Haredi Judaism

Haredi Judaism (חֲרֵדִי Ḥaredi, also spelled Charedi, plural Haredim or Charedim) consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism characterized by a strict adherence to their interpretation of Jewish law and values as opposed to modern values and practices. Its members are often referred to as strictly Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox in English, although the term “ultra-Orthodox” is considered pejorative by many of its adherents. Haredi Jews regard themselves as the most religiously authentic group of Jews, although this claim is contested by other streams.

Haredi Judaism is a reaction to societal changes, including emancipation, the Haskalah movement derived from the Enlightenment, acculturation, secularization, religious reform in all its forms from mild to extreme, the rise of the Jewish national movements, etc. In contrast to Modern Orthodox Judaism, which accepted modernity, followers of Haredi Judaism maintain their adherence to Jewish Law and custom by segregating themselves from modern society. However, many Haredi communities encourage their young people to get a professional degree or establish a business, and contact takes place between Haredi and non-Haredi Jews, as well as between Haredi Jews and non-Jews.

Haredi communities are found primarily in Israel, North America, and Western Europe. Their estimated global population numbers 1.5–1.8 million, and, due to a virtual absence of interfaith marriage and a high birth rate, the Haredi population is growing rapidly. Their numbers have also been boosted by a substantial number of secular Jews adopting a Haredi lifestyle as part of the Baal teshuva movement.


The term most commonly used by outsiders, including most American news organizations, is ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Hillel Halkin suggests the origins of the term may date to the 1950s, a period in which Haredi survivors of the Holocaust first began arriving in America. However, Isaac Leeser (1806–1868) was described in 1916 as “ultra-Orthodox”.

Haredi is a Modern Hebrew adjective derived from the Biblical verb hared, which appears in the Book of Isaiah (66:2; its plural haredim appears in Isaiah 66:5) and is translated as “[one who] trembles” at the word of God. The word connotes an awe-inspired fear and anxiety to perform the will of God; it is used to distinguish them from other Orthodox Jews (similar to the name used by Christian Quakers to describe their relationship to God).

The word Haredi is often used in the Jewish diaspora in place of the term ultra-Orthodox, which many view as inaccurate or offensive, it being seen as a derogatory term suggesting extremism; English-language alternatives that have been proposed include fervently Orthodoxstrictly Orthodox, or traditional Orthodox. Others, however, dispute the characterization of the term as pejorative. Ari L. Goldman, a professor at Columbia University, notes that the term simply serves a practical purpose to distinguish a specific part of the Orthodox community, and is not meant as pejorative. Others, such as Samuel Heilman, criticized terms such as ultra-Orthodox and traditional Orthodox, arguing that they misidentify Haredi Jews as more authentically Orthodox than others, as opposed to adopting customs and practises that reflect their desire to separate from the outside world.

Styles of Haredi dress

Styles of Haredi dress

The community has sometimes been characterized as traditional Orthodox, in contradistinction to the Modern Orthodox, the other major branch of Orthodox Judaism, and not to be confused with the movement represented by the Union for Traditional Judaism, which originated in Conservative Judaism).

Haredi Jews also use other terms to refer to themselves. Common Yiddish words include Yidn (Jews), erlekhe Yidn (virtuous Jews), ben Torah (son of the Torah), 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 Hebrew pronunciation of the Hebrew word datim (religious), and more rarely, sh’chorim (blacks), a reference to the black clothes they typically wear; a related informal term used in English is black hat.


Hasidic boys in Łódź, 1910

Hasidic boys in Łódź, 1910

According to its adherents, the forebears of the contemporary Haredi Jews were the traditionalists of Eastern Europe who fought against modernization. Indeed, adherents see their beliefs as part of an unbroken tradition dating from the revelation at Sinai. However, most historians of Orthodoxy consider Haredi Judaism, in its modern incarnation, to date back no earlier than the start of the 20th century.

