Hasidic Vs Orthodox. What’s the difference? Let me get right down to it: Hasidic Jews are a sect/movement within Orthodox Judaism. All Hasidic Jews are Orthodox, but not all Orthodox Jews are Hasidic. There are various sects within Orthodox Judaism and the Hasidic movement is only one of them.
If you are not very familiar with Orthodox Judaism, I will try to give a brief breakdown of the different sects (by the way, Orthodoxy is only one sect within Judaism as a whole). This is a bit of a simplification, but there are three major types of Orthodox Jews: Hasidic, Yeshivish/Litvish, and Modern Orthodox.
Let’s start with Hasidic. The Hasidic movement was founded in the 1700’s by the Baal Shem Tov. At that time, Orthodox Judaism had become an elitist movement that valued Torah learning and intellect. Those that were not Torah scholars often felt out of place and received little respect within the Orthodox world. The Baal Shem Tov tried to counteract that notion by emphasizing the value of each and every Jew, even those that had little time or ability to learn Torah. Instead, he emphasized fervent prayer, song, and the connection with a Rebbe (the leader of a Hasidic sect).
Today, Hasidic Jews are the strictest and most insular sect within Orthodox Judaism. They have many children, often learn Torah full-time, and live within very insular communities. Major Hasidic communities include Williamsburg and Monsey in the US, Antwerp in Belgium, and Jerusalem and Bnei Brak in Israel. Hasidic Jews have a very unique way of dressing. Almost all Hasidim wear long coats, black hats, and have side curls.
To make things even more complicated, within Hasidic Judaism there are many different sects, each with its unique style of dress and practices. Some of the major sects within Hasidic Judaism include Satmar, Chabad, Gur, Breslov, Toldos Aharon, and Belz.
Here is a picture of a Hasidic family in Brooklyn, New York:
And another picture of Hasidim, but this time in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem:
Yeshivish/Litvish Jews are another very strict sect within Orthodox Judaism and like Hasidim, are also referred to as “Haredi” or “Ultra-Orthodox” Jews. The movement started in Eastern Europe as a reaction to Reform Judaism. The Rabbis that started the movement were “The Chasam Sofer” and “The Vilna Gaon.” Both were tremendous Torah Scholars.
Litvish Jews emphasize Torah learning more than anything and many learn full-time. Major centers of Litvish Judaism include Lakewood in New Jersey, Brooklyn in New York, and Jerusalem and Bnei Brak in Israel.
Here is a picture of Litvish Jews in Jerusalem. Notice that the men are not wearing long coats and their hats have a completely different style than those worn by Hasidim.
Modern Orthdox Jews
Modern Orthodox Judaism is a sect within Orthodoxy that believes in combining Orthodox Judaism with the modern world. They believe in receiving both a Jewish and secular education. Most Modern Orthodox Jews have full-time jobs in the secular world and only learn Torah at nighttime or on weekends. In Israel, Modern Orthodox Jews serve in the Israeli army, unlike most Litvish or Hasidic Jews.
Major Modern Orthodox thinkers include Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. Modern Orthodox Jews live in cities across both America and Israel.
Here is a picture of Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein, a major Modern Orthodox Rabbi in Israel. Notice that he is not wearing a hat, he is clean shaven, and his yarmulke is knitted.