Ultra Orthodox

A new controversial term and crept into journalism, “ultra Orthodox”. In the eyes of some, a Jew who follows Jewish tradition is “ultra”. There are no “ultra Protestants, nor “Ultra Catholics”. The only area of religion where a group is defined as “ultra” is in the Jewish world.

The question is what gives you this lofty title. Do you need a black hat and beard, must you live in Jerusalem. It’s a term used by journalists and social commentators outside the religious community to define Jews who follow the guidelines of Jewish Law. There is a strange dichotomy at play, those who follow the mainstream of Jewish tradition as is has been practiced for millennia are “ultra” and those who lifestyle is a more secular are mainstream. The Reform movement and the New Israel Fund are not “ultra liberal”, J Street and Peace Now are not “ultra left”. The only “ultra’s” are religious Jews.


"Isn't it time to declare 'ultra-Orthodox,' a pejorative term and discard it from our vocabulary?"

It’s time we confront this use of bigoted and prejudicial language. “Ultra” has a subjective message “these guys are extreme, beyond the pale”. It reflects the intolerance of liberal or more secular Jews towards their religions brethren. There is also a more subjective message, it attempts to compare observant Jews to those of other religious that advocate violence. Judaism rejects violence unless used in legitimate self defense.

Many observant Jews refer to themselves as “Haridie” translated from Hebrew it means “one with awe of G-d”, a preferred term in English would be either just “Orthodox” if some feel the need to define in more exacting terms those who feel a strong loyalty to Judaism the term “Traditional Orthodox” would be a respectful description or "Chassidic", when applicable.

Major Jewish leaders have decried the use of this pejorative description. Journalistic Style books reject its use. Numerous columnists have decried this kind of unique description only used for observant Jews.  It’s time for us to pause and realize the power of language and have the courage to confront our own bigotry.