For centuries, before Jewish emancipation, European Jews were forced to live in ghettos where Jewish culture and religious observance were preserved. Change began in the wake of the Age of Enlightenment when some European liberals sought to include the Jewish population in the emerging empires and nation states. The influence of the Haskalah movement (Jewish Enlightenment) was also evidence. Supporters of the Haskalah held that Judaism must change in keeping with the social changes around them. Other Jews insisted on strict adherence to halakha (Jewish law and custom).

In Germany, the opponents of Reform rallied to Samson Raphael Hirsch, who led a secession from German Jewish communal organizations to form a strictly Orthodox movement with its own network of synagogues and schools. His approach was to accept the tools of modern scholarship and apply them in defence of Orthodoxy. In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (including areas traditionally considered Lithuanian), Jews true to traditional values gathered under the banner of Agudas Shlumei Emunei Yisroel.

Moses Sofer was opposed 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 Moshe Schick, together with Sofer’s sons Shimon and Samuel Benjamin, took an active role in arguing against the Reform movement. Others, such as Hillel Lichtenstein, advocated an even more stringent position for Orthodoxy.

A major historic event 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 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.

Schick demonstrated support in 1877 for the separatist policies of 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 Hildesheimer 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 the practice as needed for the sake of 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 standards per individual case.

Haredi Jews from Galicia at the Karmelitermarkt [de] in Vienna's second district Leopoldstadt, 1915

Haredi Jews from Galicia at the Karmelitermarkt [de] in Vienna’s second district Leopoldstadt, 1915

In 1912, the World Agudath Israel was founded to differentiate itself from the Torah Nationalists Mizrachi and secular Zionist organizations. It was dominated by the Hasidic rebbes and Lithuanian rabbis and roshei yeshiva. Agudah nominated rabbis who were elected as representatives in the Polish government Sejm, such as Meir Shapiro and Yitzhak-Meir Levin. Not all Hasidic factions joined the Agudath Israel, remaining independent such as Machzikei Hadat of Galicia.

In 1919, Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld and Yitzchok Yerucham Diskin founded the Edah HaChareidis as part of Agudath Israel in then Mandate Palestine.

In 1924, Agudath Israel obtained 75 percent of the votes in the Kehilla elections.

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 from that of the Knesseth Israel. He explained that the Agudas Israel community would cooperate with the Vaad Leumi and the National Jewish Council in matters pertaining to the municipality, but sought to protect 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, Sonnenfeld was succeeded by Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky, 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 general, the present-day Haredi population originate from two distinct post-Holocaust waves:

  1. The vast majority of Hasidic and Litvak communities were destroyed during the Holocaust. Though Hasidic customs have largely been preserved, the customs of Lithuanian Jewry, including its unique Hebrew pronunciation, have been almost lost. Litvish customs are still preserved primarily by the few older Jews who were born in Lithuania prior to the Holocaust. In the decade or so after 1945, there was a strong drive to revive and maintain these lifestyles by some notable Haredi leaders.
  2. The Chazon Ish was particularly prominent in the early days of the State of Israel. Aharon Kotler established many of the Haredi schools and Yeshivas in the United States and Israel; and Joel Teitelbaum had a significant impact on revitalizing Hasidic Jewry, as well as many of the Jews who fled Hungary during 1956 revolution who became followers of his Satmar dynasty, and became the largest Hasidic group in the world. These Jews would typically only have maintained a connection with other religious family members. As such, those growing up in such families have little or no contact with non-Haredi Jews.
  3. The second wave began in the 1970s associated with the religious revival of the so-called baal teshuva movement, although most of the newly religious become Orthodox, and not necessarily fully Haredi. The formation and spread of the Sephardic Haredi lifestyle movement also began in the 1980s by Ovadia Yosef, alongside the establishment of the Shas party in 1984. This led many Sephardi Jews to adopt the clothing and culture of the Lithuanian Haredi Judaism, though it had no historical basis in their own tradition. Many yeshivas were also established specifically for new adopters of the Haredi way of life.

The original Haredi population has been instrumental in the expansion of their lifestyle, though criticisms have been made of discrimination towards the later adopters of the Haredi lifestyle in Shidduchim (matchmaking) and the school system.

