By Yehuda Schlezinger
They work in high-tech and advertising, serve in the Israel Defense Forces and still wear black skullcaps • They demand recognition and legitimacy, threaten to split off from the United Torah Judaism party and become angry when others describe them as foes • Although the leaders of the haredi street make it difficult for them to find spouses and call them “haredi-lite,” they also realize that these "new haredim" are not going away • The "new haredi" movement may lead the haredi sector either to an explosion or to a split
You will be seeing them near you. You will not find them in movie theaters or nightclubs, but you will see them driving the Mazda on your right at the traffic light. They will be standing on line in front of you and behind you at the duty-free shops in Ben-Gurion Airport and will be sitting at the next table in restaurants all over the country. They work for a living just like you do, and in complete opposition to the description of haredim as parasites, they earn salaries similar to those of the Israeli middle class.
This description comes from a haredi man wearing a black suit and a black skullcap on his head. He represents the "new haredi" movement that has had Israel’s religious world in an uproar in the recent past. If this phenomenon had been hidden away like skeletons in the closets of haredi society until fairly recently, now no one dares to ignore it.
This topic — one of the most sensitive and urgent in the haredi sector — threatens to change the face of haredi society. Some people claim that this new movement is going to cause a revolution.
The number of the "new haredim" is estimated in the tens of thousands.
They are scattered throughout the haredi population centers in Israel, from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak, from Beitar Illit to Elad, from Beit Shemesh to Upper Modi’in. Most of them come from the major Lithuanian segment identified with the United Torah Judaism party. Their parents no longer shun them as was done in the past, even if they do not necessarily condone their children’s choices. “The parents are in no hurry to let people know that they have "new haredim" at home, but they are not ashamed of it either,” one of them says. “Ostracism by the family has become something that is done only by the more extreme types, if at all.”
Babushka takes issue with this description as a "new species" of Haredi since Babushka's family has been like this for 20 years!
This article primarily focuses on the Misnagdim (Lithuanian) community in Israel, not on Hasidic Jews or "ultra-Orthodox" outside Israel, but definitely worth a read.