All about Jewish Culture, Traditions and Lifestyle

Orthodox Jewish Culture is very unique. On the one hand they live like in the middle ages in their private family and community life. You might even confuse a Hasidic Orthodox Jew with an Amish person. On the other they adapt and mix in to the general society.

A nice short video introduction to orthodox jewish lifestyle

Honestly spoken, in order to explain well the Orthodox Jewish Culture, you must first know that there are various sects within Orthodox Judaism, as their culture varies too. Orthodox Judaism is split in many groups, movements and sects. The two most important to describe are the ones to the total extremes. All sects fall somewhere in between. They can be categorized as follows:

  • Hasidic / Yeshivish
  • Modern Orthodox
  • All Orthodox Jews are also called "Frum Jews".

    Frum stands for observant. Being that all Orthodox Jews abide to Orthodox Jewish Law, Orthodox Jewish Culture, Orthodox Jewish Traditions and Orthodox Jewish Customs they are all called "Frum Jews". All sects within Orthodoxy abide mostly by the same beliefs and law. The differences are basically in culture and lifestyle.

    Now let's try to explain the Frum Jewish Culture, Frum Jewish Traditions and Frum Jewish Customs. Let's take each stream individually:

    Orthodox Jews and Yeshivish lifestyle dates back to pre - WW2 Europe. The Hasidic stream was founded over 250 years ago by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem , and the Yeshivish stream by the Gr"a. Both are very strictly observant and practice Jewish traditions of keeping isolated from the secular world. This Frum Jewish Culture dates back to the times of the Shtetel. The Shtetel was a term used for small towns and villages where they lived in groups totally isolated from the outside world.

    After world war two, when hundreds of thousands of Jews immigrated to the USA, Israel and other European countries, the Hasidic and Yeshivish Rabbis tried to implement the old Shtetel life even in modern twenty first century society. Frum Orthodox Jewish groups tried to live together in neighborhoods where they could continue with their Orthodox Jewish Traditions, Customs and Culture. If you happen to drive by in New York City in Brooklyn in the Williamsburg, Boro Park or Crown Heights area, you will definitely realize what I mean.

    In the streets of Orthodox Jewish Williamsburg you will see men walking around in very unique Hasidic Jewish clothing. All will be wearing long black garbs, black hats and long beards. All men and boys will also have curls by their side. The women will be dressed according to their Jewish Tradition. A custom called Tzniyus (modest). No part of their body will be exposed except from their palm and face. They will only wear skirts or dresses, for pants are forbidden. Married women will either wear a wig or Tichel (head-scarf) to cover their hair.

    The education in Hasidic and Yeshivish schools will be mostly religious. While all schools will designate between an hour and two for social and secular studies, most of the day will pass with learning Torah and Talmud.

    The Hasidic Jewish Culture bans from going to college. Although there is no Halachic rule against attending college, the practice is highly discouraged and against Hasidic Jewish Culture. Men are encouraged to grow up to be Torah Scholars and Rabbis, while women are envisioned to grow up good housewives.

    Hasidic Jewish Part of the Hasidic Jewish Culture is remaining isolated, which also includes staying segregated from non Frum Jews. While married who go out to work will meet non Jews and non Frum Jews, they will try to abstain from exchanging ideas and philosophies.

    Frum Jews will always be polite and helpful for any fellow Jew, regardless of level of observance, for this is one of the foundations of the Jewish Faith. As part of this isolation you won’t find a Television in a Hasidic or Yeshivish Jewish home, and in most homes computers will be banned for children. Even adults are highly discouraged from using the web, and those in need for the web for job or business purposes will try not to use it home and only with a good filter.

    Hasidic Jews marry at age 18, 21 while Yeshivish marry at ages 21 - 24. Both have large blessed families, with averages of 10- 12 children with some even having close to twenty. The family life is very warm and loving. In Frum Jewish Culture the family life is the center of achievement in a person's life.

    Hasidic and Yeshivish Jewish Tradition puts in a great amount of effort in close family relations. In those communities the level of Chesed (generosity and charity) is extremely high. Children are encouraged to help each other and always be nice, as this can be reflected in the many charity drives lead by young kids.

    All Jews, regardless of financial standing, are obligated to give a portion of their earnings to aid those in need. Before giving tzedakah (charity), one must verify that the recipient is truly a candidate who is in need of charity. Many tax-deductible Jewish charity organizations have been set up to address the needs of our Jewish brethren locally and abroad.

    The charity fund of Rabi Meir Baal Haness is a famous charity organization in Israel with a legacy of over 200 years of improving lives by providing stipends, tuition assistance, special education services and therapy, clothing for holidays, monthly cash assistance, food packages, coverage for wedding expenses, assistance to new mothers, plus much more. The merits of Rav Meir Baal Haness are known to bring numerous forms of blessing to those who pray and donate.

    In those Heimishe (term used for Ultra Orthodox Hasidic and Yeshivish Jews) communities the crime rate is extremely low. The drop-out rate for teenagers is extremely low and teenage pregnancy is almost unheard of. Drug rates in teens run between one to three percent and murder rate is at zero. Theft and other hate crimes is something a Hasidic Jew will look at as beyond Jewish Culture.

    Heimishe Jewish men try to find jobs after marriage in fields that don't require any degrees. There are amny successful businessmen in real estate, business managers, diamonds and more. Recently there are special Orthodox Jewish programs that teach accounting and special education, where many grow out to be CPA's and Masters in education.

    Women mostly work only part time, giving away the rest of their day for parenting. Women will find jobs working in offices, being teachers and some will pursue degrees in education or accounting.

    Segregation between men and women, boys and girls is very strong in Heimishe Jewish communities. All schools are segregated. Congregating in Synagouge is fully segregated and the same applies by weddings and other celebrations. There are some extreme Ultra Orthodox communities where the Men and Women even walk on other sides of the street.

    Modern Orthodox

    The Modern Orthodox movement believes in synthesizing Jewish Law, with the secular, modern world. They also keep Jewish traditions and lead a full Jewish lifestyle. They differ in education and in the way of accepting the modern world.

    Modern Orthodox kids go to a Hebrew Day School. In the Hebrew day School all secular studies are taught as in any other public school, but giving away the first few hours of the day for Jewish law and Torah studies.

    The Modern Orthodox Jews mingle with the secular world and attend regular colleges. Yeshiva University is a sample of college that is designed for the Modern Orthodox population. There are special courses for Jewish law and Torah Study, and special Smicha / Rabbinic programs.

    They go dressed with a Kippah on their head and the women cover their hair, although in much less strict standards than the ultra orthodox. They abide by tzniyus laws required in Jewish law but with less stringency.

    The Modern Orthodox Jewish Culture produced many great Doctors, Lawyers, Scientist and Noble prize winners besides their great Rabbis and Torah Scholars.

    Have a question, on Orthodox Jewish Matters? Need an answer? Please Email your questions , Chava will answer your questions with insight and wit.

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