The Haredi Modesty Squad is a self-organized group that has earned certain recognition a posteriori, usually expressed through a silent, sometimes unwilling, acquiescence on the part of rabbinical authorities. These are small units, quasi-gangs, of young Haredi activists who patrol Haredi neighborhoods, employing threats and sometimes physical force.
Written By Professor Gideon Aran
Their victims are located through informers or through observations that zero-in on signs of non-conformism like a greased hair, a back-tilted cap, standing in a nonchalant pose in front of a kiosk, and ogling girls. A classical object of their “treatment” is one who dares to keep company with a member of the opposite sex outside of the framework of marital relations.
The Modesty Squads are a mechanism that absorbs “negative” energies and diverts them into channels desired by community leaders. Members of these squads are usually hotheaded and physically tough and do not draw back from the use of brutal force. Their victims are usually physical as well, with a similar potential for action and violence. On both sides of the divide are located Haredi elements considered problematic because of their use of force.
While some employ muscles for the sake of the community’s law and order, others are considered deviants from this community’s norms precisely because of their tendency towards physical activism. The Modesty Squads’ activism and the resulting violence set in motion an autonomous dynamic, which may spread and get out of control and contradict Haredi interests. Only a thin, fragile and ill-defined line separates the champions of Haredism from the delinquent, saints from hooligans.
Taken from “Body, Violence and Fundamentalism: The Case of Jewish Ultra-Orthodoxy” By Prof. Gideon Aran.