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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.