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Haredi (Hebrew: חֲרֵדִי Ḥaredi, IPA: [χaʁeˈdi]), or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism (pl. Haredim) is a term used to describe the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to by outsiders as ultra-Orthodox. 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 to an extent Modern Orthodox, streams of Judaism to be deviations from authentic Judaism. Its historical rejection of Jewish secularism distinguishes it from Western European-derived Modern Orthodox Judaism.
Haredi Judaism is not an institutionally cohesive or homogeneous group, 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.
Haredim are currently primarily located in Israel, North America and Western Europe. The population is growing very rapidly, due to high birth rate, and doubles every 12 to 20 years. Estimates of the number of Haredim globally are difficult to measure, due to its imprecise definition, lack of data collection and rapid change over time. One newspaper article estimated there were approximately 1.3 million Haredi Jews as of 2011. The Haredi community has gained growing media interest recently, in particular on the issue of sex segregation in Israel and New York.
According to Nachman Ben-Yehuda, "the Hebrew word Haredi derives from harada – fear and anxiety –meaning, 'he who is anxious about, and/or fearful of, the word of the Almighty.'" Nurit Stadler writes that the word "meaning 'those who fear or tremble', appears in Isaiah 66:5: 'Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word'". Other sources give Isaiah 66:5 and Ezra 10:3 ("those that tremble at the commandment of our God") as the sources. In general, the word "connotes awe-inspired, fearful of God's majesty", similar to the way Quakers use the term.
The term "ultra-Orthodox" is often used instead of the term Haredi. Some regard this term to be misleading: Ami Ayalon writes that "Haredi" is preferable because
"Haredi" has none of the misleading religious implications of "ultra-Orthodox": in the words of Shilhav (1989: 53), "they are not necessarily [objectively] more religious but religious in a different way."
Its use can also be controversial, and is considered pejorative by Ayalon, Norman Lamm and others. 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.)
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency stopped using the term in the 1990s, substituting "fervently Orthodox" or "Haredi" or both. Then-editor Lisa Hostein stated "'ultra-Orthodox' was seen as a derogatory term that suggested extremism". A New Jersey based newspaper, The Star-Ledger, reportedly dropped the term ultra-orthodox in 2009.
More generally, a range of other expressions are used among Haredim (and outsiders) to describe themselves and others in the community, such as Yidn (Jews), erlekhe Yidn (virtuous Jews), frum (pious), heimish (home-like, i.e. "our crowd"), yeshivish and Anash (anshei-shloimeinu – members of our community). These have varying meanings depending on the context.
In Israel, Haredi Jews are sometimes referred to as "blacks" (Hebrew "shechorim"), a derogatory reference to the black clothes they typically wear. They are also referred to by the slang word "dos" (plural "dosim" or "dossim"), another derogatory term that mimicks the traditional Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation of the word "datim" – meaning religious.
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. 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 (a human being, a person) 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. 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. 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. 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 Elija Kramer (Vilna Gaon), Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov and their disciples. Sofer, Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox community in Pressburg (Bratislava) was a pupil of Rabbi Nathan Adler of Frankfurt who was a Master of Kabbalah as well as a pupil of Rabbi 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 most notable student Rabbi Moshe Shic together with Sofer's sons Rabbis Shimon and Samuel Benjamin took an active role in arguing the Reform movement but showed relative tolerance for heterogeneity 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 Hassidim 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 1868–69 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 Krakow, 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. Schick'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 Schick's halakhic contortions in condemning even those Status Quo communities that clearly adhered to halakhah.  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. 
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. 
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 Lithuainian rosh yeshivas. Agudah nominated Rabbis who were elected as representatives in the Polish government Sejm, such as Rabbi Meir Shapiro and Rabbi Yitzhak-Meir Levin. Notably, not all Hasidic factions joined the Agudath Israel, remaining independent such as Machzikei Hadat of Galicia.  In 1924 Agudath Israel obtained 75 percent of the votes in the Kehillah elections. 
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.  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. 
In 1932 Sonnefeld 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. 
In 1945, the Edah HaChareidis parted ways with Agudat Yisrael. In 1948 Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis (1864–1953) succeeded Dushinski and with his passing the Chief Rabbinate was passed onto Grand Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar (1887–1979). Satmar chassidism was founded by Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (Ujhel) a hasid who paid homage to Moses Sofer.
Rabbi Joel was a passive 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).
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 believe 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.
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).
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. 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 rabbis generally recommend very strongly against watching television and films, reading secular newspapers, and using the Internet without filters that block pornography and the like. Because of this, some Haredim also use mobile phones that are 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. However, it appears that many Haredi people use the Internet, as evidenced by the large number of participants in "Haredi chat rooms".
Some Haredi publications have a policy of not publishing photographs of women; 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.
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 (typically black) 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.
Estimates for Haredi population are difficult to obtain and may significantly underestimate the true number of Haredim, due to their reluctance to participate in surveys and censuses. However, studies do show a very high growth rate with a large young population.
