A large Persian (Iranian)/Jewish community can be found in posh Beverly Hills, California. On the other coast, thousands of less-monied Russian Jewish immigrants live near the boardwalk in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.
Haredi is the most conservative expression of Orthodox Judaism. The term “ultra-Orthodox” is often used to describe the Haredim, the people who practice this form of Judaism. The term isn’t good, as it carries a derisive hint of extremism. These are devout people, not extremists.
There are approximately 360,000 Haredi Jews in the United states, which comprises about 7.2% of the total Jewish-American population. A branch of Haredi Judiaism is Hasidic. All Hasids are Haredi Jews, but not all Haredi are Hasids.
When most people think of “Orthodox Judiaism” in the United States, they are usually thinking of the Hasidim. The Hasidim are different from other branches of Haredi Judaism with their emphasis on the importance of the ‘inner itent’ of all religious obligations. The good Hasid attempts to invest even the smallest, most quotidian activity with pious intention.
The Hasidim also differ from other forms of Haredi Judaism in elevating the position of a single “Rebbe” within Hasidic society. The Rebbe is the community leader and “zaddick,” (“holy man). The Rebbe serves as a bridge between man and God. The Rebbe blesses proposed marriages, provides guidance in choosing occupations, and is the spiritual center of the community. The Hasidim, which originated in the early 18th Century in what is now Ukraine, have a more mystical, rather than scholarly, approach to Judaism than other Haredic sects.
Large Hasidic communities of several thousand people in the U.S. are located in the Crown Heights, Williamsburg, Boro Park, and Flatbush/Midwood sections of Brooklyn.
The word, Haredi, derives from the Hebrew, and is translated into English as “one who is fearful before God.” The Hebrew word for fear is “harada.” The term is based on Isaiah 66:2 from the “Tanakh,” the Hebrew Bible:
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.”
Among the Haredi people, Yiddish is the colloquial language spoken and written at home and in civic life. Hebrew is generally used only in strictly religious contexts, like Synagogue or Yeshiva (religious school), or other religious services.