Groups‎ > ‎

Haredi Ultra-Orthodox



Trois-Riviere Québec’s Mendy Pape goes by the pseudonym Nick Parker on Facebook to avoid hostility from the ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism, from which he began to break away as a teenager. “You’re coming from a community where every action, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, is calculated, with no access to computers, TV, or newspapers,” he said. Yet Pape, whose mother has excommunicated him, believes ultra-Orthodoxy to be a wholesome way of life, just not for everyone. The Hillel organization, which supports ultra-Orthodox leavers, says about four hundred—out of a population of 13,000—cut their roots annually. Local Chabad leader Yisroel Bernath facilitated Pape’s transition, as he has that of many other young people who have rejected the ultra-Orthodox life. Pape’s experience reflects the New York YouTube movement—It Gets Besser—that employs social media to support ultra-Orthodox youth who are contemplating separation from their community. (Gazette, 5/3/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

Ayala, who grew up in the ultra-Orthodox Haredi sect in Israel, reveals the life she lived as a repressed young wife in an arranged marriage in which her husband controlled virtually every aspect of her life. While he studied the Torah 14 hours a day, she remained cloistered at home, cut off from friends and family. When the couple sought counseling, the rabbi told her to soldier on. “It is customary [among the Haredi] not to complain,” she says, “certainly not against one’s husband ... they [the Haredim] sweep everything under the carpet.” Ayala helped her spouse with his exams, but when she began asking questions about Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, “he said I was crazy, that women do not ask questions.” When she delivered a stillborn baby, he told her as they left the hospital “to smile and show everyone all is from heaven and for the best.” Nonetheless, she joined the Internet forum “Haredi Against Their Will” and began doing secular things such as listening to nonliturgical music and going to the library. But when she won an Open University scholarship, the Haredi community ostracized her. And when her husband learned of her involvement in the forum, he demanded a divorce; a private investigator hired by the families of other forum members had photographed her at a forum outing. The Haredi rabbinic court and community have since used means fair and foul to drive her from the community and alienate her children. When her offer to return to the fold was denied by the rabbinical court, Ayala petitioned the High Court to order the case removed from the rabbinical court. She also asked that the children be taken from their father, and for a neutral social worker to be appointed to examine both parents. Her petition does not ask the court to decide between the parents, “but to appoint an objective individual to examine the fitness of the mother and father, to examine the situation, and to arrive at sensible decisions.” (Haaretz, 6/6/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

Israeli parliamentarian Dov Lipman, an ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jew, is one of the leaders of a movement to pass laws that would push more ultra-Orthodox men into the conscript army—they have traditionally been exempt from military service so they can study religion. The government also wants to diminish Haredi social-welfare benefits and reform their archaic religious schooling. The proposals express an Israeli belief that the ultra-Orthodox must contribute more to the country’s economic well-being and national cohesion, rather than focus solely on religious studies and the maintenance of an 18th-century fundamentalist Hasidic lifestyle lived out in modern ghettos. The government says it’s going to cut child welfare for large families to encourage the Haredi to seek jobs, and that it will withhold funds from schools that fail to broaden their curriculum and prepare students for the workplace. Some in the ultra-Orthodox community—which accounts for 10 percent of the Israeli population and is growing very fast as the result of a high birthrate—violently object to the government’s plans. In May, ultra-Orthodox men took to the streets in Jerusalem and threw stones at police. One man said, “It’s a joke. They founded a state 65 years ago and they want to reform people who keep a thousands-year-old tradition.” A passerby shouted to him that it was blasphemy to speak with reporters. Young Haredi men who have joined the army face a great deal of hostility from their community and try to keep their secular occupation a secret. (Reuters, 6/6/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Heredim (“those who tremble” before God), an insular minority long opposed to the modernizing and prosperous Israel in which they live, are likely to become more numerous and politically influential thanks to a far higher birthrate than other communities’—10 children in a single family is not uncommon. The Heredim reject mainstream society even as they are highly subsidized by the state; half of the ultra-Orthodox don’t work, and many of the men are full-time Torah students who receive (admittedly meager) government stipends. Of the 700,000 Israeli Heredim (nine percent of the population), almost 60 percent live below the poverty line. If the Heredim don’t begin working in larger numbers, says the financial daily The Marker, Israel’s future is threatened. The law that exempts full-time ultra-Orthodox students from military service requires that they not work, leading Israel’s military chief to say—voicing a widely shared feeling—that those who don’t serve in the forces should be “ashamed.” The lifestyle of the many Heredi sects in Israel—followers live in their own neighborhoods, attend separate schools, and don’t interact much with the majority—is inspired by the Jewish world of eastern Europe that was destroyed in the Holocaust. They tend to reject what they see as a morally corrupt secular society and to sanctify religious study, modesty, and charity. Haredi attempts to impose their religious mores on others—gender segregation of bus lines in Haredi neighborhoods, and even at concerts in secular areas—are bringing them into conflict with the wider community. Nonetheless, author Kobi Arieli— a “liberal” Haredi—points to examples of growing integration of Haredi into the mainstream. “It will happen slowly. From year to year, more and more Haredi youth will join the army and go to work. This is what is already happening, and it will change everything.” (Canadian Press, 1/14/11) [IT 2.1 2011] 

