I’ve noticed that people like to talk about “The Chareidim”. Chareidim do this, Chareidim do that, etc… Chareidim think this, Chareidim believe this, etc… One gets the feeling from this that Chareidim are one large, homogenous group, doing and feeling and thinking and believing as one.

One gets the impression that Chareidim are like the Borg, one entity, one being, with one hive mind, thinking and acting as one.

The media certainly helps promote this idea, labeling people as “Chareidi” many times when it isn’t relevant. And not making the distinction that many or even some Chareidim don’t necessarily support or agree with what the person is doing.

And people perpetuate this, also, by talking about what Chareidim do, believe, think, etc… lumping them all together into one massive being, uniform, cohesive, in agreement with each other, and responsible for each other when someone does something wrong.

This stereotyping that happens is wrong. Judging people, assuming things about people, just because they are part of one group is wrong.

When one makes statements about “black people” and “Chinese” and “Hispanics” its rightly called racism and discrimination, and it’s wrong. Even when it’s not something negative per se. Just making assumptions about people because of their race, whether good or not, isn’t being fair, and is wrong. Just because one person or even many people in a group do something doesn’t mean you should assume the same about another person in that group. Even if there are reasons for the stereotypes existing in the first place. (There always are reasons why stereotypes are formed.)

Even bringing up the word “black” or “Mexican” or “Chinese” to describe someone when their race isn’t relevant to the discussion, especially when its something negative (“3 black men rob bank”; “Chinese man arrested for fraud”; “Mexican drug dealer bust”) is considered to be racist, discrimination, wrong, and in many cases, illegal.

When all Jews are lumped together and criticized/blamed for something that is going wrong, that is called antisemitism, discrimination, and wrong. When someone isn’t hired to a job because he is a Jew, that’s illegal and religious persecution. When someone is attacked because he is a Jew, when Jews are described with disgusting words like comparing us to rats or infectious diseases, it is despicable and defamation and 100% illegal, not to mention immoral.

When it happens to Chareidim though… its seen as fair game.

After the incident in Bet Shemesh ~1.5 years ago when some dati leumi kids were harassed by some Chareidi guys, there were many instances that Chareidim, totally unconnected to the situation in Beit Shemesh, and living far away, were harassed and harmed because of what the guys in Beit Shemesh did.

A Chareidi man riding on the bus in Jerusalem with his children was punched in the face. “This is for spitting on little girls!” the man said after he punched him. The bus driver refused to intervene.

In Ashdod, a non-religious man opened the gas tanks of a building occupied by Chareidi residents prompting a call to emergency services due to the strong smell of LP gas. When the truck arrived, the man shouted “What do you care if the blow up. They are only Chareidim”.

There have been many occurrences where Chareidi people were beaten up for being Chareidi.

It’s routine for people to get rejected from jobs, merely because they’re Chareidi. Many have told my husband, for example, that he should change his yarmulka, shave his beard, and cut off his peyos, and he’ll have more success finding a good job, because “no respectable company will hire him if he looks like that”.

If that’s not discrimination and hate crimes, what is? When someone gets attacked or accused because of his religious/communal affiliation, how would that be any different than antisemitic attacks? Or like blacks getting attacked because some other black hurt someone? Or like Arabs getting treated despicably and cursed out and attacked after 9/11?

 

We’re all individuals, and can only be responsible for ourselves and what we do.

Everyone should be judged based on their own merit, and not because of something someone else does that you assume they agree with.

 

I wanted to set the record straight on Chareidim.

 

Chareidim are not a unified group.

There are so many different subtypes of Chareidim, and within each subtype, there are other subtypes, and within those subtypes, there are individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Assuming that because one person is Chareidi, that he is similar to someone else that is Chareidi, and therefore should be treated a certain way because of what other Chareidim have done is discrimination, plain and simple. Even making silent judgments in your head about what that person probably is like/does/feels because he is Chareidi is unfair stereotyping.

Here’s a list of things I’ve heard people say about “The Chareidim” as if we’re a homogeneous type and it applies to every last one of us. These aren’t all bad, necessarily, but they’re all problematic and untrue.

  • Chareidim don’t serve in the army.
  • Chareidim don’t pay taxes.
  • Chareidim don’t work.
  • Chareidim are anti Zionist/don’t respect the state.
  • Chareidim hate anyone who isn’t Chareidi.
  • Chareidim don’t/aren’t allowed to take birth control.
  • Chareidim don’t have internet.
  • Chareidim spit on girls.
  • Chareidim are violent.
  • Chareidim are uneducated.
  • Chareidim are unemployable.
  • Chareidi men wear black and white suits, velvet yarmulkas, and black hats.
  • Chareidi women cover their hair fully, cover their collar bones, legs, and are tznius.
  • Chareidim keep halacha 100% strictly.
  • Chareidim follow their rabbis’ psak halacha 100%.
  • Chareidim ask their rabbi everything, even the mundane, like what color they should paint their home.
  • Chareidim treat women badly.
  • Chareidim beat their wives.
  • Chareidim beat their children.
  • Chareidim are poor.
  • Chareidim are filthy.
  • Chareidim fear the outside world.
  • Chareidim aren’t in touch with the modern world.
  • Chareidim are models to the world how God/the Torah wants us to act.
  • Chareidi rabbis’ pronouncements represents what all Chareidim feel/think.
  • Chareidi men won’t look at women.
  • Chareidi men won’t talk to women.
  • Chareidim live the way they do because they’ve never been exposed to anything else.
  • Chareidim don’t allow people to report child molestors.
  • Chareidim think the laws of the country don’t apply to them.
  • Chareidim are “Hassidic”.
  • Chareidim are good people.
  • Chareidim are bad people.

