Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

My Fashion Choices—and My Husband’s—Reveal the Risks of Looking Hasidic

How people treat us in public often depends on what we’re wearing on our heads, whether it’s my wig or his yarmulke

Print Email
Related Content

Searching for the Perfect Wig

Other Orthodox women cover their hair with beautiful sheitels. Why does mine make me look like Marge Simpson?

An Object of Desire?

As an Orthodox woman, I relish the freedom from ogling that modest dress offers—but it’s nice to be admired

Tights Squeeze

While Orthodox girls obsess about skirt length and hosiery choices, are we overlooking Judaism’s most important lessons about modesty?

Nine years ago, when I got married, I started to cover my hair. At home I chose comfortable fabric head-coverings. But in public I wore a sheitel, or wig, since wigs were considered de rigueur by most of the women I was becoming friends with in Brooklyn. After only a few years of being Torah observant, I had a sense that a woman’s choice of head-covering was a statement in a language I did not yet speak. So, I stayed bewigged in public with my friends, slipping out of my sheitel and into a headscarf only in the privacy of my own home, much the same way I kicked off my street shoes and slid into slippers.

Because it’s impossible to tell the difference between a good sheitel and real hair, my friends and I didn’t immediately stand out in public as Orthodox women—or even as Jews. But all that changed when I went out with my husband: Standing by his side, I quickly learned that there were risks to looking like a Hasidic Jew.

***

Taking the subway in New York City with my husband for the first time was like being pushed into a wall of ice. He is a big man—it’s not difficult to see that he once played ice hockey, football, and basketball. He’s also a former trophy-winning martial artist and, though he is really a very gentle, kind-hearted person, his appearance can seem intimidating. And yet, to some subway riders, with his beard, peyos, and yarmulke, he looks like nothing as much as a target.

Because he’d been dressing this way for quite a few years before we got married, he was used to the stares and occasional audible curses. I wasn’t.

“How can you stand this?” I asked.

“Stand what?”

“Some people are staring—no, glaring—at you. With hatred.”

He shrugged. “People are glaring at that other Orthodox Jewish guy over there, too.”

He was right. They were.

But I was never able to get used to the enormous difference between riding solo and incognito on the subway, looking like any other woman (except that every day is a good hair day when you wear a sheitel) when I was alone, versus traveling with my husband as part of a couple whose garb screamed “Hasidic.”

There were occasional reminders that even among the sophisticated, diversity-loving residents of my hometown, some kinds of diversity are less equal than others. A few years ago, my husband and I were headed to an appointment at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side. I stopped to look in a bookstore window. As we turned around, a sports-jacketed man, sockless, in expensive loafers, took aim and spit a perfect arc of phlegm a couple of inches from my husband’s feet. We just stood there, numb. The spitter smirked and walked away.

And, I’m sorry to say, over time there were several more instances, frequent enough that they now feel ordinary. For example: I wasn’t present, but I was pained to learn about the time when my husband was verbally harassed on the subway by a group of young men. They drew their hands across their necks to mime beheading and spouted slurs. Eventually, they got off the train.

Which is why neither we, nor anyone we knew, was surprised in the least by this recent beating on the street or this Orthodox Jew being harassed and threatened on the subway. We were only surprised that the police were called and were able to get there time to confront the gang. I know a few people—not just Jews—who’ve been verbally harassed on the subway, but usually the troublemaker wanders off on his own, especially if he’s ignored.

Another time, I was with my husband in our local health-food co-op when he was asked for ID. We were paying for our groceries by credit card. I’d been shopping at this store for a few years, and had never been asked for ID, even by the same clerk who was now confronting my husband. My husband, indifferent, pulled out his license, but I questioned the clerk, asking her why she had never asked me for ID but was asking him. She told me, in a monotone, that this was the co-op’s policy. We paid and left, but not before we heard her say to the customer in line behind us: Those people

Despite the camouflage of my wig, in public with my husband I became one of “those people.” And for quite a while, I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally up to the task.

***

I still wore a wig in public, still rode the train. Except for the very occasional covert stare—which every subway rider must endure as the price to pay for living in a city where people are too jadedly cosmopolitan to want to appear openly interested in anyone or anything—I felt invisible when I was alone. And I liked it that way.

But over time, the wig began to feel less like sensible camouflage and more like a counterfeit. So, I decided to swap my sheitel for a scarf despite the protests from my friends. (My husband was actually thrilled with my choice; he too, likes the honesty of a scarf or hat and when pressed, also admitted he prefers the way I look in them.)