Practices and beliefs

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, Litvishe-Yeshivish streams from Eastern Europe, and Oriental Sephardic Haredi Jews. 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 Haredi Jews worldwide live in neighborhoods in which reside mostly other Haredi Jews.

The practices and beliefs of Haredi Jews, which have been interpreted as “isolationist”, can bring them into conflict with modern liberal values. In 2018, a Haredi school in the United Kingdom was rated as “inadequate” by the Office for Standards in Education, after repeated complaints were raised about the censoring of textbooks and exam papers mentioning homosexuality, containing examples of women socializing with men, pictures showing women’s shoulders and legs, and information that contradicts a creationist worldview.

Lifestyle and family

Haredi Jewish women and girls in Mea Shearim

Haredi Jewish women and girls in Mea Shearim

Haredi life, like Orthodox Jewish life in general, is very family-centered. 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 marriage (which is usually arranged through facilitated dating). After marriage, many Haredi men continue their Torah studies in a kollel.

Studying in secular institutions is often 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. Haredi families (and Orthodox Jewish families in general) are usually much larger than non-Orthodox Jewish families, with as many as twelve or more children.

Haredi Jews are typically opposed to the viewing of television and films, and the reading of secular newspapers and books. There has been a strong campaign against the Internet, and Internet-enabled mobile phones without filters have also been banned by leading rabbis. In May 2012, 40,000 Haredim gathered at Citi Field, a baseball park in New York City, to discuss the dangers of unfiltered Internet. The event was organized by the Ichud HaKehillos LeTohar HaMachane. The Internet has been allowed for business purposes so long as filters are installed.


The standard mode of dress for males of the Lithuanian stream is a black suit and a white shirt. Headgear includes black fedora or Homburg hats, with black skull caps under their hats. Pre-war Lithuanian yeshiva students, however, also wore light coloured suits, along with beige or grey hats. Beards are common among Haredi (and many other Orthodox Jewish) men, and 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 hair covering. Haredi women never wear trousers, although a small minority do wear pajama-trousers within the home at night.

Over the years, it has become popular among some Haredi women to wear wigs that are more attractive than their own hair (drawing criticism from some more conservative Haredi rabbis). Mainstream Sephardi Haredi rabbi Ovadia Yosef forbade the wearing of wigs altogether. Haredi women often dress more freely and casually within the home, as long as the body remains covered in accordance with the halakha. More “modernized” Haredi women are somewhat more lenient in matters of their dress, and some follow the latest trends and fashions while conforming to the halakha.

Non-Lithuanian 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) on weekdays, and the fur hat (shtreimel) and silk caftan (bekishe) on the Sabbath.


Haredi neighborhoods tend to be safe. In Israel, the entrances to some of the most extreme Haredi neighborhoods are fitted with signs asking that modest clothing be worn. Some areas are known to have “modesty patrols”, and people dressed in ways perceived as immodest may suffer harassment, and advertisements featuring scantily dressed models may be targeted for vandalism. These concerns are also addressed through public lobbying and legal avenues.

During the week-long Rio Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, many of the city’s 7000 Orthodox Jews feel compelled to leave the town due to the immodest exposure of participants. In 2001, Haredi campaigners in Jerusalem succeeded in persuading the Egged bus company to get all their advertisements approved by a special committee. By 2011, Egged had gradually removed all bus adverts that featured women in response to their continuous defacement. A court order that stated such action was discriminatory led to Egged’s decision not to feature people at all (neither male nor female). Depictions of certain other creatures, such as aliens, were also banned in order not to offend Haredi sensibilities. Haredi Jews also campaign against other types of advertising that promote activities they deem offensive or inappropriate.

To honor the Shabbat, most state-run buses in Israel do not run on Saturdays. 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 Haredi Jews and secular counter-demonstrators, and violence against police and motorists.

Gender separation

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

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. In New Square, another Hasidic enclave, men and women are expected to walk on opposite sides of the road. In Israel, residents of Meah Shearim were banned from erecting a street barrier dividing men and women during the nightly week-long Sukkot festivities, and street signs requesting that women avoid certain pavements in Beit Shemesh have been repeatedly removed by the municipality.

