In an article on Ynet entitled "Who is charedi?" at http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3619172,00.html, Tali Farkash, a charedi journalist who works for Ynet, responds to this question as posed by her colleagues at the paper specifically in connection to Tzvia Greenfield, the new MK for the Meretz party. In attempting to answer that question, she postulates different yardsticks by which to answer the question. At the root of her problem is actually the very definition of what it means to be charedi, specifically as distinct from any other form of Orthodoxy. Her main challenge against Ms. Greenfield actually seems to be a problem that many within Orthodoxy may have; the question perhaps should have been: how could anyone Orthodox support Meretz? Nevertheless that is not the question and this, perhaps, brings up a greater issue. So often when people attempt to define charedi positions, they develop arguments that simply apply to all Orthodoxy thus resulting in a lack of clarity of what really are the points of distinction between the different factions within Orthodoxy.
Of course, we could ask: do we need this clarity in the first place? The problem is that as long as we use definitions such as charedi, a lack of clarity only furthers the problems we encounter due to a lack of understanding of what we truly believe. Someone could even challenge Ms. Farkash for calling herself charedi while working for the chiloni Ynet. I have seen people argue for an individual to accept the view of a certain faction within Orthodoxy because of some argument that they make only in the name of their faction when, in reality, it is actually a basic principle maintained by all Orthodoxy. I have also seen the opposite whereby one expresses a view that is only maintained by one faction of Orthodoxy in a manner that implies that it is fundamental to all Orthodoxy. I actually think labels are important but specifically as shorthand to understand what a person's philosophical, halachic and hashkafic viewpoints may be. Otherwise they are worse than useless, beading dissent and sinat chinum. As such, the question of who is charedi has some merit but only if we know what it being distinctly expressed by this term.
Returning in conclusion to Ms. Farkish's article, the only measure that she mentions that may be specific to the charedi definition is the acceptance of a certain authority. In this regard, I could see an argument that could maintain that Ms. Greenfield is not really charedi. But you know what's interesting. On the site of article are a picture of Ms. Greenfield and Ms. Farkash. Which one do you think looks more charedi? Of course Ms. Greenfield is actually also Dr. Greenfield with a Ph.D. in philosophy so isn't labelling her charedi problematic in the first place? Ms. Farkash, though, doesn't really mention this. I think in the end what I am really trying to say is: who cares? The term charedi seems to be used by someone as they seem fit, with their own agenda. Thus it is really meaningless. Which may be the greatest problem for it is simply a term used by someone to further their own agenda -- either by getting people to support a position because it is charedi or getting someone to challenge a position because it is charedi. Why not simply think and evaluate matters on its merit rather than its label?
In the end who cares if Dr. Greenfield is charedi or not It only matters if the term charedi itself has meaning and then it only really matters if an answer to that question really affects our understanding and our need to know.
Rabbi Ben Hecht