How would you define “frum”?

From Ohr Somayach:

“Frum is a Yiddish word. It originally meant “pious.” In Europe, when all Jews were Torah-observant, “frum” meant one who was exceptionally religious and righteous.

Today, when so many Jews are not Torah-observant, “frum” has come to mean anyone who believes in the Torah and is observant of its laws.”

These days it seems everyone has their own way of defining it. Ohr Somayach’s definition is too broad for my taste, but just what does “frum” mean? I don’t like using the term, preferring the term religious, but then again, what I consider religious, someone else might label as “modern”.

So, over to you, readers. How do you define frum, or religious? How about Yeshivish, Chareidi or Chassidic? What does Modern Orthodox mean to you? Reform, conservative, conservadox, liberal?

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27 responses to “How would you define “frum”?

  1. Anyone who is Orthodox is “frum” in my book, regardless of the type of Orthodoxy they subscribe to.

  2. All I know about is frum here to there. It’s all pious in the sky to me.

  3. Growing up “frum” meant anyone shomer shabbos (sabbath observant) & shomer kashruth (observing dietary laws) which can range from the most Modern Orthodox/Conservadox to the most Charedi (ultra-Orthodox)

  4. To me frum, orthodox and religious all mean the same thing, someone who is outwardly shomer shabbos and mitzvos. Modern Orthodox and other terms are more confusing to me, I sometimes wonder what I am. For now I describe myself as Yeshivish Modern, I’m not really sure if that’s accurate though.

  5. I prefer observant over “frum” or “religious.” Much more quantifiable. Find the different sect labels far less useful.

  6. I will not try to define “frum”. It can be defined positively (God fearing ) but it has negative connotations (outward…)

    But Modern Orthodox or Centrist Orthodox like all Orthodoxy at is base should be a 100% commitment to Halacha

    Where MO differs is the “optional areas”. Once again the optional area cannot undermine the commitment to Halacha

    One Example: A math genius going to a top Math Program in in a University with a smaller Jewish community there is a risk. If the risk is so great then it would become a problem.

    A difference between some branches of Orthodoxy is how much “risk” they are willing to take. For some ZERO risk. Keep in mind even risk for good. Like fearing chametz more than loving matza.

  7. YC – what do you mean? The difference between levels of “orthodoxy” as I see it are the “chumras” (stringencies) one takes over the other. It isn’t a question of risk, it is a questions of trusting one’s self and being open-minded. The less they trust themselves, the more strict they will be, if they trust themselves they can be lenient. After all, Mitzvot D’Rabanan l’Kula. If you look at what are called “charedi” communities today and what they were like 50 years ago, they are worlds apart! I’ve asked my grandparents what it was like in Europe. There was no separate seating at weddings (gasp!). People worked for a living, and learned in their spare time.
    I don’t think the word “frum” has negative or positive connotations. It simply means “observant,” as I understand it and has nothing to do with level of observance.

    • Jess
      I am happy for you the word Frum does not also have negative connotations.Some of the things you refer to in the first half of your comment are the negative aspects of “frum” to me.

      I was trying to focus on MO. Like TO said, “different sect labels far less useful”. But if I were to contrast MO from Charedi: I would concentrate the area of “reshut”: going the college as an example I used. The area of reshut is not a free for all, halacha must be the anchor there too. Without it, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the the roof:)

      • I disagree. Going to college is not something with which you use to measure your observance. What would you tell my charedi relatives who choose to college/grad school and have careers? My uncle who is the head of an ICU unit and a strict Bostoner Chassid?
        And a better question I have, with all this sitting and learning, where are the chidushim? and why has the level of learning not increased in 30 years, when it was common to get college degrees and learn in yeshiva in tandem? All these boys, sitting and learning, what is there to show for it. I know what goes on in places like the Mir, and most of it is not learning. Is that frumkeit?

        • Jess
          I never said anything about measuring anyone’s level of observance? That is God’s job (or one of them).
          I said when two observant people: both math geniuses, where their best work with be when they are young and surrounded by other geniuses. Two different decisions can be made depending on the “risk” they are willing to take in the area of reshut.
          (I think and hope in the end we are not disagreeing that much if at all. You do seem to be more knowledgeable about those to the right of MO than I )

  8. “Frum” was once described to me as:

    * Shomer shabbat
    * Shomer kashrut
    * Shomer arayot (including taharat hamishpacha)

    I always add to this list, “Honest” (as in business, relationships, etc).

    It’s not a bad list, but it’s also not a good list because anyone can poke holes in it by looking through the shulchan aruch and picking a few items and say “well … if you don’t do this, that, and the other thing, you most definitely can’t be frum”.

  9. Well, actually “fromm” means to be pious in your heart and has nothing to do with outwardly signs of “orthdoxy”.

    Today, they speak of “frum world” etc. and clearly refer to a community that displays certain visible signs. It has nothing to do any more with the “feelings of the heart”.

  10. I hate labels of any kind… They are too general and really no one fits into any one label.

  11. My rebbe always used the term disparagingly, as meaning someone prone to shows of surface piety. it’s opposite, someone who was truly pious but disdained show was “ehrlich”

  12. “In Europe, when all Jews were Torah-observant . . .”

    historical revisionism at its best from ohr sameyach.

    • Why so cynical? Everyone knows that the shtetl was heaven on earth – no intermarriage, everyone went to minyan 3x day, all kept the strictest of kosher standards, no intermarriage (Fiddler on the Roof is a bald-faced lie!),all the kids went to day school until age 18,and then from 18 and on went to kollel.Then they were married and the fathers-in-law supported them.

  13. What— nobody has said this yet??

    I’m frum. Everyone to the right of me is crazy. Everyone to the left of me is lazy.


  14. You just opened up a discussion on a topic that can never be defined, everyone has there own way of looking at it and to each its different. Frum to me means modern orthodox to the Islamic extremists in meah shearim, excluding neturei karta, now what does modern orthodoxy mean to me is a whole different story.

  15. Heather’s definition, though not completely serious, gets close to the truth: “frum”, like “liberal” or “conservative” in the political world, is a relative term (though admittedly I have rarely heard the term applied to non-O Jews- but even so, now and then I hear the phrase “frum Conservative”).

  16. Shabbos, Kosher, Family Purity. Heather rocks my socks

  17. MARK:

    “Why so cynical? Everyone knows that the shtetl was heaven on earth”

    ohr sameyach’s lie isn’t just in regards to the shtetl of 100 years ago. i can’t think of a period in jewish history when there wasn’t some type of antinomian or heretical movement undermining the frum jewish world (however frum was defined by mainstream contemporaries). the only thing that changed in the shtetl 100 years ago is that there were multiple movements competing to undermine frum judaism.

  18. frum? frum where?

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