victorious despite their opposition., but this is seen as the creation of the Haredi community in Israel separate from the other modern Orthodox and Zionist movements.[30]

In 1932 Sonnenfeld was succeeded by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky (I), a disciple of the Shevet Sofer, one of the grandchildren of Moses Sofer. Dushinsky promised to build up a strong Jewish Orthodoxy at peace with the other Jewish communities and the non-Jews.[31]

In 1945, the Edah HaChareidis parted ways with Agudat Yisrael. In 1948 Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis (1864–1953) succeeded Dushinski and after his death the Chief Rabbinate of the Edah was passed onto Grand Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar (1887–1979). Satmar hasidism was founded by Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, a hasidic rabbi who paid homage to Moses Sofer.

Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum was a passionate opponent of Modern Zionism and had great influence on the Edah HaCharedit but soon emigrated to the United States, still holding his title of Chief Rabbi of the Edah HaChareidis. In the U.S. he attracted many new followers and influenced many leaders of the Orthodox Hassidic Rabbis and established a large community in the densely Orthodox neighborhood of Williamsburg, located in northern Brooklyn in New York City. Today's Satmar community in New York numbers close to 130,000 adherents (including men, women and children).

Present day

Haredi Judaism is not an institutionally cohesive or homogeneous group,[5] but comprises a diversity of spiritual and cultural orientations, generally divided into a broad range of Hasidic sects, Lithuanian-Yeshivish streams from Eastern Europe, and Oriental Sephardic Haredim. These groups often differ significantly from one another in their specific ideologies and lifestyles, as well as the degree of stringency in religious practice, rigidity of religious philosophy and isolation from the general culture that they maintain. The majority of the Haredim worldwide therefore live in neighborhoods in which reside mostly other Haredim of their own or similar sect.

Practices and beliefs

Views of Jewish law

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. They maintain the position of the Mishnah and Talmud as explained by Maimonides that two distinct 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", which is the Torah as Jews know it today. The second, known as the Torah she-ba'al peh ("Oral Law"), is the explanation of the Written Law that was given to Moses as the proper interpretation of the Written law.

Jewish law, known as halacha, are the final conclusions based on the Talmud as to how one should conduct oneself in matters pertaining to the spiritual, moral, religious and personal. As such, it includes codes of law applicable to many hypothetical circumstances, which have been pored over and developed throughout the generations in a constantly expanding collection of religious literature.

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 logical explanations of the reasoning behind each law. Halacha incorporates many traditional practices into those rules, some of which started as customs passed down over the millennia, as well as an assortment of deeply ingrained cultural behaviors. It is the subject of intense study in religious schools known as yeshivas (essentially, Jewish law schools that also study Jewish literature and customs in general).

Throughout history, halacha has addressed issues on the basis of circumstance and precedent. There have been some significant adaptations over the centuries, 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 to the modern world. Critics of Haredi Judaism see it as a "reform" movement which has warped the values of traditional Judaism.[32]

Modern inventions have been studied and incorporated into the ever-expanding halacha, accepted by both Haredi and other Orthodox communities. For instance, rulings were made about the proper use of electricity and other technology by Orthodox Jews during Jewish Sabbath (and holidays) to make sure that the Written Laws (Torah she-bi-khtav) were not being violated. There is consensus in the Orthodox community regarding most major points, although fine points are the subject of deep debates with a wide range of opinions. While discussions of halacha are common and encouraged, the final determinations as to the applicability of the law in all situations rests in the hands of the 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, introduction to a woman for the purpose of seeing if the couple wishes to marry. Some couples are not given a choice about their marriage-match ('Shidduch'), and the match is often a financial deal (contracts included) between two families.[33][34][35][36][37] After marriage, many Haredi men continue their Torah studies in a kollel. Studying in secular institutions is discouraged, although educational facilities for vocational training in a Haredi framework do exist. In the United States and Europe, the majority of Haredi males are active in the workforce. For various reasons, in Israel, around half of their members do not work, and most of those who do are not officially a part of the workforce.[38][39][40] Families tend to be large, reflecting adherence to the biblical commandment "be fruitful and multiply".

