What Characteristics Distinguish Orthodox Jews From Hasidim?

Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of my wife’s Doctoral students. He practices in Wisconsin but near enough to Chicago to have Orthodox Jews come in for treatment. Of those, he sees some who wear the same clothing as their ancestors did in the 18th century but he also sees some who dress in modern clothing. Some of those in modern clothing wear a skullcap, some not. He is writing a thesis profiling the nature of Orthodox Jews as a “vulnerable population” in the sense that the term “vulnerable population” is used in the health services profession.


After reading the latest draft of his paper, it was pretty clear that the student was fuzzy on the difference between modern Orthodox Jews and Jewish Pietists (Hasidim). And he was attributing behaviors and beliefs peculiar to the Hasidim, to the larger population of Orthodox Jews which rendered his paper, as a scholarly work, a complete mess.

I gave him a quick rundown about where, on the continuum of Jewish belief, his patients fell. And gave him my own thumbnail formula for deciding who is ‘Orthodox’ and who is a ‘Pietist’.
(With only the Pietists a part of a larger ‘vulnerable population’.)

So my question to my friends who might have an informed opinion on the matter is, “What criteria would you say distinguishes a member of one of these groups from the other?”

How can my wife’s student tell who’s part of the ‘vulnerable population’ and who is not?

(And remember, it’s perfectly okay to ask the patients questions about their beliefs. Questionnaires are often used. Asking “Will you be discussing your treatment with your tzaddik?” is perfectly okay, if it helps to more accurately assess the patient’s health risks.

Anybody’s opinions are welcome.