Since 1973, buses catering for Haredi Jews running from Rockland County and Brooklyn into Manhattan have had separate areas for men and women, allowing passengers to conduct on-board prayer services. 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. During 2010–2012, there was much public debate in Israel surrounding the existence of segregated Haredi Mehadrin bus lines (whose policy calls for both men and women to stay in their respective areas: men in the front of the bus, and women in the rear of the bus) following an altercation that occurred after a woman refused to move to the rear of the bus to sit among the women. A subsequent court ruling stated that while voluntary segregation should be allowed, forced separation is unlawful. Israeli national airline El Al has agreed to provide gender-separated flights to cater for Haredi requirements.

Education in the Haredi community is strictly segregated by sex. The education for boys is primarily focused on the study of Jewish scriptures, such as the Torah and Talmud, while girls obtain studies both in Jewish education as well as broader secular subjects.

In 2012, A Better Safe Than Sorry Book, aimed at Haredi Jewish children, was published with some controversy, as it contains both sexes.

Newspapers and publications

In pre-war Poland, the Agudath Israel published its own Yiddish language paper, Dos Yiddishe Tagblatt. In 1950, the Agudah started printing Hamodia, a Hebrew language Israeli daily.

Haredi publications tend to shield their readership from objectionable material, and perceive themselves as a “counterculture”, desisting from advertising secular entertainment and events. The editorial policy of a Haredi newspaper is determined by a rabbinical board, and every edition is checked by a rabbinical censor. A strict policy of modesty is characteristic of the Haredi press, and pictures of women are usually not printed. In 2009, the Israeli daily Yated Ne’eman doctored an Israeli cabinet photograph replacing two female ministers with images of men, and in 2013, the Bakehilah magazine pixelated the faces of women appearing in a photograph of the Warsaw Ghetto. The mainstream Haredi political party Shas also refrains from publishing female images.

No coverage is given to serious crime, violence, sex, or drugs, and little coverage is given to non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. Inclusion of “immoral” content is avoided, and when publication of such stories is a necessity, they are often written ambiguously. The Haredi press generally takes a non-Zionist stance, and gives more coverage to issues that concern the Haredi community, such as the drafting of girls and yeshiva students into the army, autopsies, and Shabbat observance. In Israel, it portrays the secular world as “spitefully anti-Semitic”, and describes secular youth as “mindless, immoral, drugged, and unspeakably lewd”. Such attacks have led to Haredi editors being warned about libelous provocations.

While the Haredi press is extensive and varied in Israel, only around half the Haredi population reads newspapers. Around 10% read secular newspapers, while 40% do not read any newspaper at all. According to a 2007 survey, 27% read the weekend Friday edition of HaModia, and 26% the Yated Ne’eman. In 2006, the most-read Haredi magazine in Israel was the Mishpacha weekly, which sold 110,000 copies.


In the modern era of the internet and mobile phones, it can be confusing as to what is or is not considered appropriate. The Haredi leaders have at times suggested a ban on the internet, as well as any internet-capable device. Their reasoning being that the immense amount of information can be corrupting, and with the ability to use the internet with no observation from the community can lead to individuation. However, these presented reasons by the Haredi leaders could be influenced by a general fear of the loss of young Haredi members.

Banning the internet for Haredi Jews could be a detriment to possible economic uses from Jewish businesses. Some Haredi businessman utilize the internet throughout the week, but they still observe Shabbat in every aspect by not accepting or processing orders from Friday evening to Saturday evening. They utilize the internet under strict filters and guidelines. Although Haredi leaders have been unsuccessful in their attempts of banning internet use, they have influenced the world of technology. The Kosher cell phone was introduced to the Jewish public with the sole ability to call other phones. It was unable to utilize the internet, text other phones, and had no camera feature. In fact, a kosher phone plan was created, with decreased rates for kosher-to-kosher calls, to encourage community.