Haredi Jews are typically opposed to the viewing of television and films,[41] and the reading of secular newspapers or books. There has been a strong campaign against the Internet and internet enabled mobile phones have also been banned by many leading rabbis.[42][43] In May 2012, 40,000 Haredim gathered at Citi Field Stadium in New York to discuss the dangers of the Internet.[44] Internet has been allowed for business purposes so long as filters are installed.


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.

The standard mode of dress for males of the Lithuanian stream are black suits and a white shirt. Headgear includes black Fedora or Homburg hats and black skull caps. Beards are common among married men, while most Hasidic males will never be clean shaven. Women adhere to the laws of modest dress and wear long skirts and sleeves, high necklines and if married, some form of head covering.[45]

Haredi women never wear trousers; although a small minority do wear pajama-trousers within the home at night.[46]

Traditional Hasidic men and women differ from the Lithuanian stream by having a much more specific dress code, the most obvious difference for men being the full-length suit jacket (rekel) a on weekdays and fur hat (shtreimel) and silk caftan (bekishe) on the Sabbath.


Haredi Jews endeavour to ensure that the areas where they live are free of immoral influences. During the week long Rio Carnival, many Orthodox Jews feel compelled to leave the town due to the immodest exposure of participants.[47] In Israel, the entrances to some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are fitted with signs asking that modest clothing be worn.[48] Some areas are known to have "modesty patrols"[49] and people dressed in ways perceived as immodest may suffer harassment and advertisements featuring scantily dressed models may be targeted for vandalism.[50][51] These concerns are also addressed through public lobbying and legal avenues.[52][53] In 2001, Haredi campaigners in Jerusalem succeeded in persuading the Egged bus company to get all their advertisements approved by a special committee.[54] By 2011, Egged had gradually removed all bus adverts which featured women in repsonse to their continuous defacement. A court order in 2013 which stated such action was discriminatory led to Egged's decision not to feature males or females,[55] and other creatures, such as aliens, were also banned in order not to offend religious sensibilities.[56] Haredi Jews also campaign against other types of advertising which promote activities they deem offensive or inappropriate.[57]

To honour the Jewish Sabbath, most state run buses in Israel do not run on Saturdays.[58] In a similar vein, Haredi Jews in Israel have demanded that the roads in their neighborhoods be closed on Saturdays, vehicular traffic being viewed as an "intolerable provocation" upon their religious lifestyle (see Driving on Shabbat in Jewish law). In most cases, the authorities granted permission after Haredi petitioning and demonstrations, some of them including fierce clashes between Haredim and secular counter demonstrators, and violence against police and motorists.[59]

Gender separation

While Jewish modesty law requires gender separation under various circumstances, observers have contended that there is a growing trend among Haredi Jews to extend its observance to the public arena.[60]

In the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, New York, an entrance sign asks visitors to "maintain gender separation in all public areas" and the bus stops have separate waiting areas for men and women.[61] In New Square, another Hasidic enclave, men and women are expected to walk on opposite sides of the road.[60] In Israel, residents of Meah Shearim were banned from erecting a street barrier dividing men and women during the nightly week-long Sukkot festivities[62][63] and street signs requesting that women avoid certain pavements in Beit Shemesh have been repeatedly removed by the municipality.[64]

Since 1973, buses catering for Haredi Jews running from New York into Manhattan have had separate areas for men and women, allowing passengers to conduct on-board prayer services.[67] Although the lines are privately operated, they serve the general public and in 2011 the set-up was challenged on grounds of discrimination and the arrangement was deemed illegal.[68][69]

Newspapers and publications

Haredi publications tend to shield their readership from objectionable material.


