What’s Your Label and Why?


For shidduch convenience, people use many labels, ranging from “traditional” to “ultra orthodox” with shades of meaning differentiating between, say, Modern Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, and Modern Orthodox. (Not to mention modern ultra orthodox, with-it ultra orthodox, yeshivish modern orthodox… etc.)

FrumSatire wrote (somewhere – if anyone has a link I’d appreciate it) a fuzzily accurate description of the superficial characteristics of each grouping, but now I’m curious about getting it from a more grassroots venue. So, what label do you assign yourself, and why? What’s your perception of the meaning of your label? What labels are close, but not quite? What’s your perception of the meaning of other people’s labels? Do we all agree on them, or do we have different definitions depending on where we stand on the spectrum? Please participate.


45 thoughts on “What’s Your Label and Why?

  1. I prefer to think of my self as what my father used to call “traditional orthodox”. Neither “modern” nor “cheredi” but simply an orthodox jew. I don’t think that lable includes trying to be modern, but nor does it include the “chaddash assur min hatorah” silliness either. Oh, and theres a fair bit of non-crazy lubavitch contamination there as well.

    Of course we study science (most rishonim did, although moreso the spanish ones than the german/french) and many of those rishonim stated that you have to understand how torah interacts with science, this isn’t a modern push but one that can be traced to such luminaries as the ramban and rambam, the ibin ezra (who if he lived to day would be declared a kofer without hesitation) and many others.

    One thing we don’t do is define our lives based on “not being reform” as the cheredim do. A good idea thats permissable according to law is a good idea none the less, it doesn’t matter that reform of conservative do it. But also I don’t think that beind traditional means dressing with the latest fashions, but nor does it mean dressing like an 16th century polish nobleman.

    Of course study of torah is important, but not at the expense of fulfilling mitzvos, and earning a living is also obligitory, you can’t get around it except within the very narrow parameters provided by the law, which basicaly only a few BTs ever meet these days (and a few, rare and unique illuyim).

    Basicaly I don’t feel like telling the world to stuff it, and I don’t feel like going with the ebs and flows of fashion and political correctness (whether jewish or otherwise) either, and I think thats what it means. We follow halacha, and we try very hard not to deviate from the fifth cheilek (commone sense).

    I dunno how to put it more exactly than that. I’m really not in to mission statements. We observe mitzvos and are an observant jew in the real world I guess, no hermeticaly sealed societies allowed.

  2. Apikoras?

    Just kidding! Either traditional or hafifnik–depends on to whom I am speaking and my mood. (Aka, do I actually want to offend the person. You would be surprised how often the answer is ‘yes’).

  3. This is like asking someone if they are a democrat or a republican. The question really should be “What’s the issue?” Depending on the issue I suppose you could call me a a right of middle moderately left leaning conservative liberal with libertarian high notes tempered by traditional to the right but left of too much to the right frum Orthodox modernity, with a touch of chassidus tempered by Western European pragmaticism and a few high notes of Eastern European “taam.” Sometimes machmir. And that’s on Monday. Ask me again on Tuesday and it might depend on what store or practice someone has decided to pick on.

  4. right wingers have their kefirot too. (for instance, the whole kolleleit supporting the world. The gemorah explicitly rejects that idea, but you still hear right wingers espousing it anyway.) (something like shabbos daf 104 or something)

    don’t make the mistake to think that they don’t.

  5. LWY – I was going to say…! 😉

    Um, I’m going with normal or, as G put it recently to me, “[Whatever happened to being] a normal frum Jew.”

    Ironically, someone made me finally change my “religious views” on Facebook yesterday from “I hate Orthodox Jews most of the time” to anything else. I was too lazy to think of anything so I went with “not in a box Orthodox”. My (charedi) cousins in Israel claimed that I did things specifically in a way that nobody would be able to label me; that’s probably rather true.

  6. I’m Flatbush frum, but heimish.

    I don’t fit into the cookie cutter perfectly, but I’m close enough that no vital bits are getting sliced.

  7. Everyone complains about labels and how superficial they are…but the truth is, they are very practical! Just like if you have hundreds of files that you need to store, assigning an arbitrary yet practical system of labels will help you if you ever need to reference one! Same with shidduchim; of all the boys and girls floating around out there, how do we know who to go out with? Therefore, we have to ‘file’ them under categories; ie, Yeshivish, modern orthodox, etc…otherwise what would you base a shidduch on?
    For example, I am looking for a boy with a ‘plan’ (bad4, thats a whooole other topic for ya…). So even though it doesn’t say much about a guy, that is the label I use so people will red me the right type!

  8. Like SaraK, I also don’t fit into any one category… totally out of the box/square/any one categories.
    It makes things a bit difficult to explain. Just Jewish.

  9. Bad4 – You put up a post like this asking for our classifications – how about sharing with us your own??

  10. I could beg out by claiming to be “out of the box” like so many, but I’d like to know: out of which box?
    So instead I’ll consider myself ultra-orthodox with a liberal twist

  11. “Ultra-orthodox with a liberal twist” — I like it.

    Can I steal it and say that I’m Modern Orthodox liberal with a wanta-be machmir twist? Or is that too much for a Frumster profile?

