2001 FAQ - HasidicNews
While there are hundreds of shtieblech and small congregations of 10-15 members, the dominant sects in order of population are: Satmar, Chabad/Lubavitch, Ger, Viznitz, Belz, Bobov, Skver, Spinka, Pupa, Breslov, Rachmastrivk, and Toldos Aharon.
While there are some pockets of Hasidim in almost every western country, especially from Chabad, the most concentrated areas are: Williamsburg - Brooklyn, Borough Park - Brooklyn, Monsey - NY, Lakewood - NJ, Kiryas Joel - Monroe NY, New Square - NY, Bnei Brak Israel, Jerusalem Israel, Montreal Canada and London UK.
A Hasid is distinguished by many characteristics; they speak Yiddish (in the US); they dress in long black garments and wear unstylish black hats at all times. They grow beards and leave peyos (side locks), although they sometimes tuck it behind or around the ear. Eyeglesses are disproportiantely common among Hasidim.
After WWII, the diamond industry became very popular among Hasidim in the US. Most Hasidim in the US nowadays are successful small business owners. Some run small retail shops in their local communities. Others deal in construction, Real Estate, importing, distributing, and wholesaling of various products. The telecom industry has gained significant popularity in recent years as Hasidim now deal in calling cards and other communication industries.
As mentioned earlier, Hasidic men ALWAYS dress in black suits. For the most part, these suits are long (below the knees) and are worn in public at all times; 98 degree weather, hurricanes or snow storms. The Uniform is rigid; shoes are black, shirts are white; Tzitzis is worn either on top of the shirt, underneath the vest, or under the shirt. If it is worn on top of the shirt, it is usually a material made of wool that becomes yellow after a while. On the Sabbath, Hasidic men wear the "Shtreimel", a very expensive hat made out of fur, and a Bekishe, a sort of long shiny black overcoat. Women are always dressed modestly. They never wear pants, or sleeves shorter than elbow, or any flashy attention-drawing dress.
Hasidim do NOT watch TV. Although radio isn't considered that bad, and is generally accepted nowadays, they do not have even a single Hasidic Radio station. News is spread by word of mouth and through their weekly published newspapers "Hamachane Hachareidi" (Belz) Das Blat and Der Yid (Satmar) as well as Chabad's hundreds of Hasidic publications constantly being released and distributed free (sponsored in part by Yitzchak Gutnik, a multi- millionaire).
The Orthodox community in the US has formed an organization called OU (Orthodox Union) to supervise observance of Kashrus (Jewish dietary laws). Hasidim never relied on their certifications. Instead they formed their own organizations to deal with Kashrus. "Hisachdus Harabanim" in the US and "Eida Hacharedis" in Israel are among the prominent Kashrus certification authorities within the Hasidic community. When Belz revolted against the Satmar affiliated "Eida Hacharedis", they formed their own organization offering a lot cheaper certification rates but not as trusted among the general population.
A typical Hasidic boy, starts school at the age of three. That's when a boy starts learning the "Aleph Beth", the Hebrew Alphabet. At age four, they are already in the Jewish first grade. They start attending two-hour "Secular" classes at age six, as usual. At about the same time, they start learning the "Chumash and Rashi". At about age Eight they start learning "Mishna" the ancient Jewish Rabbinic Law. At about age 10, they start learning Talmud, the highly complicated and investigative work of Jewish Scholars following the era of the "Tanaim" (authors of the Mishna). By age 12, they already learn "Tosfot" which makes studies even harder, with its highly-convoluted and sophisticated questions it raises and how it reconciles apparent contradictions within the Talmud. At about age 13, a bar Mitzva is celebrated and boys are sent to "Yeshiva Ketane" (Junior Talmudic school). In Yeshiva, Most Hasidic kids engage in a very rigorous and demanding school day. They have a full-day learning schedule with a very small break. They get home 6:30-7:00, or they Dorm in Yeshiva provided residences. While it is common for Hasidic Yeshiva boys to start Secular High School studies allocating 2 hours a day, very few ever graduate High School with a Diploma. At age 16/17 boys usually switch to a "Yeshiva Gedolah" (Senior Talmudic school) where they remain until they marry at age 18-20
Men are expected to provide for a livelihood and women are expected to have a lot of babies and run the house. In recent years, taking after some non-Hasidic communities, it has become increasingly popular for Hasidic men to remain in "Kollel" (a post-marriage Talmudic school) while their wives make a living through some semi-professional occupation. A "Kollel" typically pays very little if any for its attendants. Kollel families, lead a very difficult life in terms of meeting their financial obligations.
Hasidim like all Orthodox Jews, pray three times a day, "Shacharit" "Mincha" and "Maariv". On the Sabbath and on Holidays a fourth Tefilla (prayer) is added called "Musaf". On the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur a fifth Tefilla is added called "Neila". Shacharit usually takes about 45 minutes and must be done Halachically prior to about 10:30 AM. Mincha can be done any time between noon and sunset. Maariv is done after sunset. They both last about 15 minutes. 10 male adults are required in order to form a "Minyan" and be allowed to conduct the services publicly.