The above is only a partial list- I’m sure you all can add to the list with other things you think about Chareidim, and things you’ve heard other people say about them.

There’s not a single thing on that list that applies to “The Chareidim”. Most of them don’t apply to most chareidi. Yea, a few certainly apply to many Chareidim, but even the ones that do apply to many don’t apply to many more Chareidim. We’re not a unified, homogenous group whatsoever!

Let me go through some of the stuff on the list.

  • Chareidim don’t serve in the army– Chareidim serve in Nachal Chareidi, Shachar, and many other places in the army. Many Chareidim try to apply to the army but get rejected because the army doesn’t want them. (I personally know more people whose husbands tried to get into the army but weren’t accepted than people who have an army exemption or deferral.)
  • Chareidim don’t pay taxes– There’s no exemption for taxes if you’re Chareidi. You get taxed the same as everyone else.
  • Chareidim don’t work– Completely false. There are many Chareidi guys who work, and in the cases of guys who are learning in Kollel, their wives work. I know of exactly two families that are Chareidi, in which neither spouse works. And it’s because in one, both spouses are mentally ill and are therefore unable to work, and the other, one spouse is profoundly ill and disabled and the spouse takes care of the sick one.
  • Chareidim are anti Zionist/don’t respect the state- True for some, absolutely false for others.
  • Chareidim hate anyone who isn’t Chareidi- There are some bigots in Chareidi society, just like there are some bigots in every society. But most follow the maxim “Vi’ahavta lire’acha kamocha“- love your fellow Jew like yourself.
  • Chareidim don’t/aren’t allowed to take birth control– Absolutely false. Chareidim take birth control when needed.  The reason Chareidim have more kids on average isn’t because birth control is forbidden, but because Chareidi society values having and raising children.
  • Chareidim don’t have internet- Many, many, many do. Some have it only for work, some have it at home even though they don’t need it for work, some have filtered internet, like Internet Rimon, and some have no filter whatsoever. From my personal experience with Chareidim, a very large percentage has access to internet, in some form, on a regular basis.
  • Chareidim spit on girls– Unfortunately there are some idiots who spit on girls, but I fortunately don’t know a single Chareidi person who condones it.
  • Chareidim are violent- As in every society, there are some Chareidim that are violent. But fortunately, the percentage is very, very low. (Statistically speaking, Chareidim and Dati Leumi people, compared to the general population, have the least amount of people in prison, which says something.)
  • Chareidim are uneducated– Most Chareidi women go to school for 14-15 years, and large percentages of Chareidi guys are learning for their whole lives, or at least until they’re 28 or older on a regular basis, and even when they’re no longer in Kollel, they generally continue learning once or twice a day, at least. Hardly uneducated- they spend more time learning than most! And as for secular subjects, Chareidi schools certainly teach math and science and reading and history, though the textbooks usually are “kosher” to make sure there is nothing objectionable in there.
  • Chareidi men wear black and white suits, velvet yarmulkas, and black hats. Many do, but many don’t. There are a bunch of Chareidi guys who never wear suits, others that don’t wear black and white. There are Chareidi guys who wear colored shirts, colored pants, etc… and some that “officially” wear black and white, but don’t to work or when doing other tasks that would ruin nice clothes. There are Chareidi guys who wear velvet yarmulkas, as well as ones who wear black cloth ones, as well as guys who wear knitted white ones. Some wear black hats, some only wear them on Shabbos, some wear streimels, and some don’t wear any hats.
  • Chareidi women cover their hair fully, cover their collar bones, legs, and are tznius. Again, not true. Many do, but there are many Chareidi women who do not cover their hair fully or cover their collar bones, and  (unfortunately) many are not tzanua.

I can go on and on and on about how each of the rest of the stereotypes/generalizations on Chareidim are simply untrue for Chareidim as a whole, but you get my drift.

There’s one thing I can say with certainty about the Chareidi community.

We’re human.

And like all humans, we are not perfect. Some Chareidim are wonderful people, and some, unfortunately are not. Chareidim don’t hold a monopoly on goodness, nor can we stop there from being rotten individuals in our ranks.

Just like every other community.

And just like every other community, we’re all individuals, with our own lives, our own actions, our own feelings, and our own strengths, challenges, and weaknesses. Because that’s what being human is about.

Chareidim aren’t angels, and honestly, holding Chareidim to a higher standard than you hold anyone else is just wrong and unfair, just as unfair as treating them badly because of the actions of others.

So how do you define Chareidi? Is there any word that describes all Chareidim, other than human?

Yup.

Jew.

And that’s about it.

So, what is Chareidi? What does Chareidi mean?

It means that you self identify as Chareidi. It doesn’t matter if other people think you’re Chareidi, if other people approve of what you’re doing. Like it or not, what makes someone Chareidi is someone saying so about themselves. There’s no official membership card that you earn by being someone special. It is a self designated label.

And the label means one thing: I am choosing to identify with the Chareidi community as a whole, more than with any other community.

And that, my friends, is why stereotyping, and treating people a certain way based on your opinion about “The Chareidim” is wrong. Because most of the things said about “The Chareidim” certainly don’t apply to all or even most Chareidim.

And mistreating someone badly because they’re chareidi is just as bad as racism against blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc… And is just as bad as antisemitism.

Get to know individuals. Treat them as individuals. Recognize their strengths and their weaknesses, and realize that those are personal. That no one represents an entire community, and communities can’t be responsible for the bad or even good actions of other people in their community.