News hotlines

News hotlines are an important source of news in the Haredi world. Since many Haredi Jews do not listen to the radio or have access to the internet, even if they read newspapers, they are left with little or no access to breaking news. News hotlines were formed to fill this gap, and many have expanded to additional fields over time. Currently, many news lines provide rabbinic lectures, entertainment, business advice, and similar services, in addition to their primary function of reporting the news. Many Hasidic sects maintain their own hotlines, where relevant internal news is reported and the group’s perspective can be advocated for. In the Israeli Haredi community, there are dozens of prominent hotlines, in both Yiddish and Hebrew. Some Haredi hotlines have played significant public roles.

In Israel

Attitudes towards Zionism

See also: Haredim and Zionism

While most Haredi Jews were opposed to the establishment of the State of Israel, and Haredi Jews mostly still do not celebrate its national Independence Day or other state-instituted holidays, there were many who threw their considerable weight in support of the nascent state.

Members of Neturei Karta protest against Israel, (Washington, 2005)

Members of Neturei Karta protest against Israel, (Washington, 2005)

The chief political division among Haredi Jews has been in their approach to the State of Israel. While ideologically non-Zionist, the United Torah Judaism alliance comprising Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah (and the umbrella organizations World Agudath Israel and Agudath Israel of America) represent a moderate and pragmatic stance of cooperation with the State of Israel, and participation in the political system. UTJ has been a participant in numerous coalition governments, seeking to influence state and society in a more religious direction and maintain welfare and religious funding policies. Haredim who are more stridently anti-Zionist are under the umbrella of Edah HaChareidis, who reject participation in politics and state funding of its affiliated institutions, in contradistinction to Agudah-affiliated institutions. Neturei Karta is a very small activist organization of anti-Zionist Haredim, whose controversial activities have been strongly condemned, including by other anti-Zionist Haredim. Neither main political party has the support in numbers to elect a majority government, and so, they both rely on support from the Haredi parties.

In recent years, some rebbes affiliated with Agudath Israel, such as the Sadigura rebbe Avrohom Yaakov Friedman, have taken more hard-line stances on security, settlements, and disengagement.

Shas represents Sephardi and Mizrahi Haredim, and, while having many points in common with Ashkenazi Haredim, differs from them by its more enthusiastic support for the State of Israel.


Divorces among Haredim are increasing in Israel; when the divorce is linked to one spouse leaving the community, the one who chooses to leave is often shunned from his or her communities and forced to abandon their children, as most courts prefer keeping children in an established status quo. The Haredi communities with the highest growth of divorce rate in Israel in 2017 were Beitar Illit and Kiryat Malachi.


Between 2007 and 2017, the number of Haredim studying in higher education had risen from 1,000 to 10,800.

In 2007, the Kemach Foundation was established to become an investor in the sector’s social and economic development and provide opportunities for employment. Through the philanthropy of Leo Noé of London, later joined by the Wolfson family of New York and Elie Horn from Brazil, Kemach has facilitated academic and vocational training. With a $22m budget, including government funding, Kemach provides individualized career assessment, academic or vocational scholarships, and job placement for the entire Haredi population in Israel. The Foundation is managed by specialists who, coming from the Haredi sector themselves, are familiar with the community’s needs and sensitivities. By April 2014, more than 17,800 Haredim have received the services of Kemach, and more than 7,500 have, or continue to receive, monthly scholarships to fund their academic or vocational studies. From 500 graduates, the net benefits to the government would be 80.8 million NIS if they work for one year, 572.3 million NIS if they work for 5 years, and 2.8 billion NIS (discounted) if they work for 30 years.

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. The largest Haredi campus in Israel is The Haredi Campus – The Academic College Ono.


Upon the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the nation’s population of military-aged Haredi males were exempted from the universal conscription into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) under the Torato Umanuto arrangement, which officially granted deferred entry into the IDF for yeshiva students, but in practice allowed young Haredi men to serve for a significantly reduced period of time or bypass military service altogether. At that time, only a small group of roughly 400 individuals was affected, since due to the historic opposition of Haredi Judaism to Zionism, the population of Haredim was very low. However, the Haredim are estimated to now make up 6-10% of Israel’s Jewish population, and their absence from the IDF often attracts significant resentment from Israel’s secular majority. The most common criticisms of the exemption policy are:

  • 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, in addition to clothing and lodging. All the while, Haredi yeshiva students receive significant monthly funds and payments for their religious studies.
  • The Haredim, if they so choose, can study at that time.

