Agudat Israel: Literally translated as “Union of Israel.” Brought together German Neo-Orthodox Jews and Polish Hasidim into a single organization in 1912. Also known as Aguda.

Ashkenazi: Jewish person of central or eastern European descent. More than 80 percent of Jewish people today are Ashkenazim.

Askunim (sometimes spelled askanim): Religious authorities.

Avrechim: Married kollel students.

Ba’alei Teshuva: Returnees to religious observance.

Bais Yaakov School: a girls’ school loosely affiliated with the Bais Yaakov school system founded in interwar Poland (where Hasidic girls formed the majority).

Beth Medrash Govoha: Also called “Lakewood”. One of the largest advanced “higher” yeshivas in the world, with an enrollment of over 7,000 students. 

Chaptzem: Yiddish for “Grab him.” The name given to street patrols that were created in response to a sharp uptick in street crime in Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Da’at Torah: Literally translates as “knowledge of Torah.” A term expressing deference to Torah wisdom as transmitted by major rabbinical figures.

Gemach: Locally organized interest-free charitable organizations for Haredim.

Halakhah: Literally translated as “the way.” The code of Jewish law.

Haredi: Literally translates as “those in awe” or “those who tremble.” Today refers to ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Hasidic: Literally translates as “pietist.” A subgroup of Haredi Judaism that arose as a spiritual revival movement during the 18th century and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe. 

Hefker Velt: Yiddish. Literally translates as a “lawless world,” or a “world of chaos”; anarchy; chaos.

Klei Kodesh: Religious professionals who tend to receive low pay.

Kollel: Program that supports full-time study for married men with small stipends.

Machsike Hadas: Literally translated as “Upholders of the Faith.” First Orthodox political party; created in 1878. 

Masorti or Masortim: Traditionalists who are neither fully religious nor completely secular.

Mesivta: High schools for Haredi boys.

Minhag(im): Jewish customs.

Mizrachi(m): Jew(s) of Middle Eastern or North African origin.

Moserim: Traitors or disloyal informants.

Neo-Orthodox or Modern Orthodox: religious denomination, committed to a measure of social and cultural integration.

Off the Derech: Literally means going “off the path”; refers to abandoning the practices and strictures that define Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox living.

Posek: Arbiter of religious law.

Seminary: post-high school education for young women that typically lasts a year or two, after which they are expected to marry. 

Sephardic: Jews whose origins extend back to the Iberian peninsula.

Shas: An Israeli Haredi religious political party primarily representing the interests of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Founded in 1984 under the leadership of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi.

Shomrim: Formal street patrols first created in Williamsburg and soon after in other neighborhoods that were an effort to target and reduce street crime. 

Society of Scholars: A system in which most Israeli ultra-Orthodox men devote themselves to study over the course of their adult lives with state support.

Yeshivah: Elementary schools for Haredi boys; also, Talmudic academies for young men.

Yeshivish: a designation to a community that practices a commitment to halacha that is to the right of modern Orthodox but not ultra-Orthodox because of a greater willingness to interact with secular communities.