Don’t Call Me Haredi

by | Jul 12, 2013 | Other News

My parents raised me and my six siblings in Norfolk, Va., in essence, as the only “Haredi” kids in our day-school classes. As the “ultra-orthodox” kids who kept strict kosher, never drove on Shabbat, and who were wildly different from (and significantly shorter than!) the others. But yet, we were welcomed by our peers because we welcomed them.

We were (and my parents still are) the Chabad representatives in Southeastern Virginia.

Today, I am, to the best of my ability, an observant Jew. I am a Chabadnik. I am a Hassidic Jew. I love every Jew. They are my “mishpoche”—my family.

I wish every Jew would be observant but at the same time strongly believe in the right and ability of every Jew to choose his or her own way. I believe that is the Jewish way. I believe this is the [true] Haredi way.

This is the fashion in which we were raised. To love everyone, unconditionally.

To love does not always mean to agree and today I have a strong disagreement.

Call me an orthodox Jew if you will (though I believe labels distance us as a people). Call me a Chabadnik (I welcome it). Call me Hassidic.

Don’t call me Haredi.

Don’t call me Haredi because today I am embarrassed by [a small group of] my brothers—and sisters—the “ultra orthodox” community in Israel, the Holy Land. Today, I do not wish to be associated with that Haredi community.

Agree with Women of the Wall or not, reports of Haredi women physically attacking members of the controversial group at the Western Wall on Monday drew bad feelings in my heart. At the Kotel, a venue they clearly hold in reverence, they chose to assault other Jews.

Tuesday, as a uniformed IDF soldier —a hero in my eyes—walked through Mea Shearim, a Haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem, he was attacked by a mob of Haredi youth as he tried to make his way along the road. There were eggs hurled in his direction and fists thrust at his body. The thought of a Jewish, Israeli hero, putting himself forward to allow us all to live here, being accosted literally angered me.

I understand their agitation and uncertainty surrounding government discussion regarding drafting Haredi men to the army and their quickly changing status in Israel’s society but, my friends, this is not the Jewish way. This is certainly not the Hassidic way and this is most definitely not the Haredi way.

Today we find ourselves in the “nine days” period. These are nine days of symbolic mourning to commemorate the destruction of the “Beit HaMikdash” (the Holy Temple) in Jerusalem centuries ago. Jewish history teaches us that “sinat chinam” (hatred of others) is to be credited for the Temple’s destruction.

During the nine days, I would expect tolerance and love to take the front page, not G-d forbid, the unfortunate opposite.

I would love to be called a Haredi. A true Haredi that is. A Haredi associated with love. A Haredi that is involved with the large scale “Bikur Cholim” societies that care for the ill. The Haredis that care for every jew and perform unlimited, unmatched “chessed” (acts of kindness). The Haredis that are time and again responsible for countless scenarios of “Kiddush Hashem.”

Not the [small, but unfortunately very loud group of] Haredis that are in the news today. Take a moment, consider what a Haredi truly is. Haredi means “one who trembles” and is in the context of someone who trembles or is in fear before G-d.

Would a true Haredi dare do G-d’s job by judging his subjects?

A true Haredi would love each Jew unconditionally. A true Haredi would pray for those he believes are in the wrong to find truth (as I find myself doing for the Haredi community tonight). A true Haredi would never lift a finger on another Jew, another of G-d’s chosen people.

I call upon all Haredi leadership to speak out against violence and support love of the Jewish people as the true alternative. In the spirit of “Ahavat Yisrael” and Jewish unity—especially in these nine days—it is crucial that we set aside our quibbles and stand together as one.

We may have differences, but we are one. The Jewish people.

I strive for the day when all Haredism will return to their roots.

I will then be proud to be called Haredi.

—Levi Margolin lives in Jerusalem, is director of marketing and social media at Taglit-Birthright Israel: MAYANOT.

This piece was originally published by The Times of Israel on July 10, 2013. Margolin may be reached at

by Levi Margolin