While a certain amount of Haredim have enlisted in the IDF every year in recent decades, the Haredim usually reject the concept and practice of IDF service. Contentions include:

  • 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.
  • The army is not conducive to the Haredi lifestyle. It is regarded as a “state-sponsored quagmire of promiscuity”. Israel conscripts both men and women, and often groups them together in military activities.

The Torato Umanuto arrangement was enshrined in the Tal Law that came in force in 2002. The High Court of Justice 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.

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.

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.

In March 2014, Israel’s parliament approved legislation to end exemptions from military service for Haredi seminary students. The bill was passed by 65 votes to one, and an amendment allowing civilian national service by 67 to one.

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, others (including leading rabbis among them) strongly oppose this move. 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. 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. Some Haredim have taken to threatening fellow Haredim who agree to enlist, to the point of physically attacking some of them.


As of 2012, it was estimated that 37% of Haredi men and 49% of Haredi women in Israel were employed. The more recent figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics on employment rates place Haredi women at 69.3%, comparable to 71% for the women’s national figure; while the number of working Haredi men has increased to 44.5%, it is still far below the 81.5% of men nationwide.

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. It is estimated that half as many of the Haredi community are in employment as the rest of population. This has led to increasing financial deprivation, and 50% of children within the community live below the poverty line. This puts strain on each family, the community, and often the Israeli economy.

The demographic trend indicates the community will constitute an increasing percentage of the population, and consequently, Israel faces an economic challenge in the years ahead due to fewer people in the labor force. A report commissioned by the Treasury found that the Israeli economy may lose more than six billion shekels annually as a result of low Haredi participation in the workforce. The OECD in a 2010 report stated that, “Haredi families are frequently jobless, or are one-earner families in low-paid employment. Poverty rates are around 60% for Haredim.”

According to data released by Central Bureau of Statistics, employment rate in the Haredi sector increased by 7% in two years, 2009-2011.

As of 2017, according to an Israeli finance ministry study, the Haredi participation rate in the labour force is 51%, compared to 89% for the rest of Israeli Jews.

Other issues

The Haredim in general are materially poorer than most other Israelis but still represent an important market sector due to their bloc purchasing habits. 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. More than 50 percent of Haredim live below the poverty line, compared with 15 percent of the rest of the population. Their families are also larger, with Haredi women having an average of 6.7 children, while the average Jewish Israeli woman has 3 children. Families with many children often receive economic support through governmental child allowances, government assistance in housing, as well as specific funds by their own community institutions.

In recent years, there has been a process of reconciliation and an attempt to merge Haredi Jews with Israeli society, although employment discrimination is widespread. Haredi Jews such as satirist Kobi Arieli, publicist Sehara Blau, and politician Israel Eichler write regularly for leading Israeli newspapers.

Another important factor in the reconciliation process has been the activities of ZAKA, a Haredi organization known for providing emergency medical attention at the scene of suicide bombings, and 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.


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. One estimate given in 2011 stated there were approximately 1.3 million Haredi Jews globally. Studies have shown a very high growth rate, with a large young population.


Israel has the largest Haredi population. While Haredim made up just 9.9% of the Israeli population in 2009, with 750,000 out of 7,552,100, by 2014, that figure had risen to 11.1%, with 910,500 Haredim out of a total Israeli population of 8,183,400. According to a December 2017 study conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute, the number of Haredi Jews in Israel exceeded 1 million in 2017, making up 12% of the population in Israel. By 2030, the Haredi Jewish community is projected to make up 16% of the total population, and by 2065, one third of the Israeli population.

