Borovski and the Haredim




"Borovski said she left behind the ultra-Orthodox, known in Israel as the Haredim, never having opened a bank account, ridden a bus, applied for a job or talked to a stranger.

She has done all of those things now, in what she describes as a sprint to make up for the decades she spent in a cultural cocoon, never wandering more than 500 yards from the house where she said she and her 12 brothers and sisters learned nothing of science or math, or of history outside of religious texts. Borov­ski — who belonged to the Satmar Hasidic group, known for its especially strict religious adherence — said she wasn’t just denied television, radio and the Internet but was unaware of their existence.

“I’m trying to catch everything now,” she said during a break from a lesson on cell structure, part of a remedial studies program offered by Hebrew University of Jerusalem to students who missed out on basic schooling. “I don’t think I have enough time.”"  Washpost


Yes, I know, pilgrims, the Haredim have a right to live however they please, just as Mormon schismatics, cloistered monks and the Amish/Mennonites do, but it is nevertheless interesting that this woman and those like her emerge into the "light" of the 21st Century as though they had just come from the womb.

As many of you know I was the chief intelligence liaison from DIA to the IDF General Staff intelligence service for seven years.  Because of that I spent a lot of time in Israel wandering around when not working and talking to IDF people about the Haredim among other things.  I don't think I ever ran into an IDF officer who had other than disdain for the Haredim.  A lot of the IDF were kibbutzniks, products of structured life on a collective farm in a socialist secular setting.  They thought the Haredim were ignorant freeloaders who used their cultist beliefs to hide out from the draft while collecting comfortable stipends from the government as "religious scholars."   In some Haredi groups the women shave their whole bodies and when out in public accompanied by a male relative wear funny looking curly synthetic hair wigs.  This was interesting.

Chacun a son gout the old maid said as she kissed the cow.  pl

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12 Responses to Borovski and the Haredim

  1. Serge says:

    There are many of these groups in Quebec, I think the most radical of them congregate there because of laws protecting them from sending their children to normal schools or integrating them in any way into normal life, most prominently and infamously the Lev Tahor group. There is a particularly radical community of 3000 of them right outside of Montreal, formed in the 60s. I always found the wig thing interesting, as a connection to the Islamic practice of hijab. Very semitic. Ever heard of the “Haredi Burqa Sect”?

  2. Chris S says:

    They had a village outside of Monroe NY, where I grew up for a while. The women did indeed wear weird synthetic wigs, I used to see them at the grocery store. I remember they refused to pay taxes for public services. They weren’t particularly well liked but then they weren’t a part of the community, just adjacent. The Hasid community itself looked like a bombed out wasteland the few times I passed through it. They didn’t care for outsiders. That whole area of NY is weird, so they fit in a way.

  3. anon says:

    Hmm so they shun a big Mac with the lot.I have a saying…..if we were all the same no one would make a difference.

  4. turcopolier says:

    In contrast many of the IDF types I know will suck down a bacon cheeseburger or spare ribs with no problem.

  5. The Beaver says:

    @ Serge
    You just have to go to Outremont – they have been living there for so many years
    Lev Tahor is an ultra-orthodox cult and they have moved away from Québec to go to Ontario and from there to Mexico .

  6. turcopolier says:

    Alora Danan
    A matter of country to country business, not a personal thing.


    Haredim are God-centric, Family-centric, and like children.
    They do not subscribe to the theory and practice of late Western Feminism that posits that highest vocation of a female is to be as high-paid a courtesan as she could be.
    In the perennial struggle between License & Liberty, they err on the side of the Conformance to Law rather than Extremist Human License.
    The IDF types subscribe to dead ideals and ideas of the late 19-century which came out of the European Enlightenment.
    In my opinion, they must be living a life of multiple mental dissonances; irreligious men defending a theocracy, subscribers to a set of ideas with roots in Catholicism yet living in a Judaic milieu, admirers of German efficiency yet despising “decadent” US…

  8. Diana C says:

    Very interesting…..
    I have never heard of this group, not many Jews where I grew up or where I live now.
    I have tried my best to stay out of the new age fascination with all the new electronic toys and communication devices. I guess it’s a reaction to having to fight the cell phone phenomenon at a large public high school. Those things caused more trouble, I felt, than served any good purpose for teenagers.
    The last time I owned a cell phone, it had a flip top like those on the old Star Trek shows. I could just load it with minutes when I had to drive across country. That way I could call if I needed help on the way.
    I used computers when I worked and still use them, mostly for using Word. Mostly, however, I like not to be too connected to the world. I’ve mentioned it before, my favorite readings in American literature were from the “American Renaissance” of Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Dickinson, and Hawthorne. I’ve re-read Walden by Thoreau many times.
    To get to that time period, I came a long way from my early years in the local library reading all the Greek and roman epics, mythologies and plays.
    I’ve been dragging my feet all my life trying to prevent myself from coming into the current time period.
    In other words, I like living “deliberately,” but would never go to the extremes of keeping myself away from others as the Haredim do. Thoreau did walk into Concord for supplies.
    Has anyone here read Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution ? It’s my favorite of the the philosophers–one not many people read.


    I have heard of that work but have not studied his philosophy.
    You might like the work of Process Theologians – mostly Protestants – who were influenced by Whitehead’s evolutionary philosophy – like Hartshorne.

  10. dmr says:

    I have reason to be grateful to you for your many enlightening posts, Col. Lang, but this one alas is an exception to the rule. The tone is holier-than-thou, de haut en bas and unpleasantly disdainful of its subject. The whole thing, I fear, amounts to little more than an exercise in cod-anthropology. It examines its human subjects as one does specimens under a magnifying glass, while disdaining to be genuinely curious as to their way of being, its sources and its motivation.
    You have “talked to IDF officers” ( a pack of hypocritical bigots to a man; but let that pass.) All well and good. But is that all? While in Israel on business , have you ever had occasion actually to talk to a Haredi to meet him/her face to face – as distinct from observing the species from afar – in a bid to acquaint yourself other than superficially with mode of life and forms of thought so remote from your own experience? Do you know any of these people? And if not, what entitles you to pass judgement on their behaviour and choices?
    I see nothing in what you have said here, nor in the ensuing comments, resembling insight or a scintilla of imaginative sympathy, yet plenty to suggest vast and unwarranted amusement at their estrangement from modernity as evinced by funny hair-dos, rejection of cellphones, et al It is hard not to feel scorn for such uninformed detachment, which represents these people as risible and faintly menacing creatures from another galaxy simply because they are so unfamiliar.
    More is the pity, coming as it does from an Arabist whose felt inwardness with Islam, its language(s) and its cultural-historical matrix is writ large in his posts on these topics – posts which speak of a rare and admirable refusal to see “The Arabs’ as incomprehensibly alien Other.
    Would that some such refusal were in evidence here

  11. Diana C says:

    You may not know that I am legally blind. I finally gave over 900 books from my library to my university library. I keep lists of books I would like to find on audio books–books on tape. I’ll put your suggestion on my list. I am currently trying to find Spenser’s Faerie Queen on tape. It’s the one major work in English literature that I did not read.

  12. Turcopolier says:

    I continuously associated with IDF officers for many years. Like them i have nothing but disdain for the Haredim who IMO are like fleas on a dog. I am here to state my views and not yours.

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