Large Haredi

Israeli communties
In Jerusalem: Mea Shearim
Beis Yisroel · Geula
Har Nof · Ramot
Ramat Shlomo · Sanhedria
Neve Yaakov · Maalot Dafna
Ramat Eshkol · Ezras Torah
Mattersdorf · Bayit Vegan
Bnei Brak · Modi'in Illit
Beitar · Beit Shemesh
Kiryat Ye'arim · Ashdod
Rekhasim · Safed · El'ad
North America:
Flatbush · Williamsburg
Crown Heights · Monsey
Lakewood · Passaic
Los Angeles · Chicago
Cleveland · Baltimore
United Kingdom:
Stamford Hill · Hendon
Golders Green · Edgware
Broughton Park · Prestwich

Due to its imprecise definition, lack of data collection and rapid change over time, estimates of the global Haredi population are difficult to measure and may significantly underestimate the true number of Haredim, due to their reluctance to participate in surveys and censuses.[66][79] One estimate given in 2011 stated there were approximately 1.3 million Haredi Jews globally.[80] Studies have shown a very high growth rate with a large young population.[81]


Israel is home to the largest Haredi population, at approx. 700,000 (out of 6 million Israeli Jews).[66] The number of Haredi Jews in Israel is rising rapidly. In 1992, out of a total of 1,500,000 Orthodox Jews world wide, about 550,000 were Haredi (half of them in Israel).[82] The vast majority of Haredi Jews are Ashkenazi. However, some 20% of the Haredi population are thought to belong to the Sephardic Haredi stream. The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics forecasts that the Haredi population of Israel will number 1.1 million in 2019. It is also projected that the number of Haredim in 2059 may be equal to the number of non-Haredi Israeli Jews, with a population estimated to number between 2.73 and 5.84 million.[83] Large Israeli Haredi concentrations include Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Ye'arim, Ashdod, and El'ad. Two Haredi cities, Kasif and Harish are planned.

United States

The United States is home to the second largest Haredi population. In 2000, there were 360,000 Haredi Jews in the U.S. (7.2% of the total American Jewish population).[7] The University of Manchester cited an estimate of 468,000 as of 2006.[7] In 1988, it was estimated that there are between 40,000 and 57,000 Haredim in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, mostly Hasidim. The Jewish population in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn (70,000 in 1983) was also mostly Haredi (also mostly Hasidim).[82] The numbers provided are inconclusive, given the tremendous birthrate of Haredi Jews in Wiliamsburg and Borough Park; some estimate their population has doubled or tripled in the last 20 years. Other Hasidic enclaves include Kiryas Joel and New Square, and large Haredi populations exist in New York, Lakewood, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland and Baltimore.

United Kingdom

In 1998, the Haredi population in the United Kingdom was estimated at 27,000 (13% of affiliated Jews).[82] A 2007 study asserted that 3 out of every 4 Jewish births are Haredi, who then accounted for 17% of British Jews, (45,500 out of around 275,000).[7] Another study in 2010 established that there was 9,049 Haredi households in the UK which would account for a population of nearly 53,400 or 20% of the community.[84][85] Within the next three decades, the Board of Deputies predicts that the Haredi community will become the largest group in Anglo-Jewry: in comparison with the national average of 2.4 children per family, Haredi families have an average of 5.9 children. As of 2006, membership of Haredi synagogues had doubled since 1990.[86] In the UK, the largest Haredi communities are located in London, Salford/Prestwich and Gateshead.


About 25,000 Haredim live in France (mostly Sephardim of North African descent).[82] Important communities are located in Paris, Strasbourg and Lyon. Other important communities, mostly Ashkenazi, are the Jewish Community of Antwerp in Belgium, as well as communities in the Swiss cities of Zürich and Basel, and in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. There is also a Haredi community in Vienna, Austria. Other countries with significant Haredi populations include Canada, South Africa and Australia.

Country Year Population Annual growth rate
Israel 2006 444,000–795,000[66] 6%[87]
United States 2006 468,000[7] 5.4%[7]
United Kingdom 2007/2008 22,800–36,400[88] / 45,500[7] 4%[88]

In Israel

Further information: Haredim and Zionism and Religious relations in Israel

The Haredi community in Israel 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 belief that Jewish political independence could only be achieved with the coming of the Messiah. In addition was the disdain with which they viewed political and cultural Zionism which lacked any religious manifestation. Influenced by socialism, secular Zionists looked on religion as an outdated relic which should disappear in favor of Jewish nationalism. 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 Nazi persecution. 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.