The number of Haredi Jews in Israel is rising rapidly. The number of children per woman is 6.2, and the share of Haredim among those under the age of 20 was 16.3% in 2009 (29% of Jews). In 1992, out of a total of 1,500,000 Orthodox Jews worldwide, 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. In recent decades, Haredi society has grown due to the addition of a religious population that identifies with the Shas movement. The extent of people leaving the Haredi population is extremely low. 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 between 2.73 and 5.84 million, of an estimated total number of Israeli Jews between 6.09 and 9.95 million. Large Israeli Haredi concentrations include Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modi’in Illit, Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Ye’arim, Ashdod, Rekhasim, Safed, and El’ad. Two Haredi cities, Kasif and Harish, are planned.

United States

The United States has the second largest Haredi population, which has a growth rate on pace to double every 20 years. In 2000, there were 360,000 Haredi Jews in the US (7.2 per cent of the approximately 5 million Jews in the U.S.); by 2006, demographers estimate the number had grown to 468,000 (30% increase) or 9.4 per cent of the all U.S. Jews.

New York state

Most American Haredi Jews live in the greater New York metropolitan area.

New York city

The largest centers of Haredi and Hasidic life in New York are found in Brooklyn.

  • In 1988, it was estimated that there are between 40,000 and 57,000 Haredim in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Hasidim most belonging to Satmar.
  • The Jewish population in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, estimated at 70,000 in 1983, is also mostly Haredi, and also mostly Hasidic. The Bobov Hasidim are the largest single bloc that mainly live in Borough Park.
  • Crown Heights is the home base of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement with its network of shluchim (“emissaries”) heading Chabad houses throughout the Jewish world.
  • The Flatbush-Midwood, Kensington, Marine Park (Brooklyn) neighborhoods have tens of thousands of Haredi Jews. They are also the centers for the major non-Hasidic Haredi yeshivas such as Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Mir Yeshiva, as well as a string of similar smaller yeshivas. The Torah Vodaas and Chaim Berlin yeshivas allow some students to attend college and university, presently at Touro College, and previously at Brooklyn College.

The New York City borough of Queens is home to a growing Haredi population mainly affiliated with the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim and Yeshivas Ohr HaChaim in Kew Gardens Hills and Yeshiva Shaar Hatorah in Kew Gardens. Many of the students attend Queens College. There are major yeshivas and communities of Haredi Jews in Far Rockaway, such as Yeshiva of Far Rockaway and a number of others. Hasidic Shtibelach exist in these communities as well, mostly catering to Haredi Jews who follow Hasidic customs, while living a Litvish or Modern Orthodox cultural lifestyle, although small Hasidic enclaves do exist, such as in the Bayswater section of Far Rockaway.


One of the oldest Haredi communities in New York is on the Lower East Side home to the Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem. The Yeshiva Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Khal Adath Jeshurun are home to Haredi Jews in Washington Heights.

Long Island

The Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, together with many synagogues in the Lawrence neighborhood and other Five Towns neighborhoods, such as Woodmere and Cedarhurst, have attracted many Haredi Jews.

Hudson Valley

The Hudson Valley north of New York City has the most rapidly growing Haredi communities, such as the Hasidic communities in Kiryas Joel of Satmar Hasidim, and New Square of the Skver. A vast community of Haredi Jews lives in the Monsey, New York, area.

New Jersey

There are significant Haredi communities in Lakewood (New Jersey), home to the largest non-Hasidic Lithuanian yeshiva in America, Beth Medrash Govoha. There are also sizable communities in Passaic and Edison, where a branch of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva opened in 1982. There is also a community of Syrian Jews favorable to the Haredim in their midst in Deal, New Jersey.


Baltimore, Maryland, has a large Haredi population. The major yeshiva is Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, founded in 1933, with thousands of alumni and their families. Ner Yisroel is also a Maryland state-accredited college, and has agreements with Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, Loyola College in Maryland, University of Baltimore, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County allowing undergraduate students to take night courses at these colleges and universities in a variety of academic fields. The agreement also allows the students to receive academic credits for their religious studies.

Silver Spring, Maryland, and its environs has a growing Haredi community mostly of highly educated and skilled professionals working for the United States government in various capacities, most living in Kemp Mill, White Oak, and Woodside, and many of its children attend the Yeshiva of Greater Washington and Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore.


