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Haredi Judaism represents a number of groups within Orthodox Judaism, each characterized by a rejection of modern secular culture.

Haredim are sometimes referred to as strictly Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox in English, although the latter term is considered pejorative by adherents of Haredi Judaism, who view themselves as being the most religiously authentic form of Judaism.

Haredi Judaism has its roots in the traditionalists who opposed modernization in Eastern Europe, although many Jewish historians mark its origins as being no earlier than the early 20th century.

Prior to Jewish emancipation, the Jewish people lived in ghettos for centuries. During the Age of Enlightenment, some liberals in Europe began to include the Jewish people in the emerging nation-states. This led to the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), which began in the 1770s and lasted until the late 1800s, when Jewish nationalism began. Supporters of the Jewish Enlightenment argued that Judaism needed to evolve with the social changes around them, while others insisted on the strict adherence to halakha. This latter group became known as the Haredim.

Early leaders of Haredi Judaism included Samson Raphael Hirsch, Moses Sofer, Moshe Schick, and Sofer's sons, Shimon and Samuel Benjamin. Hillel Lichtenstein argued for an even stricter Orthodox position.

During the Universal Israelite Congress of 1868-1869, the Orthodox made an attempt to unify the various streams of Judaism under one constitution. This was dismissed by the Reformists, which led to the resignations of several Orthodox rabbis. Hungarian Jews split into two groups, Orthodox and Neolog, while other communities refused to join either of the groups, referring to themselves as Status Quo.

Over the next few decades, there were several splits, over such issues as secular studies, the use of the German language in sermons, and Zionism.

The Haredi populations of today come from a couple of post-Holocaust waves.

Most of the Hasidic and Litvak Jewish people were killed during the Holocaust. While Hasidic customs were mostly retained, those of the Lithuanian Jews were nearly lost, preserved only among the few surviving Jews who were born in Lithuania before the Holocaust. After World War II, some Haredi leaders, such as Chazon Ish, Aharon Kotler, and Joel Teitelbaum, made a strong effort to revive these lifestyles in Israel and in the United States.

A second wave began in the 1970s with the Baal Teshuva movement, which led several highly assimilated and non-religious Jews to embrace Orthodox Judaism, including the Haredi and Hasidic branches. Many of these formed the movement known as Sephardic Judaism, which is a significant stream of Haredi Judaism.

Haredi Judaism is not one united group, but divided in several Hasidic sects, the largest of which are the Hasidic Jews. Others include World Agudath Israel, Edah HaChareidis, Litvishe-Yeshivish, and Toldos Yeshurun. Most Haredim live in communities that consist mostly of other Haredim.

As in other Orthodox Jewish communities, Haredi life is oriented on the family. Boys and girls attend separate schools. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, they attend Torah study in a yeshiva or seminary. The larger portion of men remain in yeshiva until they are married, which are usually arranged. Once married, some Haredi men continue their studies of the Torah in kollel. Secular schools are discouraged, although Haredi schools often include vocational training.

Most Haredi men in the United States participate in the workforce, while only about half of Haredi men in Israel work, and those who do are not generally part of the secular workforce.

Families tend to be large, frequently including twelve or more children.

Television and movies are discouraged within the Haredi community, as are secular newspapers and books. Use of the Internet is also discouraged, and some Haredi rabbis have banned the use of Internet-enabled cellular phones unless filters are installed. Generally, the Internet is permitted for business purposes.

Haredi men dress in black suits, white shirts, black fedoras or a Homburg hats, with black skull caps under their hats. Beards are common among Haredi men. Haredi women dress modestly, with long skirts and sleeves, high necklines, and a form of hair covering. In some Haredi communities, women may wear wigs that are more attractive than their own hair, a practice that sometimes draws criticism from more conservative rabbis. Wigs are banned in Sephardic Haredim. There are differences in dress between Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian communities.

Haredi neighborhoods are generally safe, as they are usually restricted to Haredi Jews. In mixed neighborhoods, Haredi Jews often campaign against advertising that they consider inappropriate, including ads on public buses.



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