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How would one explain the distinctions between datim, chasidim, and charedim, especially to an American Jew who didn't know much about the Israeli religious spectrum? In particular, are all chasidim charedi?

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It's a good question (and +1 from me), but I hate these questions. Labels, schmabels. Alas, in Israel it's a big part of the culture. –  msh210 Oct 9 '11 at 18:46
    
Why stringency-chumrah and minhag but not names or communities? –  Double AA May 13 '13 at 3:25

2 Answers 2

While there might be some differences in customs and halachic positions, all of these groups believe in following the Shulchan Aruch. I would say that the biggest difference between Dati and Chareidi is that Dati men will generally get jobs to support their families and will join the army. Chareidim, including Chassidim, usually emphasize the importance of full time kollel torah study over everything else for men, and if men need to work for financial reasons this is looked down on, and joining the army is viewed as if you are abandoning the Torah.

Chassidim as a subset of Chareidim are followers of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples.

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-1. Re "Chareidim, including Chassidim, usually emphasize the importance of full time kollel torah study over everything else for men, and if men need to work for financial reasons this is looked down on": if that's true in Israel, it's very surprising. Stateside, at least according to my impression, one big difference between chasidim and others is that the set of those who learn exclusively includes few chasidim: chasidim work. Re "joining the army is viewed as if you are abandoning the Torah": I suspect very, very few people view it that way. –  msh210 Oct 9 '11 at 18:39
    
The culture in the US is certainly different, I say as a Chasid with a job. Few in my community study in Kollel for more than a year or two. In Israel it is different. As for "joining the army is viewed as if you are abandoning the Torah" I must disagree with you. –  follick Oct 9 '11 at 19:32
    
@msh210 surprising as it is, that is the case here. Sadly, American Chasidim (and other chareidim) that make aliyah are often confused by this, and by the time they realize the difference they are already part of the Israeli Chareidim. Historically, this goes back to kaspei chaluka, but that is of course not the whole story... And yes, most (almost all, though that is slowly changing a bit) Chareidi communities view going to the army as "going off the path". –  AviD Oct 10 '11 at 8:51
    
@follick I agree almost completely, though there are other aspects of course. However, one point that is not accurate is that Chassidim are not a proper subset of Chareidim - there are plenty of "Dati Leumi" that are Chassidish. As you said, followers of Baal Shem Tov, and his way of life and Judaism. Not necessarily congruent with being Chareidi. –  AviD Oct 10 '11 at 8:53

Datim is generally the equivalent of Modern Orthodox in the US.

Charedim is an umbrella name for Chasidim, Yeshivish and any other variety of strict Orthodox who try to observe Jewish Laws and customs (e.g. the Shulchan Aruch and early commentaries) to the letter.

Chasidim are in the Chareidi category with an emphasis on minhagim which are largely based on Kaballah (even when sometimes infringing halachah). Additionally, Chasidim try to maintain a uniqueness and separation of the contemporary street a.k.a. Hisbadlus, and avoid exposure to non-Jewish values and ideas, like sports, TV and other hobbies which are otherwise permissible but have cultural implications and may lead one to be less connected to G-d and may hinder religious observance. This has been a major factor in the relatively low drop-out levels from chasidism compared to other groups.

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Do Modern Orthodox Jews not try to observe Jewish Laws and customs to the letter? –  Curiouser Oct 9 '11 at 17:19
    
anonYY, welcome to the site. I hope you stick around and enjoy it. If you register your username, the site can keep track of all your contributions as being yours. This will also make your use of the site more enjoyable (a bunch of side benefits kick in because the site knows you're you). –  msh210 Oct 9 '11 at 18:12
    
What Curiouser said. More, I'm not convinced that the dividing line for what people call "charedi" is the same as the line for what people call "Modern Orthodox". Finally, I think what people call "dasi" includes what people call "charedi", in which case "Datim is generally the equivalent of Modern Orthodox in the US" is incorrect anyway (unless you're including so-called "charedim" among so-called "Modern Orthodox"). –  msh210 Oct 9 '11 at 18:43
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Indeed, considering @Curiouser's point, I'd describe it somewhat differently: Datim = Modern Orthodox (following halachah and minhag to the letter); Chareidim = that, plus hisbadlus; Chassidim = that, plus kabbalistically-based minhagim. –  Alex Oct 9 '11 at 18:44
    
@Alex, so post it as an answer. –  msh210 Oct 9 '11 at 18:45

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