Haredim have a separate system of education in Israel, called Chinuch Atzmai. There are four distinct education systems in Israel, the other three being the state system (Mamlachti), the state-religious system (Mamlachti dati) and the Arab system. There is a strong emphasis on Jewish studies in Haredi school programs.

The schools are partially supported by the State; however, the Ministry of Education is not responsible for the hiring and firing of teachers or for the registration of pupils. Chinuch Atzmai's funding has traditionally been supplemented by donations from outside of Israel, particularly from the United States.

The Haredim's lack of mainstream education, and consequent low participation in the workforce and living off state allowances, are regarded by many in Israel as a social problem. The Council for Higher Education announced in 2012 that it was investing NIS 180 million over the following five years to establish appropriate frameworks for the education of Haredim, focusing on specific professions.[89]


As part of the Status quo Agreement worked out between prime minister David Ben-Gurion and religious parties (then represented by Agudat Yisrael and Yitzhak-Meir Levin), during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, a small part of senior Haredi Yeshiva disciples (400 men citation needed) would temporarily be exempted from military service for as long as their sole occupation was the study of the Torah. That exemption is called Torato Omanuto; it allows Haredi young men whose main occupation is Torah study to delay conscription to the Israel Defense Forces or to avoid it completely. The number of beneficiaries of the Torato Omanuto arrangement has greatly increased over the decades, to the point of most Haredi Men being entitled to avoid enlistment. Haredi woman are exempted under the provisions of a 1953 law that states women may be exempted from military service for reasons of religious conscience, marriage, pregnancy or motherhood. This is resented by many Israelis, for the following reasons:

- Most Israelis who are not Haredim are obligated to enlist by law, for either 3 years (men) or 2 years (women). (see Conscription in Israel)

- Most of those Israelis who enlist consider their service to be a shared national obligation, in which the Haredim refuse to participate.

- The Haredim can work in those 2–3 years of their lives in which they do not serve in the IDF, while most soldiers at the IDF are usually paid anywhere between $80–250 a month.[90] All the while, Haredi yeshiva students receive significant monthly funds and payments for their religious studies[91] (up to $4500).

- The Haredim, if they so choose, can study at that time,[92] while most soldiers are not allowed to.[93]

- From a legal constitutional perspective, this situation reflects a violation of the Democratic principles of both Equality and Human Dignity (this is one of the main issues studied in Constitutional Law courses in all Israeli Academia). (broader discussion of this is at: Tal committee)

While a few dozen Haredim have enlisted in the IDF every year in recent decades, the Haredim usually reject those criticisms. Depending on which Haredi is asked, one might argue that:

- A Yeshiva student is equal to or more important than a soldier in the IDF, because he keeps Jewish tradition alive and prays for the people of Israel to be safe.[94][95][96]

- The army is not conducive to the Haredi lifestyle. It is regarded as a "state-sponsored quagmire of promiscuity."[97]

- While the Haredi yeshiva students can work during the time they don't serve, and most of them do, the current law does not allow them to work legally (as they already receive state-funds), so those who do work are considered felons (even though there is no regulation of the matter by the state and people are not trialed for such offenses). (see broader discussion at: Torato Omanuto and Tal committee)

- The more extremist Haredim, such as Neturei Karta, are anti-Zionist by self-definition and have the agenda of non-cooperation with the state of Israel. Other Haredim, however, do not refrain from service because of such anti-Zionist motivations.

The Torato Omanuto arrangement was enshrined in the Tal Law that came in force in 2002. The High Court later ruled that it could not be extended in its current form beyond August 2012. A replacement was expected. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was however experiencing a shortage of personnel, and there were pressures to reduce the scope of the Torato Omanuto exemption.[98]

The Shahar program, also known as Shiluv Haredim ("Ultra-Orthodox integration") allows Haredi men aged 22 to 26 to serve in the army for about a year and a half. At the beginning of their service, they study mathematics and English, which are not well covered in Haredi schools. The program is partly aimed at encouraging Haredi participation in the workforce after military service. However, not all beneficiaries seem to be Haredim.[99]

Over the 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.[100]

Currently, the Israeli parliament is in the process of enacting a law that would eventually lead to the enlistment of most Haredi men.[101] This law had been promoted by Yair Lapid, whose political party Yesh Atid was partially based on the promise of creating 'enlistment equality'. The law would also push for Haredi men to volunteer for National Civil Service (as a military service alternative) and encourage the Haredim to be incorporated officially into the labour force.