It was as an outlier that I had decided to become religious, and my personality hasn’t changed all that much. I had always felt that my true self, my soul, was being by buried by living in the anti-religious, liberal milieu where I just about “passed” as an enlightened woman as long as I kept my mouth shut and didn’t disagree with secularism’s worship of myriad truths. And though for most of my life I was unable to articulate why I flinched at what felt to me to be condescension, even intolerance of my sophisticated thinking friends, I did at least know I wasn’t being true to my heart. After years of chasing after meaning, I had nowhere left to search for it except Orthodox Judaism and Chassidus.

Now I wanted to feel comfortable proclaiming my truth—“Here’s a Jewish woman who believes in Torah!”—and to me the wig was a whitewash, another way of passing. Also, I wanted to express solidarity with my visibly religious husband, with religious Jewish women, and with Jews in general. But mainly I was tired of what felt to me like compromise, equivocation—and artifice. I had been covering my hair with hair that looked like my own. A headscarf, unlike a wig, is obvious.

And yet, post-sheitel, I experienced an entirely different kind of reaction in public, one I wasn’t prepared for: Unlike the times I’d ridden the subway with my husband, people didn’t necessarily know I was Jewish—but they made an array of assumptions about me that were by turns innocuous, amusing, and unsettling. Sometimes on the train, I glance up from my book and catch someone quickly looking away. Not all of these looks are negative; in fact, the huge majority of them are blessedly neutral (or vaguely curious or even positive). And admittedly, these covert looks are what bored subway riders do—every New Yorker has experienced them. But since I’ve started to wear a shmatteh, as a friend from London calls headscarves, I feel exposed, different, vulnerable. On the subway, in Manhattan, in my co-op—everywhere—there’s a constant consciousness: I’m representing.

My first and earliest foray into “public scarfing” occurred when I traveled by bus to Ithaca, N.Y., to visit a friend. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible, so I wore a soft but voluminous headscarf and a cotton ankle-length skirt. As I boarded the bus, a woman a few years older than me (a Jewish college professor, I found out later), offered to help me carry my overnight bag. She practically escorted me to a seat and sat down in the aisle across from me. Then she introduced herself and a short while later launched into a confusing apology about American bias against Muslims, assuring me that in her classroom, she told the truth about Palestine. I smiled and reached out my hand to shake hers, telling her that I wasn’t Muslim, but Jewish and I was wearing a head-covering because I was Torah-observant.

She refused my hand and turned away, ignoring me for the rest of the trip.

There have been other occasions where I was mistaken for a religious non-Jew. Practically all the time, the exchange is brief or unimportant, so I don’t bother to correct false perceptions. I, too, have made false assumptions. Still, I feel like a mime on a tightrope; part of me wants to be invisible, unremarkable, yet obviously, since I now wear a headscarf, I want to be able to convey—proudly, without fear— that I’m a religious Jewish woman.

***

As much as serious-minded people generally dismiss fashion as trite, most agree that clothing has a deep importance in every time and place. In Judaism, wearing (or not wearing) some types of clothing is a mitzvah. Torah tells us the mitzvah of tzitzis, the fringes worn on a four-cornered garment. There’s the puzzling mitzvah to avoid wearing shatnez, a blend of linen and wool, except in the case of the kohen gadol, the high priest, who wore it during the Temple service. According to Jewish law, Jewish men cover their heads, and married Jewish women cover their hair. Both men and women are exhorted to be modestly dressed and cover parts of the body that are considered to be ervah, or nakedness. Perhaps most compelling for me is that the Midrash commends the Jewish slaves in Egypt for refusing to change their Jewish names and Jewish style of dress for Egyptian styles. All of these examples (and there are numerous others) are why, except for my teenage years, I probably had never thought so much about what I wore as when I first became Torah observant. And as it has for most religious Jewish women, choice of head-covering has required serious consideration on my part, not only because it makes a huge difference in how you look, but because within the Orthodox world, it’s a kind of code; it proclaims your community affiliation and religious outlook.

During the beginning of my head-covering experimentation period (which admittedly is ongoing as I enjoy the process), despite the outward change, I wasn’t intellectually or emotionally prepared for being confused, variously, with an Amish person, a new-agey Buddhist, a Hindu, and once in a cosmetics store, where I was chatting with a Muslim clerk, a Muslim.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Greenmarket in Union Square with a friend. She wore a rather hip mitpachat (an Israeli-style tichel) and I, a blue-and-green headscarf. Both of us caught the eye of another woman, wearing a professional suit and a modern-day take on a shpitzel (a silky headwrap named for very-obviously fake silk wiglet that is usually, but not always, worn beneath). Accompanying her was an older woman, who turned out to be her mother, who was not wearing a head-covering at all. We’d never seen each other before, but we all felt comfortable stopping and introducing ourselves, a kind of sisterly reunion amid the squash and turnips. At that moment, the occasional glare on the subway, or even the bigoted comment or two, seemed distant and utterly unimportant.