Hasidim, like the rest of conservative Orthodoxy, does not approve or accept the legitimacy of any non-Orthodox community or practice. Furthermore, even Modern Orthodox communities are considered alien to the Hasidic world. There is little in common between a Hasidic community and a modern-orthodox one, like Yeshiva University, and five-town communities. Some non-Hasidic Lithuania communities, though, maintain very close ties to the Hasidic community, and some Hasidim even attend their Yeshiva schools, as they are considered widely considered better and more thorough.
There are laws in the Talmud about non-Jews, allowing certain kinds of deception or fraud in financial relationships. "Ribis" (Usury) is a very common, making it a severe sin to lend money to a Jew for interest, while allowing that to anon-Jew. In addition, if a non-Jew makes any mistake in his financial dealings with a Jew, a Jew is not obligated to let him know. In general, the Hasidic attitude towards non-Jews is one of contempt and disinterest. Children, especially, are taught how "bad" and sinful non-Jews are and are constantly taught to refrain from certain behavior merely for the purpose of "Chillul Hashem" - not to cause a bad reputation, as opposed to it being inherently unbecoming.
There is no dating in the Hasidic community. Education as well as all other Jewish cultural institutions are sexually separated. A typical Hasidic boy has never spoken to any Hasidic girl EVER, before the matchmaking period begins. When the boy turns 19 and the girl turns 18, Shadchanim (matchmakers) step in. Shadchanim speculate about what family is suitable financially, aristocratically, and observantly to what family. If they feel a match is suitable they will call up both sides and "red a shiduch" (propose a match). The Shadchan will try to conceal negative characteristics on both sides, while the sides will try to dig up as much dirt as possible to verify the "suitability" of the other side. If they both pass the investigative stage without any misgivings, they will proceed with the guidance of the Shadchan to arrange a meeting between the parents of the boy and the parents of the girl. If they like each other and are willing to proceed, a meeting will eventually be arranged between the boy and the girl. Depending on the level of devoutness subsequent meetings will be held, but NO DATES, to ascertain the compatibility between the potential mates. Eventually a "Vart" will be called at which point they will close the shiduch and officially announce engagement.
Women in most Hasidic communities will be discouraged from doing anything other than secretarial or retail-store-related work. Women are discouraged or disallowed to drive a vehicle. No hair of a married woman may be seen by anyone except her husband. Hasidic leaders after WWII grudgingly allowed women to wear wigs in public, in stead of having to wear scarves. Women are strictly prohibited from singing to a male audience. Women will also never hold any public position, or assume any leadership role in the community that involves men.
In the US, Hasidim speak Yiddish as their native language. They later learn English in school and on the street if they ever happen to be somewhere outside the community. They also learn how to read and write ancient Hebrew, although it bears little if any resemblance to the modern Hebrew written and spoken in Israel.
After WWII when the state of Israel was established, Jews worldwide were exuberant including most Hasidim. The Satmars, fiercely denounced the state of Israel as run by sinners and against the Jewish teaching to wait for Messiah to redeem them instead of taking matter into their own hands. The Satmars fought a tough battle even among the Hasidic community sympathetic to the Israeli cause, and were even ostracized and ridiculed for that. Eventually, after the Israeli hype subsided, most Hasidic communities followed the Satmar model in terms of bearing no allegiance and making no contributions to the state of Israel, although they never defiantly opposed it.
Immediately after WWII there were very few Hasidim in the US. The 6 million strong Jewish population in the US knew little if anything about Hasidim. After their numbers started to grow through immigration and reproduction, their profile started to rise. Most liberal Jews throughout the US are now aware of their existence and have a very liberal and accepting attitude towards them. "I don't believe in your lifestyle but I respect it and I appreciate your strong Jewish identity." The exception to this is the Satmars in the 1950's and 60's, who were totally ostracized for their radical anti-Israeli views.
MBD- Mordechai Ben David, and Avraham Fried, although non-Hasidic from birth, their music has largely caught on in the more modern elements of the Hasidic community. In addition, there are beautiful recordings from Bobov and Belz available for sale widely.
Sports is something that isn't generally practiced in the Jewish community, although it is not considered sinful or inherently wrong. Most Hasidm do not know or watch baseball, basketball, football, WWF or car racing, etc.; neither do they engage in any of the active sports like skiing, skating, roller-blading, golfing etc. Watching movies, whether in theater or at home, or watching TV is totally unacceptable in the Hasidic community; let alone the popular night scene in NYC of bars and clubs, whose existence is virtually not even known to most Hasidim.
Hasidim, like the rest of the Orthodox community strongly discourage people from converting to Judaism. This is in accordance with Talmudic law. They do, however, encourage Jews who have wandered astray to "return". Chabad is famous for being fervently preoccupied in reaching out to worldwide Jewry, to make them aware of their heritage and to try to bring them closer to Orthodox observance, although they will do anything to get a Jew to put on Tefillin even just once. Other Hasidic communities will definitely readily accept any returnee; yet, it would be very hard if at all possible for any non-Hasid-born, let alone non-observant born person to effectively be absorbed in a Hasidic community. This is because of the many idosyncracies and close-knitness inherent in the Hasidic community.