  12. I call myself “modern yeshivah”. Modern with a yeshivah/BY background. I dont like “modern yeshivish” b/c although im from BK and went to BY im not nor was I ever at all yeshivish.

  13. I could beg out by claiming to be “out of the box” like so many, but I’d like to know: out of which box?
    So instead I’ll consider myself ultra-orthodox with a liberal twist

    Oooh, begging out. [hurt look] 😛 Out of all the boxes except the “out of the box” box, duh.

    UO with a liberal twist? I don’t think that works under classic definitions of UO, so care to define the UO part and what twists you refer to? 🙂

  14. –I apologize in advance for those to whom this is not relevant, hopefully there are at least a couple people out there who will get it:

    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
    Little boxes, little boxes,
    Little boxes, all the same.
    There’s a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same.

    And the people in the houses
    All went to the university,
    And they all got put in boxes,
    Little boxes, all the same.
    And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers
    And business executives,
    And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same.

    And they all used to own TVs,
    And daven in one big Shul ,
    And they all have pretty children,
    And the children go to school.
    And the children go to summer camp
    And no more to the university,
    And they all get put in boxes
    And they all come out the same.

    And the boys go into learning,
    And marry, and raise a family,
    And they all get put in boxes,
    Little boxes, all the same.
    There’s a black one and a white one
    Perhaps a blue one but no more colored ones
    And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same.

  15. Now then, labels…

    I see more and more every day that my label has been discontinued. As for why that is, I wish to God that I knew…I truly wish that I knew.

  16. G, Just old enough to remember Pete Seeger singing the original and why Reynolds wrote it, and you’re right, it fits perfectly.

  17. I had a feeling some of the words were changed… 😀

    What was your label that is discontinued?

    Well what’s the definition of UO that belies a liberal twist?

  18. This is quite the toughie since I have an extremely mixed background. One side is chassidish, the other Modern Orthodox. My parents are a mixed marriage, and I am clearly a product of two very different backgrounds.
    Although I’d love to say Modern Orthodox, I still have some Bais Yaakov kool-aid in my system 😦
    I guess you can read my blog and try to figure it out…when you do, lemme know

  19. My label? “Out of Townish.” 😛 There aren’t many Orthodox Jews in my hometown, and until I started NCSY, I didn’t really have anything/anyone to compare with. And even then, it took me until high school to really start picking up on distinctions (and it drove me crazy how the MO and yeshivish crowds were constantly sniping at each other).

    So…me? I care about halacha, but I didn’t grow up with all of the social constructs and trappings of yeshivishness, and quite frankly, I think a lot of it is unnecessary and stupid. As my friend said to me, “Scraps, it’s not that you’re yeshivish…you’re just very frum.” 🙂

  20. B4S – I think he’s decrying the discontinuation of “normal”.

    And I went to Chofetz Chaim for high school – and left. You can’t answer my Q’s with Q’s. 🙂

  21. I think he’s decrying the discontinuation of “normal”.
    Perish the thought that I should have mustered the emotional effort required to “decry” something. Honestly, who do you think you’re talking to?

    Perhaps…perhaps(!)…I lament.

  22. Heh. Knowing you, I’m guessing it’s more of a shrug, actually. The only things people in the G family lament about relate to the Cleveland Browns. 😉

  23. >>And I went to Chofetz Chaim for high school – and left. You can’t answer my Q’s with Q’s.<<

    Why not? Isn’t that a Jewish trait? 😉

  24. bad4:

    if its a jewish trait then go and vote for my offering in Dov bears current motto of orthodox judaism contest 🙂

    (vote for me!)

  25. I am what would happen if someone lived out of town but attended very in-town schools. How’s that?

    DovBear’s contest?

  26. he has a poll going on to select the best “motto for orthodox judaism”.

    If you think answering questions with questions is such a vernerable and important tradition, then go vote for mine!


  27. I like what Elitzur said.

    But I also don’t like these “ropes of sand” (George Herbert, The Collar), so I’d call myself a “Chossid of Hashem.”

    Grew up in a BY community with a Chassidish (rEbbish on both sides! We’re royalty, dude 🙂 )family, and no matter how differently I may think or act, will always consider myself a proud product of their education and upbringing. I think it’s juvenile when we all want to proclaim that we are “different.” There is no need for us to say that- of course we are all different. I will misquote here: “K’shem She’Partzufeihem Shonos, Kach Da’ateihem Shonos.” No one ever expected us to be alike. There are as many paths to Hashem as there are humans. no one person is expected to follow a certain life. He has his own unique mission apart from the rest of humanity, custom planned for him. We is not expected to be the best Moshe Rabbeinu, as R’ Zushe said- we is expected to be the best us. And one of the things that I love about blogging is this: no matter how different we are, no matter what we may wear or do or think or say, no matter how we argue it out on blogosphere, we are all a FAMILY, one big brotherhood of sisters and brothers, all of us trying to get close to our Father. (Lion King:) We are One- a part of each other.

  28. B4S – More curiosity than anything, actually. Oh, and that you’ve been avoiding to answer. But if you’re really uncomfortable doing so, drop it, sok, sorry. You can always email a response instead if you’d like.

  29. Not really. I’m ultra-orthodox with deep shades of yeshivishness but I don’t think it’s the “right” or “best” way to be a Jew, and I quite like some of the more centrist orthodox ideas. Happy?

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