In Israel it is very common that frum Jews mostly have frum friends. Ba’ale’i Teshuva (newly religious Jews) may be an exception because they usually have secular parents, siblings and other family members. During and after their Teshuva (repentance) process, many Ba’ale’i Teshuva also prefer to associate with religious Jews rather than with the secular world.
Frum from birth Jews already come from a religious background. Meaning, they went to religious schools, Yeshivot, seminaries, etc. Hardly anyone can escape the secular world because one has to go the bank, the post office, various government institutions, etc. However, it is a fact that religious Jews have religious friends and are not necessarily looking for secular friends.
The same is happening on “the other side”. Whereas secular Jews may have a couple of national religious (Mizrachi) friends, it rarely ever happens that Haredim have secular friends. But, as I said, it could happen in Ba’ale’i Teshuva circles. For instance, when a Jew turned haredi and you see him walking around with his secular parents or siblings. But it is very unlikely that frum from birth Haredim have secular friends.
What could be the reason for this behaviour?
Although secular and religious Israelis work together, they don’t really befriend each other in a way that they invite each other for Shabbat. They just don’t become really close friends.
I have found myself in the same situation many times. Working with secular and religious Jews. At first, it drove me nuts when the secular walked in on a Sunday morning and immediately started to talk about what they did on Shabbat. Baking a cake or traveling. I have to say that I got used to this after a while and it stopped bothering me.
While working in Tel Aviv many years ago, I had a pretty bad experience. A female co-worker constantly accused me of being a religious fundamentalist. The reason: Because I live in Jerusalem.
I hadn’t told her anything about Judaism and our conversations were related to our job. However, she was a radical leftist and in her eyes, everybody coming from Jerusalem is either a settler, Kahane or Mea Shearim.
I have to say that such a stupid behaviour is not very common and I have only come across it once. On the other hand, this kind of behaviour wouldn’t necessarily happen within the religious community. According to my experience, it is mostly the secular community bashing religious Jews and not vice versa. Some secular Jews feel the urge to bash religious Jews.
But what is the reason for religious Jews preferring religious friends?
People usually make friends with others who share the same interests and even opinions. I have nothing against people with other opinions but I also wouldn’t like to get into discussions or fights all the time. Why putting oneself in a situation where you constantly have to justify yourself?
When religious people go out they go to a kosher cafe or restaurant. As soon as a secular Jew recommends a restaurant, you have to check whether the place is kosher. And if not, your secular friend may be offended when you don’t show up. The same issue comes up when your secular friends is inviting you to his home, as his kitchen is probably not kosher.
Secular and religious Jews have definitely a lot of topics to talk about but when it comes to politics, Judaism or even certain morality or modesty standards, people can easily end up in a fight.
Another reason may be the language. Religious people share the same kind of language. No, I am not talking about Hebrew but the religious “language” such as Torah insights, Halacha or Mussar. Secular Jews wouldn’t even understand the vocabulary and, at the same time, frum Jews wouldn’t understand the secular vocabulary either. Example: Slang.
There are many reasons and the more I mention, the more I realize that this issue probably exists in every society. Certain groups of people like to associate with each other and not too much with outsiders. We all make friends with people we can mostly relate to. This is the way we are.