Photo Credit:
Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt

Indeed, I am haredi. I am haredi circa 1970, my father’s generation. Then, yeshiva students wrote, spoke and thought in English. They dressed in color. Frum men went to college to train for a means to make a living. People were pashut in their hashkafa and sincere in their avodah. They would enact chumras when advised but did not see stringency as a path to purity. They had a closer relationship to secular Jews because of their secular first cousins and to non-Jews because they lived in mixed neighborhoods. Their motivation was to build a frum infrastructure for the next generation where observance would be easier and Yiddishkeit would be the natural choice. They were not motivated to get their kids into “the best” school and their kids married off to “the best” shidduchim.

They were American haredim. And I am an American haredi. I pray that my children will be haredim like my father. And I pray, fervently, that they maintain, live and promote the haredi values he promoted: fealty to Torah, reverence of Torah leaders, and a lifelong commitment to the Jewish people. All in a very simple and very straightforward American way.

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The author of two books, Yaakov Rosenblatt tends the flock both literally and figuratively, as CEO of AD Rosenblatt Kosher Meats and a rabbi at NCSY-Dallas.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. In the 1970's these people were not called "Hareidim". So if that's who you are emulating then indeed you are NOT Hareidi. American Jews like you have adopted Israel's Hareidi label but not their ideology. In fact, in Israel, people like you would be chewed up and spit out by the "real" Hareidim.

    What you are, if you need to label it, is far closer to Rav Soloveitchik's ideal of modern orthodoxy.

  2. I am going to have go with Michael on this.

    You sound like a good, nay, great Jew who I would be happy to meet and converse with, but charedi… in no way. Charedi is an Israeli concept for a wide group of people, but almost all of whom would reject you. Rav Shach z”l would have rejected you. Rav Elyashiv z”l would have rejected you.

    But why quibble about labels? I have no idea what label works for me, either, the child of lithuanian rabbis on one side, chassideshe rebbe's on the other, live in Israel, studied engineering and Talmud in Machon Lev, served in the IDF, and now work full time but have a regular chavrusa.

    We need to stop worrying about simplistic labels and focus on core values. The world is not, nor ever was, black and white. The simplistic approach of trying to define people by these labels diverts us from the core problems that beset us: intermarriage and assimilation on one side, extremism, intolerance and abhorrent behavior on the other… the list goes on and on.

    BTW: If you would add Israel to your set of values, you would be perfect ;-).

  3. This is a very well written and thoughtful article! One major thing you left out, though, in weighing whether you are haredi, is your attitude towards women– their public roles within the community, their private roles within the home, their access to serious talmud Torah and other avenues of spiritual fulfillment, etc. Another thing is Israel– how do you feel about the State and its leadership, etc. Those 2 points are crucial ones that set haredim apart from many other Jews today. If we want to know whether you are, in fact, haredi, I think you must address these issues, as well.

  4. I am loud and proud! I would concentrate more on the secular people shirking their responsibility to torah study before I condemn those who dedicate their lives to it!

  5. He's out of town haredi. Also, in terms of sustainability, haredim are doing just fine according to the Federation report. Growing by leaps and bounds.

  6. Secular people don't know any better. Large percentages of so-called chareidim walking the streets at 11 a m and hiding behind toratam umnatam is a chilul Hashem for which there is no excuse and we know better. Their rashei yesivot who register them regularly for $ and other sordid reasons also know what midvar sheker tirchak means. Milchemet mitva and chatam mechupato and on and on-these are scoundrels hiding behind relligious garb and nothing more.

  7. I don't say that I rush to do every mitzva, but I love and fear Hashem, and I have an overwhelming desire to live in this land more than anything else. I am terrified of going after my bodily desires and forsaking the One Who is always watching. I fall down sometimes and mess up, but I get up again, ask for forgiveness, and start over. I would say, even though I don't dress the part. I don't follow all of the minhuggim, I'm a working stiff, and I need to improve greatly and learn more, yes I am haredi and I thank Hashem for it!

  8. To the author I ask; why is it important to you to have a label? How about just being a good, solid religious Jew?

    You wrote of having fealty towards Torah Authority. But to be a chareidi, whose authority are we talking about? Being Chareidi means accepting "Da'as Torah" and for reasons not 100% clear to all, these days Da'as Torah halachic rulings and guidance in life in America must come from a short list of Gedolim in Israel who Gedolim in America look to before they make any major decisions. And those Gedolim in Israel would disagree with many of the things in your self description.

    In your father's time, it wasn't so. American Gedolim were the leaders in America who allowed, or turned a blind eye toward college and many of the other things you described. It seems the American Gedolim feel they are not on the level of the Gedolim in Israel. As a result of this shift, the culture of the Chareidi world in Israel is now the new standard of being a Chareidi in America.

    You would need to convince the Chareidi leaders in America to be bold and be prepared to not promote Israeli Charedi standards, in order to behave as your father did in 1970 and still be considered a chareidi. I'm not sure there are that many leaders who are prepared to do that.

    In the meantime, you may have the right color yarmulka, you may even do the daf and daven in Agudah shul but you just don't fit the chareidi bill. Some would call you a Chareidi Lite. You OK with that?

  9. Dear Rabbi,
    very beautiful article! But if you are truly Haredi why then do you feel the need to add "American" haredi? why isn't being a haredi or just Jewish enough?
    Why do jews always feel the need to call themselves American first and for most?
    The jewish pride is to be able to say I am a Jew! Not an american jew…
    But shcoyach on the beautiful aritcle! I wish all haredim thought like you!

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