Ultra Orthodox Jews are religious fundamentalists who can be found living in segregated communities in parts of North America, Europe and Israel. These Jews, called ''Haredim'' in Hebrew, isolate themselves from the general society and adhere to strict moral codes that dictate everything from politics to daily interactions between men and women.
In addition to Gentiles, ultra Orthodox communities also exclude Jews who do not adhere to their strict religious laws. Followers trace their lineage back to Eastern Europe in the 18th century and devote themselves to preserving the traditions of their forefathers including regular and intense study of religious scripture, and minimal contact with the outside world and enthusiastic prayer. The tight-knit nature of these communities means that everyone knows one another and can easily identify strangers.
Haredim is translated to"those who tremble," referring to their fear of God, and almost every aspect of daily life is informed by religious belief. According to an article in the "Globe and Mail," some men devote so much time to study and prayer, that it is up to their wives to earn an income for the family. This, however, was not always the case. An article in "Telegraph" notes that before their segregation in the 19th century, members of the ultra Orthodox community began to fear what they perceived as the gradual assimilation of Jews into mainstream society. They called for Jews to resist this temptation and named themselves as defenders of the Jewish faith, rebuilding Jewish tradition wherever they settled.
Ultra Orthodox Jews view modesty as a cardinal virtue and go to great lengths to preserve it. Unmarried men and women refrain from interacting and even cross over to the other side of the street to avoid coming too close to someone of the opposite sex. The "New York Times" reports on instances of individuals in some communities who take it upon themselves to ensure that everyone dresses and behaves modestly by putting up posters or confronting people who do not adhere to convention.
One of the beliefs that separates Orthodox Jews from ultra Orthodox followers is the support of Zionism. Many Orthodox Jews espouse the importance of a Jewish state in Israel and that this state should be homogeneously Jewish. Similarly, Zionists argue that Jews should return to Israel and resist assimilation into secular society. Although some ultra Orthodox Jews support the latter argument, ultra Orthodoxy officially views this belief as blasphemous, since followers argue that Jews must live in exile until God wills their return to Israel through the coming of the Messiah. Nevertheless, Israel is home to several ultra Orthodox communities.
- New York Times: Modesty in Ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Is Enforced by Secret Squads
- Encylopaedia Britannica: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel
- The Globe and Mail: In Israel, Tensions Grow Between Ultra Orthodox and Less Strict Jews
- Encylopaedia Britannica: Religious Zionism
- University of Calgary: Orthodox Anti-Zionism
- The Telegraph: Inside the Private World of London's Ultra Orthodox Jews
- Uriel Sinai/Getty Images News/Getty Images