Friday, June 15, 2012

The New Charedim

This week, I attended part of the Orthodox Forum symposium. There was a very interesting presentation on recent developments in Israeli charedi society and the nature of "the new charedim," ha-charedim ha-chadashim, sometimes known by the acronym charda"shim, and sometimes by the name "blue shirts." The presenter, Chaim Zickerman, was an outstanding example from this group: a graduate of Chevron yeshivah, who then attended law school, and now teaches law at Bar-Ilan university.

Zickerman spoke about several general changes that have occurred in charedi society:
  • Leadership changes - There has been no real leadership since Rav Schach. Rav Elyashiv is a posek, not a leader; he does not give public speeches and does not enjoy the widespread support that Rav Schach had. Simultaneously, there has been a rise in charedi political leadership, e.g. charedi mayors. Such people realize that it is important to have residents who pay taxes!
  • Cultural changes - Internet, even "kosher internet," is the Etz HaDaas of the charedi world. It shows charedim the existence of alternate views on all issues.
  • Economical changes - The 2003 cuts in child benefits, and the recent recession, has taken a heavy toll on charedi society.
One of the biggest changes, which has occurred partly as a result of the previously mentioned changes, is that a group called "the new charedim" has emerged. They work for a living, and are proud of it. They are less isolated from the wider world. They are skeptical of the contemporary incarnation of "Daas Torah." They vote for a political party such as TOV instead of UTJ. (And, of course, they wear blue shirts.)

Zickerman described several ways in which the new charedim can be grouped together with conventional charedim:
  • How they dress - They wear hats (at least, on Shabbos), and dress in a way that is distinctly charedi, albeit with a "modern" flair.
  • Social identification - They do not form part of non-charedi shuls or communities. They don't recite the prayer for the IDF (even though many of them may have served in the IDF!). The sandak at the bris they make is Rav Chaim Kanievsky.  
  • Self-identification - They self-identify as charedi, perhaps largely because they don't know how else to classify themselves. 
Retaining an identity is very important (which is why, for example, they don't recite the prayer for the IDF). If there is a showdown between charedim and non-charedim, e.g. with regard to the draft, the new charedim will side with the conventional charedim. They are afraid of losing their identity.

Zuckerman concluded by discussing the future of the new charedim, which I will write about in a different post. And that was the end of the presentation. As you may notice, there is some overlap between the new charedim and the post-charedim that I described in a Jerusalem Post article.

Coming up in the next post: The reaction of the conventional charedim to the new charedim.


  1. Nothing "new" about these Charedim. This is the way Charedim were 50 years ago.

  2. I don't wear a blue shirt, but I do work (and read blogs!). IMHO, as far as the people you described a defined as "new" charedim, their influence on the general charedi population will be minimal.
    I read once a joke - two senior citizens are sitting on a bench. One asks the other, "What is this new morality?" (This was in the 60s). After being told, he said, "Oh, you the old immorality!" Similarly, a clearly-defined group will simply be considered a new incarnation of the Mizrochnikim.

  3. I saw this in an article in TimesOfIsrael.
    The problem is that they're playing a balancing act. On one hand they are the normal evolution of a community that is sick of imposed poverty and non-Torah ignorance. on the other hand the official position that defines their community is non-evolution and non-Torah ignorance. They want to be Chareidi in approach to God but not Chareidi politically and traditional Chareidism doesn't make such a distinction.

  4. and their view on secular studies as well as the works and attitude on R' Nosson (hamechuneh Natan) Slifkin?
    Joel Rich

  5. Isn't "Forum Symposium" redundant? Otherwise interesting article.

  6. How are the 'new charedim' being accepted in charedi society? Where do they tend to live? What influence do they have? Do their children have good shidduch prospects due to their (generally) increased income / wealth?

    I am curios! Thanks.

  7. It seems to me that this is basically what many American Haredim are like, or what I (and others, as I've come to discover) call Haredi-Lite. Most of the American hat-wearing yeshivot in American and Israel, including the larger Kiruv institutions, fall into this category. My alma mater, Mercaz HaTorah, was exactly like this. Everyone had iPods, whether the administration liked it or not. We had an in-house email server and a library with books by Rav JB Soloveitchik (but not by Rav Kook) and plenty of TIDE stuff. Plenty of us wore blue shirts during the week, and several kids wore hats only during davening or on shabbos, not out and about. We even christened Parshas Zachor as a special "blue-shirt shabbos" wear some guys wore their blue shirts (plenty did not, and stuck with white).

