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Israeli Ultra-Orthodoxy

Credit and Credibility

Hadas Weiss

In recent decades, members of Israeli ultra-Orthodoxy have been exhibiting self-denial, stringency, and unwillingness to enter the workforce despite material hardships. Public discourse has long considered theirs an 'intentional poverty', yet the parsimoniousness attributed to them and its presumed intentionality are losing credibility. I use the concept of credit—in both its economic and its normative sense—to analyze social regulation among Israeli ultra-Orthodoxy. I look at the community's efficiency in redistributing its members' resources through interconversion of social and material goods. I go on to identify the limits that self-regulation comes up against under capitalist pressures and show how these pressures express themselves in ultra-Orthodox norms and practices. Finally, I relate credit and credibility to the larger issue of excess in the present day.