There has been much uproar in Haredi society following actions towards Haredi conscription. While some Haredim see this as a great social and economic opportunity,[102] others (including leading Rabbis among them) strongly oppose this move.[103] Among the extreme Haredim there have been some more severe reactions. Several Haredi leaders have threatened that Haredi populations would leave the country if forced to enlist.[104][105] Others have fueled public incitement against Seculars and National-Religious Jews, and specifically against politicians Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, who support and promote Haredi enlistment.[106][107] Some Haredim have taken to threatening fellow Haredim who agree to enlist,[108][109] to the point of physically attacking some of them.[110][111]


As of 2012 it was estimated that 37% of Haredi men and 49% of Haredi women were employed. The Trajtenberg Committee, charged in 2011 with drafting proposals for economic and social change, called, among other things, for increasing employment among the Haredi population. Its proposals included encouraging military or national service and offering college prep courses for volunteers, creating more employment centers targeting Haredim and experimental matriculation prep courses after Yeshiva hours. The committee also called for increasing the number of Haredi students receiving technical training through the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and forcing Haredi schools to carry out standardized testing, as is done at other public schools.[112]

Views on 'immodest female exposure', male-female segregation and associated public controversies

Haredi society is generally intolerant of physical exposure of the female body — especially in public, and more so in areas in which Haredim live. The entrances to the city of Bnei Brak, for instance, include signs which ask those who enter to 'Respect the Haredi lifestyle', which is universally understood by all Israeli as a demand for people to dress 'modestly' in that city and avoid things like driving a car within it on the Shabbat.[113] Haredim who live among secular citizens usually either ignore the way the latter are dressed, or in the case of Haredi men, look the other way on purpose to avoid eye contact with the "overly exposed" body of a female.[114][115] To Haredi men, even the show of exposed arms and legs is considered 'too immodest'. Sometimes it happens that Haredi men use verbal or even physical violence towards a woman they consider to be "not modestly dressed".[116] This is less common in general public venues, and occurs more often within Haredi neighbourhoods, various religious sites, or when the woman involved is religious herself. Neither verbal nor physical violence is encouraged in such cases by more mainstream rabbis of the Haredi society,[117][118] but the phenomenon has become more common in Israel over the last two decades (this is nonexistent in other countries, or at least goes unreported)[according to whom?].

Most Haredi publications have a policy of either censoring photographs of women, or not publishing them at all;[119] the newspaper Yated Ne'eman 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.[120][121] Some Haredi publications have repeatedly censored pictures of female children.[121] In March 2013, a Haredi magazine in Israel was reported to censor the images of women from a famous photograph from the Holocaust.[122][123] These publications are not always run by extremists[weasel words] within Haredi society. The magazine operated by the Haredi mainstream Shas party and organization also has a policy of censoring women, which it has expressed openly.[124] Following these trends in Haredi societies during late 20th and early 21st centuries, additional companies and organizations in Israel have began to eliminate females from their advertisements.[125][126] The bus company Egged refused to portray women on bus advertisements in Haredi-populated areas because of intensive Haredi vandalism of such ads.[127]

During 2010-2013, controversy was aroused surrounding the issue of 'Mehadrin' buses — bus lines that serve a mostly Haredi public, that segregated men and women requiring men to sit in the front[128] and women to sit in the back.[129][130][131][132] These bus lines were created due to the wishes of Haredi communities to eliminate what they consider "unnecessary mingling" between members of opposite genders, and the same rationale that called for a 'modest' female display in public.[133] Tania Rozenblit, a secular Israeli who refused to sit in the back of such a bus in 2011, ignited a heated public debate, following which a ruling was issued by the Israeli Supreme Court against the forcing of women to sit in the back of buses.[134][135][136]