  8. I just read your Post article for the first time. Very well done. Maybe you should nail it to the door of some yeshiva.

    Many of us have questions, as you say. some are simple,some deeper,but what is common ground is that the answers being offered don`t satisfy , or seem to be repeats of what we learned too many years ago . The complaint of the Rabbonim that the net is full of kefirah is precisely why we come here,and to other sites. We want to discuss freely.

    Changing the topic a little, Rabbi Slifkin, you mentioned the net as the new Eitz hada`as. What exactly was the Eitz ? Was it simply a tool to develop our psychology ? Or is it all,untill the Mabul, a parable ,or a template?

  9. "The sandak at the bris they make is Rav Chaim Kanievsky. "
    Is that one bris, all the brissim, or just a typo?

  10. I have found the founder and leader of the Blue Shirts!

  11. Proud to be in KollelJune 17, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Hi all, I am a proud white shirt kollel student and been proudly sitting over my Gemora for 11 years of my married life.
    I have nothing against the blue shirt fellows who go to work - good for them, but what does bother me is when blogs such as these like to give history a slap in the face by not even mentioning the tens of thousands of Rishonim and Acharonim who relied on other people for their income while they were "shivti b'beth Hashem"
    True there were also thousands of Rishonim who earned their own living, but that just means there are 2 opinions in Klal Yisroel.
    Let the blue shirts follow the rishonim they can relate to and let us folk follow those that we relate to. We both have the shoulders of giants to rest on, now hows that for being rational....

  12. I've got news for you: There were NOT tens of thousands of Rishonim and Acharonim who relied on other people for their income. Nobody was in open-ended kollel. A very few were supported while training for the rabbinate. For the rishonim in Ashkenaz, it was unthinkable to take money even for teaching Torah.

  13. Natan,

    So how are the "new chareidim" different from the "chareidim" in Golders Green or Manchester?

    In fact, outside EY, please can you confirm whether the "chareidim" that you regularly comment on actually exist (other than perhaps those living in Gateshead or small groups of chasidim throughout the world)?

    This is a serious question - are you thoughts, - with which I generally agree - only relevant to chareidim in EY?


  14. They are a weaker form of Charedim. (Charedim in Israel perceive them as virtually complete outsiders.)

  15. ok, so they are a weaker form of chareidim, but not the "new chareidim". This is getting very interesting, lets have a nice big table of differences.

    I have been asking the kashrus organisations here in the UK to produce a table pointing out all their differences in shechitah, so the consumer can undertake his own research on the chumras. For example, Keddassiah insist that their shochtim toivel each day before shechitah and do not drive to the schecht house themselves, and dayan westheim is maikel on both these "halochos"


  16. @Proud to be in Kollel,
    I am also proud to be in kollel. Yet I understand that it is complicated. I have a love hate relationship with it. I accept that it is not black and white. It is not wrong for anyone to have a grey perception of kollel. why do all comments pro and against have to be in evil vs good terminology?
    Can't we accept that in historical Judaism there were a few that did it, most did not. Some allowed it, many did not. And end off that perhaps it has some necessity for our society, and perhaps the whole system should go through a thorough review.

  17. If you visit a place like kiryas yoel and witness the poverty there, despite the fact that some of them do real work, are mechanics, shop owners, bus drivers etc, you will see that this type of "pure israeli charedim" exists outside israel too. There are many "in kollel" there too.

  18. Natan,

    So can we have clear table demonstrating the difference between "Israeli Charedi", "Golders Green Charedi" and "The new Charedim".

    Student V,kollel people in GG/Lakewood or anywhere outside EY are still not the "Chareidi" of EY. They are generally far broader minded. Most have a far higher amount/knowledge of secular education. I agree some chasidic groups are identical to the Chareidi EY.

    And off topic...

    Did you hear the one about the 86 year old lady who became pregnant?

    She ticked on the wrong box on the Kupat Hair form.



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