Orthodox Jews in the United States no longer want to be called ‘ultra’ because that rings too much of fanaticism.
The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), which represents more than 1,500 traditional rabbis, has promulgated the ‘Ultra Initiative’, an effort to get Jewish and secular media, and others to abolish the use of the term “Ultra Orthodox.” According to Yaakov Menken of the CJV, the word is disapproving and prejudiced. It is sufficient to describe the Haredi as a traditionally Orthodox Jewish community, the Catholic news agency Religion News Service noted.
Haredi Judaism is often described by the less politically correct name ‘ultra-Orthodox’ to indicate one of the two main directions within Orthodox Judaism. The other direction is modern Orthodox Judaism, but that term is less offensive. Haredi or Charedi literally means ‘fearing the word of G-d.’ ‘Ultra’ suggests extremism and fanaticism, and it is how the most conservative Jewish communities are known. The term is widely used in newspapers, on news sites and also on liberal Jewish internet sources. It usually refers to Hasidic Jews, or Jewish groups of Eastern European descent who are strictly traditional.
“Even Hamas or the Nation of Islam are not called ultra,” said Rabbi Dov Fischer of the CJV. “At a time when we carefully refer to demographic groups with their self-chosen names, such as Native American and African-American, the insulting term ultra-Orthodox does not make sense.”
Haredim want to be tolerant and show respect of other views, says Rabbi Moshe B. Parnes at RNS. But it is precisely those who want to get rid of ‘ultra’ who have received a new stigma in the coronavirus crisis because of the rejection of masks or the demand for separate medical treatment. [What they mean by this is anyone’s guess. -CJV]