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If current trends continue, the strictly-Orthodox will constitute the majority of British Jews by 2050.

The Haredi community first took root in Britain in Gateshead at the end of the 19th century, when a small group of Jews from Lithuania docked in Newcastle upon Tyne.

'They conduct themselves like madmen,’ railed a denunciation by the rabbinical authorities of the day, 'and explain their behaviour by saying that in their thoughts they soar in the most far-off worlds.

In many ways they are a community frozen in aspic - a repository of life as it was lived in 19th century Eastern Europe, where tradition is held sacrosanct and modernity is largely scorned.

It is a deeply conservative community that venerates religious learning above all else and in which Yiddish is the primary language.

A report by the Board of Deputies of British Jews in 2008 estimated the size of Britain’s strictly Orthodox community at close to 30,000 people, around 10 per cent of the nation’s Jewish population.

Within the Jewish community at large, the Haredi have traditionally been regarded as , eccentric, inward-looking - some would say religious extremists.

With all of the great centres of Orthodox Jewish scholarship in Europe having been destroyed during the Holocaust, Gateshead became the largest such centre outside the United States and Israel.

It remains the principal centre of learning for the Haredi in Britain.

Appalled at what they regarded as the laxity of the local synagogue, they established their own on the other side of the river.

They built Britain’s first yeshiva (an institution for Torah and Talmudic study), a women’s seminary, and a kollel - a centre of rabbinical studies for married men.

I say to them, in the morning after you go to pray, go out for a brisk walk...’ He laughed.

'“Got no time....”’ While mainstream Judaism in Britain is in decline, as people 'marry out’ and abandon the faith, the Haredi community is expanding at a phenomenal rate.

A community where television, secular newspapers and visits to the cinema are forbidden, where the internet is frowned upon, and where outsiders are treated guardedly.

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