Los Angeles has many Hasidim and Haredi Jews who are not Hasidic. Most live in the Pico-Robertson and the Fairfax (Fairfax Avenue-La Brea Avenue) areas.


Chicago is home to the Haredi Telshe Yeshiva of Chicago, with many other Haredim living in the city.


Denver has a large Haredi population of Ashkenazi origin, dating back to the early 1920s. The Haredi Denver West Side Jewish Community adheres to Litvak Jewish traditions (Lithuanian), and has several congregations located within their communities.


Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts, have the largest Haredi populations in New England.


One of the oldest Haredi Lithuanian yeshivas, Telshe Yeshiva transplanted itself to Cleveland in 1941.

United Kingdom

In 1998, the Haredi population in the Jewish community of the United Kingdom was estimated at 27,000 (13% of affiliated Jews). The largest communities are located in London, particularly Stamford Hill, in Salford and Prestwich in Greater Manchester, and in Gateshead. A 2007 study asserted that three out of four British Jewish births were Haredi, who then accounted for 17% of British Jews, (45,500 out of around 275,000). Another study in 2010 established that there were 9,049 Haredi households in the UK, which would account for a population of nearly 53,400, or 20% of the community. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has predicted that the Haredi community will become the largest group in Anglo-Jewry within the next three decades: In comparison with the national average of 2.4 children per family, Haredi families have an average of 5.9 children, and consequently, the population distribution is heavily biased to the under-20-year-olds. By 2006, membership of Haredi synagogues had doubled since 1990.

An investigation by The Independent in 2014 reported that more than 1,000 children in Haredi communities were attending illegal schools where secular knowledge is banned, and they learn only religious texts, meaning they leave school with no qualifications and often unable to speak any English.

The 2018 Survey by the Jewish Policy Research(JPR) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews showed that the high birth rate in the Haredi Orthodox community reversed the decline in the Jewish population in Britain.

Past rabbinical leaders

  • The Baal Shem Tov (18th-century founder of Hasidism)
  • The Vilna Gaon (of Lithuania)
  • Chaim of Volozhin (19th-century founder of the Lithuanian yeshivoth)
  • Moses Sofer (18-19th-century leader of Eastern European Haredim)
  • Israel Meir Kagan, the Chafetz Chaim
  • Avraham Mordechai Alter, third Gerrer Rebbe, driving force behind Agudas Yisroel in Poland
  • Moshe Feinstein, one of the foremost halakhic authorities for much of the twentieth century
  • Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (leader of Haredim in Israel)
  • Elazar Shach (leader of the Lithuanian community of Haredim in Israel)
  • Aharon Kotler (founder of the Lakewood yeshivas in America)
  • Ovadia Yosef (leader of Israeli Sephardi Haredim)
  • Yosef Shalom Eliashiv (leader of Israel’s non-Hasidic Ashkenazi Haredim until 2012)
  • Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman (non-Hasidic Lithuanian Jews)
  • Menachem Mendel Schneerson (seventh Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch movement)

Present leadership and organizations


  • David Lau (Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel)
  • Yitzhak Yosef (Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel)
  • Chaim Kanievsky (non-Hasidic Lithuanian Jews)
  • Yaakov Aryeh Alter (heads the Ger Hasidic dynasty, the largest Hasidic group in Israel)


  • World Agudath Israel (including Agudath Israel of America)
  • Major Hasidic groups (including Belz, Bobov, Boyan, Breslov, Chabad Lubavitch, Ger, Satmar, and Vizhnitz)
  • Edah HaChareidis (representing anti-Zionist Haredi groups in and around Jerusalem, including Satmar, Dushinsky, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, Mishkenos HoRoim, Spinka, Brisk, and a section of other Litvish Haredim)
  • Toldos Yeshurun (organization for Russian Jews)

Israeli political parties

  • Shas (representing Mizrahi and Sephardic Haredim)
  • United Torah Judaism (alliance representing Ashkenazi Haredim)
    • Agudat Yisrael (representing Hasidic Jews)
    • Degel HaTorah (representing Lithuanian Jews)
  • U’Bizchutan (representing Haredi women and the Orthodox Jewish feminist movement)
  • Noam

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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