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

1 2View as single page
Print Email
Natan79 says:

Moshe wasn’t wearing a shtreimel in the desert. Most of what your community wears is Polish and Ukrainian clothes from 150-200 years ago. Not Polish-Jewish, but Polish. There’s nothing particularly Jewish about those clothes. Rather it reflects a very trite idea about tradition, which goes back about two-three generations – people know how their grandparents behaved, occasionally great-grandparents. Further than that, zero knowledge – certainly true for these fashion choices you describe.

By the way, your way of spelling words is from Yiddish, not Hebrew. I can tell you exactly why I have a negative reaction to Hassidic Jews. In Israel I was frequently lectured by Hassidic Jews while being an IDF soldier. They refused to do Israeli army service yet were lecturing me about how to be a Jew, including for the pronunciation of Hebrew words, with all the infuriating final s’es instead of t’s, all the emes instead of emet. I did not forgive them for their anti-Zionism – not then, not now. I couldn’t care less about their shtreimels (it was actually rather entertaining to see the Ukrainian fur hats worn under the Jerusalem sun).

I also saw Hassidic men asking secular women to move to the back of the bus, sexist with abandon. I remember how one day, a burly Hassidic fellow intimidated a middle-aged secular woman into moving to the end the bus. She left the seat free. The next stop, a young buxom frecha, ultra-skimpily dressed, showed up and promptly occupied the seat. The burly Hassidic fellow started his comedy again – muttering darkly, coughing, until the frecha said to him: “nu, motek, you have the coughs?”

So Ms. Zwolinski, you may not like the negative attention and I understand that. But keep in mind the hateful and bizarrely haughty behavior Hassidic Jews often have towards other Jews. If you like criticizing, look first at your community, where all too many are sexist and -certainly unforgivable for this Israeli citizen- anti-Zionist.

Lee Spaner says:

Dear Article writer, big deal. Join the club where everyone is worth nothing if you are jewish, me I gave up being jewish a long time ago when I found out it was all lies and people LQQKING for money and power. But ,HEY! good luck to you.

Natan79 says:

If you have arguments against mine, explain them. So far, your reply level is that of a anti-Zionist Neanderthal.

Looks like some of the commenters here would join in on the spitting. Sad to see how Jews can be their own worst enemies.

And for those who are actually open to this discourse: I don’t judge the entire secular community because some of them are bad people or some of them do things that really upset.

I also don’t judge the entire Muslim community because some of them do really evil things.

I also don’t judge the entire Christian community for the actions of the extreme right.

So before you go around judging every Hassid you meet because of bad experiences you’ve had or because of the negative you see in it, ask yourself if your judgement is how you work with other groups of people. If not, perhaps you should reevaluate the way you look at your fellow Jews.

David Sinai says:

Make Aliyah. Call Nefesh B’Nefesh and get out of Brooklyn.

Sprite1_1 says:

Why are so many of you so judgmental?
Why are you so eager to put people into little boxes with etched-in-stone labels?
Relax. Be tolerant. This is one woman’s experience. She is more like you than she is different.

miloslav veytsman says:

i didnt read the article, but i agree with most of what you said.

GilaB says:

Because, of course, nobody has ever discriminated against the visibly Haredi in Israel.

kweansmom says:

Nice article and a welcome addition to the growing number of Orthodox women writing about their lives, and challenging preconceptions and prejudices.

However, I have a few minor quibbles. First, if you think that walking around the streets on NYC on a hot summer day with your elbows and knees covered, wearing pantyhose and a good shaitl, that no one can tell you’re an Orthodox Jew, you’re kidding yourself. Might as well be comfortable in a pretty scarf.

Also, the first video you linked to was a robbery, not a hate crime. They stole his iphone. http://www.vosizneias.com/131792/

emes l'am says:

An excellent article. I also am very visible when I am walking around town. I must suggest that your husband respond aggressively to every remark, spit or push that comes his way unless he is facing overwhelming odds. Passivity in the face of this sort of bullying only invites more. I try to do the same and it has worked pretty well for me – accept when I have my small children with me or, as I said, the odds are overwhelming. Jews must fight. That is the truth of it.

Yosef ben Israel says:

I so agree that I feel the need to add a few words. Judaism is nothing about looking like a B&W pole of the 19th century but about observing the jewish laws. My ancestors looked liked Arabs in the middle of the Arabs, and they were observant Jews. These disguised people are just caricatures of Jews.

