Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A List of the Labels

I've mentioned before that when I was growing up there were basically three designations for religious observance: frum, chasidish, not frum. Somehow we all understood what these labels actually stood for. Well, Klal grew and so did the number of labels that are used to describe types of religious observance. I've been asked if there really are so many different labels. I'm asking you to help in putting together a listing of today's labels/designations for observance. Let's see them all in black and white.

I'm starting off the list with the offerings below. As you give me other designations I'll add them to the list.

MO--modern orthodox
LWMO--left wing modern orthodox
RWMO--right wing modern orthodox
CO--centrist orthodox
MOM--modern orthodox machmir
YUMO--Yeshiva University modern orthodox
CL--chareidi light
YI--Young Israel type
BA--Bnai Akiva type
FFB--frum from birth
BT--baal teshuvah
BTFB--born into baal teshuva family and frum from birth
OOTF--out of town frum


Anonymous said...

You can add:

OP - Orthoprax
H- Humanist

and of course, within chassidic you can add a couple of dozen. Even within a particular branch of chassidism, you could break it down further. For example, within Lubavitch, you can get messicist and non-mesichist.

Ultimately, you can break it down so far until everyone is in a group of one. I'm not quite sure the point of this exercise, although it is human nature to try to label and categorize since its one of the ways the mind tries to make sense of a chaotic world.

Aviva said...

You can also add OB for Observant. I've also noticed at least a few people who are using Lakewood as a religious designation--he/she is a Lakewood type.

Aron said...

You missed BH--Black Hat, also sometimes further divided into BHY--black hat yeshivish.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget BJ - Blogging Jews

Leahle said...

You have the general labels used a lot in shidduchim of L=Learners and E=Earners.Lots of people who think they know how and what type of religious someone is based on those two labels for a guy and which one a girl chooses.

efrex said...

As Aviva noted, there's a tendency to qualify labels by geographic region, e.g., Monsey yeshivish vs. Flatbush yeshivish vs. Lakewood yeshivish...

There's probably a dozen or more labels within the non-Orthodox camp as well: I don't know the Reform movement well, but the Conservative movement has jumped on the "sub-group" bandwagon quite strongly. There's the egalitarian subset, the "drive to shul on shabbat" subset, the academic subset, etc.

I've never heard of YUMO before, though: from my experience, YU students run the gamut from charedi to LWMO.

I don't have enough words to describe my antipathy for these labels (certainly when it comes to shidduch selections), but I do think that they reflect a growing complexity/diversity in our hashkafic outlooks. Many hashkafic views that were once inherently linked have now become decoupled, so that a person's view on Zionism is not necessarily a good indicator of his views on secular culture, secular education, or women's issues (as an example).

This is also a very American-centric list. Israeli hashkafot are going through a similar subdivision, with categories like Dati Leumi, Chardal, B'nei Akiva, Masorati, etc. having philosophies that are not really echoed by any American hashkafah.

Tuvi said...

Efrex, it's scarey enough just thinking of how many groups we have here in the US and then look at how Israel is dividing itself. And i imagine that other countries with Jewish populations, like England, also have their labels and divisions that might not fit exactly with the ones here.

When we moved to Jersey a few people from shul eventually told me that they were happy that I wasn't as 'Brooklyny' as they thought I might be. I remember telling them that Brooklyn was too broad a label. To be accurate they had to talk about Boro Park or Flatbush or Williamsburg. Since we originally lived in Flatbush, one of the people joked that I must be Flatbush Light or Flatbush Left Wing.

It's a lot easier to give my political philosophy and label myself politically--and that's not all that easy--then to give someone a meaningful label to put on me to describe me as a Jew.

Trudy said...

Not sure how you spell this but back in the day we used to talk about some people as being "far chnyohked"--I guess overly strict or full of every chumra defines it. It wasn't a compliment and people sure did not want to have this label.

Today we don't use that label anymore but there are groups with other more modern labels that fit the description. Only today they aren't considered outside of the norm. A whole lot of those people consider themselves as the norm and the rest of us are out of step.

I'll add this label that I've heard--shteeble people. Apparently for some davening in a shteeble as opposed to a 'big' shul indicates some kind of hashkafic or religious difference.

efrex said...

Trudy: The term "chnyok" is still used to describe an overly sanctimonious frummach, at least in my circles (The Ashkenazi MO community really must take back Yiddish; it's an absolute disgrace that the most expressive language in our history has fallen into such disuse).

I am possibly dating myself yet again, but I couldn't ever hear someone describe "shteeble people" without breaking into Country Yossi ("Come join us/ shteeble people are the happiest around/ everybody come join us/ yes, join the shteeble crowd")

Anonymous said...

how sad I find this post.
Personally, I'm Jewish. Torah is important to me.
'nuff said.

Mike S. said...

Please add DWL--disgusted with labels.

G6 said...

Oh, and don't you just love
FBWI - Frum, but "with it" ?

You also left out
TIDE - Torah Im Derech Eretz

And in the learner/earner category, of course there are new subdivisions as well:
A learner who works
A worker who learns
A learner with a plan


G6 said...

But wait!
There's more!

Long term learner
Short term learner

Lion of Zion said...

These aren't acronyms, but for subcategories used by Israeli shadchanim see my post here

Lion of Zion said...

I think btfb is disgusting

All the others do say something about the person. We cam argue about their utility or the demarcation btwn the groups or what they really mean.

But I can't imagine what btfb says about a person

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Conservadox.

Rivky said...

You also left off T for Traditional. Just looking at all these labels--and I don't think we are near all of them yet--is tgiving me a headache.

Lion I can tell you at least one thing that btfb will tell those who care about these things. If the birth parents are bt that doesn't mean that the grandparents are also bt or even frum to begin with. So for some, they don't want to start out a shidduch with a family that is this mixed in observance. They expect perfect going back for generations.

Lion of Zion said...


"Even within a particular branch of chassidism, you could break it down further. For example, within Lubavitch, you can get messicist and non-mesichist."

or gezhe vs. pre-war european latecomers vs. post-war BTs (who said chabad welcomes all jews?)


i can understand (but completely disagree) why people might reject a BT as a shidduch because of family "baggage" that comes with non religious parents. but because someone's grandparents aren't religious?

anyway, i hope they don't go back too far when investigating, because they might realize who avraham avinu's and sarah imenu's parents were