In public, Haredi women wear clothes that cover the majority of their body, and sometimes distinct hats (which might be identical to or different from those worn by other Orthodox Jewish women). Many women also wear wigs on their hair, or on a shaved head. The wigs and shaved heads are meant to ensure that the woman's hair does not get exposed,[137] though through the years it has become popular among some Haredi women to wear fancier wigs[138] which are more attractive than their own hair (drawing criticism from more conservative Haredi rabbis).[139][140] Unlike on the streets, Haredi women often dress more freely and casually within the home, as long as the body remains covered in accordance with the halacha. More "modernized" Haredi women are somewhat more lenient in matters of their dress and some follow the latest trends and fashions while confirming with the halacha.[46][138]

Secular and Orthodox Jews have criticized Haredi extremism on matters of female exposure and male-female segregation, claiming this is a modern phenomenon which does not reflect traditional Judaism. In 2012, several online reports came up showing major Haredi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in an old photograph with his wife, who is dressed 'immodestly' by current Haredi standards.[141] Some have also suggested that Haredi indulgence in matters of modestly is in itself excessive, and thus 'not modest'.[142]

Currently there is much controversy in Israel on the issue of male-female segregation at the site of the Wailing Wall. Segregation exists at the site because of Haredi dominance of the area. Opponents of the Haredi agenda have pointed out that in the past, there had not existed such segregation (many pictures exist from the early 20th century which demonstrate this claim, and these have been published in the past on the mainstream Israeli media). A group of Jewish women called 'Neshot Hakotel' (נשות הכותל - Women of the Wall) made a series of provocative actions during recent years, coming to the Wall often to pray in the presence of men (other than in the strictly female area). Following debates in the Israeli Parliament and Supreme Court, it was decided to re-segment the prayer regions near the wall to male, female and mixed (both male and female) areas.[143]

Other issues

The Haredim are relatively poor, compared to other Israelis, but represent an important market sector.[144][145] For this reason, some companies and organizations in Israel refrain from including women or other images deemed immodest in their advertisements to avoid Haredi consumer boycotts.[146][147] More than 50 percent live below the poverty line and get state allowances, compared with 15 percent of the rest of the population...."[148] Their families are also larger, usually having six or seven children.[148]

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.[149] 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 Haredi organization known for providing emergency medical attention at the scene of suicide bombings. Another organization is Yad Sarah, the largest national volunteer organization in Israel established in 1977 by former Haredi mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski. It is estimated that Yad Sarah saves the country's economy an estimated $320 million in hospital fees and long-term care costs each year.[150][151]

In the United States

The United States is home to the second largest Haredi population. In 2000, there were 360,000 Haredi Jews in the U.S. (7.2% of the total American Jewish population.[7] The University of Manchester cited an estimate of 468,000 as of 2006.[7]

In Western Europe

United Kingdom

In the UK, the largest Haredi communities are located in London, Salford 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 growing, maintaining hundreds of synagogues, although many are smaller scale shtiebels. It also maintains numerous schools, yeshivas, kolels and mikvehs. The community also supports dozens of kosher food shops, bakeries and to a lesser extent, restaurants.

Present leadership and organisations



Israeli political parties

See also


  1. Goldschmidt, Henry. Race and religion among the chosen peoples of Crown Heights, Rutgers University Press, 2006, p. 244, note 26. "I am reluctant to use the term 'ultra-orthodox,' as the prefix 'ultra' carries pejorative connotations of irrational extremism."
  2. Longman, Chia. "Engendering Identities as Political Processes: Discources of Gender Among Strictly Orthodox Jewish Women", in Rik Pinxten, Ghislain Verstraete, Chia Longmanp (eds.) Culture and politics: identity and conflict in a multicultural world, Berghahn Books, 2004, p. 55. "Webber (1994: 27) uses the label 'strictly Orthodox' when referring to haredi, seemingly more adequate as a purely descriptive name, yet carrying less pejorative connotations than ultra-Orthodox."


External links

  • Haredi and technology
  • Hasidic and Haredi Jewish population growth
  • Map of the main Haredi Communities in Jerusalem
  • Dei'ah Vedibur – Online Haredi newsweekly

tl:Hudaismo#Hudaismong Haredi

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