Yosef ben Israel says:

I so agree that I feel the need to add a few words. Judaism is nothing about looking like a B&W pole of the 19th century but about observing the jewish laws. My ancestors looked liked Arabs in the middle of the Arabs, and they were observant Jews. These disguised people are just caricatures of Jews.

Rebecca K. says:

I love this essay.

I’ve always covered my hair with a tichel or hat since marriage. People have confused me for a whole lot of things in the last 13 years. Once, I was in a health food store and a woman behind me in line complemented me on my headscarf. “Where did you get it?” she asked.

“My girlfriend picked it out for me in the shuk in Israel!” I said.

Her smile was replaced by a sneer. “Oh.” Then she walked away and entered a longer line.

That headscarf (my favorite, it was blue and faux batik) wore out this year. I was sad to see it go, but the hurt by the stranger remains.

You forgot to mention the good thing about looking obviously Jewish — being “bageled.” It’s lovely when other Jews who look totally different than me sidle up and shmooze about all sorts of Jewish religious and cultural stuff (“Excuse me, is this kosher?” “You’re buying egg noodles? Are you making kugel for Shabbos? You wouldn’t believe how great my bubbe’s lockshen kugel was.”) It happens to my kippah-wearing, tzitzis hanging husband, too. So it’s not all bad.

Muslim women are almost always happy to see me “covered,” even when they find out I’m Jewish and not Muslim. Sikh women look confused — “Is she one of us, or not?” (especially if I wear a giant Israeli wrap with multiple scarves). African-American women sometimes swap headwrap hints with me regardless of religion.

It’s funny, but the negative reactions I get are mostly from women of two types: Mostly, it’s white liberal women who look down on me as trash either because I’m Orthodox or because I’m associated with Israel. And, unfortunately, a small minority of women in sheitels (I stress, a very small minority) think I should just get over myself and stick a sheitel on, too, and tell me so, although very politely.

(And now, I’m off to check the chicken before Shabbos arrives.)

Reptilian2012 says:

That’s because they were Arabs among Arabs, or Berbers if you happen to be Sephardi and not Mizrahi. When Natan said “if you like criticizing, look first at your community” he referred to the anti-Zionist Haredim in Israel, but this statement applies to everyone equally.

Yosef ben Israel says:

You don’t look happy. I’m wrong ?

julis123 says:

I’m a practicing Jew and frankly I never figured out why Haredim have picked the clothes worn by Poles in the 18th century to be their official uniform. As to women’s hair–I understand the logic behind a covering (although I don’t agree with it), but am completely lost as to the shaving of the head and wearing a wig more attractive than the original hair.

Yosef ben Israel says:

With all due respect: Jews are not “practicing”, they are “observant”. I mean we are not “practicing” judaism, we “observe” the laws of Judaism.

Rachel Lavoie says:

Wow, what gross generalizations and stereotyping!! In the largely ultra-Orthodox community in which I work (Flatbush, Brooklyn), the worst I have experienced as an inconspicuous liberal Jew (really, they’d have know way to know I’m a Jew at all) is just being ignored. That’s it. They are just walking around and shopping and going places and trying to live their lives. I understand you have had some unfortunate experiences with some Hasidic Jews, but it disgusts me to see you generalize that to the community at large and expect this woman to bear the brunt of that, and to allow herself to be a daily target of discrimination and hatred because of what some other people do/have done.

julis123 says:

I’m still practicing. When I get good enough I’ll advance to Observant.

Reb Yid says:

No, his reply is that of an enlightened American. Here, we don’t argue with bigots. You hate these chasidim because of what other chasidim may or may not have done to you or others? That’s racism/bigotry/antisemitism. We don’t debate the merits of that in America. We just out the the haters and move on.

Reb Yid says:

You look blank, emotionless, and faceless. Am I wrong?

Yosef ben Israel says:

Ha! OK then.

melbmovie says:

Great article! So interesting to get a look into your world… so different from ours. All we (me, your critics, the hate mongers and the ones who mean no harm) have to do is blend in and for the most part, escape life unscathed. I admire you – and your husband. To see the world from your eyes is thought provoking.

Make Aliyah! :)

chayar says:

Rebecca I love your comments!

I agree, it is definitely not all negative, in fact, letting the frum-flag fly is often positive.

Your term “bageled” is apt. There have been many times my husband and I have indeed been asked about kashrus, Shabbos, or something else Jewish. The neat thing is that we’ve met people in department stores, the street, the train, and so on who have over time become Shabbos guests and friends.

I had originally wanted to share some of the positive incidents like the African American woman on the train who saw me reading Tehillim (the title”Psalms” was also printed in English on the cover) and asked me to read them to her aloud, in Hebrew. I ended up cutting this story as it didn’t work in the context of the piece.