The lifestyle of the many Heredi sects in Israel—followers live in their own neighborhoods, attend separate schools, and don’t interact much with the majority—is inspired by the Jewish world of eastern Europe that was destroyed in the Holocaust. They tend to reject what they see as a morally corrupt secular society and to sanctify religious study, modesty, and charity. Haredi attempts to impose their religious mores on others—gender segregation of bus lines in Haredi neighborhoods, and even at concerts in secular areas—are bringing them into conflict with the wider community. Nonetheless, author Kobi Arieli— a “liberal” Haredi—points to examples of growing integration of Haredi into the mainstream. “It will happen slowly. From year to year, more and more Haredi youth will join the army and go to work. This is what is already happening, and it will change everything.” (Canadian Press, 1/14/11) [IT 2.1 2011]

Ultra Orthodox Jews, or Haredi, are spreading throughout Israel and pressing their puritanical ways on the country. One shopkeeper complained that the Haredi were passing out notes “to people like me, telling me I couldn’t wear blouses like this,” referring to a sleeveless top. “Then, one Friday night . . . I left my two kids alone—teenagers. They were playing music, not too loud, and this Haredi neighbor comes and pounds on the door shouting, ‘goyim’ [non-Jews] and demanding they turn off the music. It really scared them.” [csr 8.2, 2009)

This is a reflection of growing conflict and violence as fundamentalist Jews confront secular Jews and traditional municipal governments. For example, Haredi protested the opening, on the Sabbath, of a parking lot just outside the Old City of Jerusalem. When welfare officials took custody of a half-starved Haredi boy and arrested his mother for abuse, Haredi took to the streets and burned large bins of garbage, throwing rocks at police and setting fire to the child welfare office. Police have sometimes broken up such protests with pepper spray and arrested protestors. [csr 8.2, 2009)

Last year, ultra-Orthodox rabbis forced department stores in Tiberius to cover up mannequins that displayed bathing suits in its windows. They’ve also persuaded billboard companies to excise pictures of women, including Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni. Busses with service to Heredi communities are now segregated; women sit in the back. (Some ultra-Orthodox women said they liked the separate seating arrangement.) Females in the Knesset [parliament] choir were not permitted to perform inside the main Knesset chamber so they wouldn’t offend Haredi in the audience. “A day will come when there won’t be a single secular mayor anywhere,” says Meier Porush, a Haredi leader who almost won Jerusalem’s mayoral election last year. Israeli novelist Amos Oz suggested in 1982 that Zionism [the movement that built Israel] was “a passing, secular interlude, a historical and political upheaval, and that halachic Judaism [the kind practiced by the ultra-Orthodox] would return to overwhelm Zionism and re-absorb it.”[csr 8.2, 2009)