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Israel is home to the largest Haredi population, at approx. 700,000 (out of 6 million Israeli Jews). 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). 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 main Haredi concentrations in Israel and the West Bank are: Jerusalem (Mea Shearim, Beis Yisroel, Geula, Har Nof, Ramat Shlomo, Ramot, Neve Yaakov, Maalot Dafna, Ramat Eshkol, Ezras Torah, Sanhedria Murhevet, Mattisdorf, Bayit VeGan), Bnei Brak, Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Ye'arim, Ashdod, Tzfat and El'ad.
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 claim that Jewish political independence could only be obtained through Divine intervention, with the coming of the 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. Influenced by socialism, secular Zionists looked on religion as an outdated relic, which should disappear (or, according to some extreme views, even be eradicated) 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 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.
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, 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.
As part of the Status quo Agreement worked out between prime minister David Ben-Gurion and 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. 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, and this is resented by some Israelis who are subject to conscription.
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 IDF was however experiencing a shortage of personnel, and there were pressure to reduce the scope of the Torato Omanuto exemption.
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. Not all beneficiaries however seem to be Haredim.
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.
The Agudat Yisrael party, supported by much of the Haredi population, was invited to participate in the governing coalition shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence. It agreed, but did not appoint any ministers since that would have implied participation in 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 substantially, 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.
In the early 1980s the Shas party of Sephardic Haredim was set up. Shas appealed to Sephardim who felt marginalized by the dominant Ashkenazi Zionist establishment. In 1999, Shas gained 17 Knesset seats (other Haredim won 5 seats). 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 shown unwavering and determined obedience in its supporters to the teachings of it spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.
Following the 2003 elections, the Haredi parties lost their place in the government to the secular anti-religious Shinui party. In 2005 Shinui left the government and Ariel Sharon brought the Haredi United Torah Judaism party into his ruling coalition. Shinui advocates stopping extra funding to mostly Haredi schools and resistance to the Torato Omanuto exemption from military service enshrined in the Tal Law. [clarify - not a sentence, or bad English]
In 2010, the Sephardic Haredi political party Shas broke ranks with Ashkenazi Haredi organizations and joined the World Zionist Organization, becoming the first officially Zionist Haredi political party.
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.
A chief antagonist of the Haredim (from the Haredi point of view) is the Supreme Court of Israel, 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 perceived threats angrily, verbally defending against their opponents. 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 befitting their voting strength, with both blocs doing everything they can to gain their support.
The Haredim are relatively poor, compared to other Israelis, but represent an important market sector. 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". More than 50 percent live below the poverty line and get state allowances, compared with 15 percent of the rest of the population...." Their families are also larger, usually having six or seven children.
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. 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 retrieves human remains found there to provide proper burial. Another important Haredi institution of charity is Yad Sara, established by Uri Lupolianski (mayor of Jerusalem 2003–2009) 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.
Mehadrin bus lines, which used to serve Haredi population centres, were found to be unlawful by a January 2011 ruling of the Israeli High Court of Justice. Mehadrin buses are segregated by sex, with males sitting in the front and females sitting in the back of the bus. However, the court rule allowed the continuation of the gender segregation in public buses on a strictly voluntary basis for a one-year experimental period.
In December 2011, several separate incidents took place in rapid succession, creating a large public discussion about the position of Haredim in Israeli society, and leading to widespread incitement in both directions - seculars about Haredim, and Haredim about seculars. These incidents included cases of women refusing to move to the back of 'Mehadrin' (segregated) buses, and escalating disagreements in Beit Shemesh surrounding a non-Haredi girls' school, which developed into violence.
In the course of the public and political debate that followed, the separate incidents merged into a single major debate with Haredim on one side and the secular world on the other side, which is continuing in full.
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 Jewish population). The University of Manchester cited an estimate of 468,000 as of 2006. 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 Boro Park neighborhood of Brooklyn (70,000 in 1983) was also mostly Haredi (also mostly Hasidim). The numbers provided are inconclusive, 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. Other Hasidic enclaves include Kiryas Joel and New Square.
Large Haredi enclaves exist in New York (Flatbush, Williamsburg and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn, Monsey), New Jersey (Lakewood, Passaic), Los Angeles, California, Chicago, Illinois, Cleveland, Ohio, and Baltimore, Maryland.
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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 Hatzalah 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.
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, the new Judaism of the Reformers was a movement that did away with the basic tenets of what they felt was authentic Judaism, a hoax 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 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" (Rabbi 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). 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).
About 25,000 Haredim live in France (mostly Sephardim of North African descent). 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 Zurich and Basel, and in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. There is also a Haredi community in Vienna, Austria.
In the UK, the largest Haredi communities are located in London (Stamford Hill, South Tottenham, Golders Green, Hendon, Edgware), Salford/Bury (Broughton Park, Kersal, 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 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.
The Haredi population in the UK was estimated at 27,000 in 1998, out of 200,000 UK observant Jews. 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%. A new joint study of the Jewish Policy Research and the Board of Deputies in 2010 established that there was 9049 Haredi households in the UK. This would account for a population of nearly 53,400 or 20% of the UK community. (9,049 households * 5.9 average Haredi household) 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 Haredi synagogues had doubled since 1990.
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