But the negative stuff, like your experience in the health food store and my husband’s terrible experience on the train, is definitely present.

P.S. In all honesty, I’ve also heard women in tichels, etc. correct women in sheitels, too.

Meyer Mussry says:

A few years ago, I started to wear a kippah, not because I’m religious, but because I found myself racing through every day in the physical world, with little or no connection to my soul or G-d. The kippah was to remind me during the day that G-d is around and to touch bases every now and again. I must say that the result has been constantly positive, I have not had a negative outcome from it at all. In fact, I’ve met people who out of the blue will start a conversation, along with lots of other little nice things that have happened. I live in Sydney, Australia, so maybe our experiences differ due to location.

In relation to the Hassidim and their clothes and pronounciation, I’ve got this to say: what people wear is entirely up to them, even if it seems inappropriate for the weather. Most of the Hassidim I’ve met have been from Chabad, and I’ve never met a nicer group of people, who spend so much time helping others and doing good for the wider community. They are completely different from, say, Neturei Karta, for whom I have only feelings of disgust. Basically what I’m saying is that you have to look at people individually, for what they stand for and what they do. You can’t generalise about all people who dress like Hassidim.

As far as the pronounciation thing goes, who cares how they pronounce things? That is such a trivial issue. I’m a Sephardi of Iraqi extraction and don’t pronounce things that way, and that’s one of the reasons that I still go to a Sephardi shul, but I still feel at home in a Chabad shul because they are fellow Jews praying honestly to G-d, not talking about fashion, business, or who did what to whom.

Meyer Mussry says:

A few years ago, I started to wear a kippah, not because I’m religious, but because I found myself racing through every day in the physical world, with little or no connection to my soul or G-d. The kippah was to remind me during the day that G-d is around and to touch bases every now and again. I must say that the result has been constantly positive, I have not had a negative outcome from it at all. In fact, I’ve met people who out of the blue will start a conversation, along with lots of other little nice things that have happened. I live in Sydney, Australia, so maybe our experiences differ due to location.

In relation to the Hassidim and their clothes and pronounciation, I’ve got this to say: what people wear is entirely up to them, even if it seems inappropriate for the weather. Most of the Hassidim I’ve met have been from Chabad, and I’ve never met a nicer group of people, who spend so much time helping others and doing good for the wider community. They are completely different from, say, Neturei Karta, for whom I have only feelings of disgust. Basically what I’m saying is that you have to look at people individually, for what they stand for and what they do. You can’t generalise about all people who dress like Hassidim.

As far as the pronounciation thing goes, who cares how they pronounce things? That is such a trivial issue. I’m a Sephardi of Iraqi extraction and don’t pronounce things that way, and that’s one of the reasons that I still go to a Sephardi shul, but I still feel at home in a Chabad shul because they are fellow Jews praying honestly to G-d, not talking about fashion, business, or who did what to whom.

Meyer Mussry says:

A few years ago, I started to wear a kippah, not because I’m religious, but because I found myself racing through every day in the physical world, with little or no connection to my soul or G-d. The kippah was to remind me during the day that G-d is around and to touch bases every now and again. I must say that the result has been constantly positive, I have not had a negative outcome from it at all. In fact, I’ve met people who out of the blue will start a conversation, along with lots of other little nice things that have happened. I live in Sydney, Australia, so maybe our experiences differ due to location.

In relation to the Hassidim and their clothes and pronounciation, I’ve got this to say: what people wear is entirely up to them, even if it seems inappropriate for the weather. Most of the Hassidim I’ve met have been from Chabad, and I’ve never met a nicer group of people, who spend so much time helping others and doing good for the wider community. They are completely different from, say, Neturei Karta, for whom I have only feelings of disgust. Basically what I’m saying is that you have to look at people individually, for what they stand for and what they do. You can’t generalise about all people who dress like Hassidim.

As far as the pronounciation thing goes, who cares how they pronounce things? That is such a trivial issue. I’m a Sephardi of Iraqi extraction and don’t pronounce things that way, and that’s one of the reasons that I still go to a Sephardi shul, but I still feel at home in a Chabad shul because they are fellow Jews praying honestly to G-d, not talking about fashion, business, or who did what to whom.

Pole says:

You wonder why haredi Jews wear clothes like Polish noble families ? And maybe you also wonder why Haredi Jews celebrate huge weddings and funearls ?

That’s why.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szlachta

“The most notable difference is that, contrary to other European heraldic systems, the Jews, Muslim Tatars or another minorities would be given the noble title.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarmatism

“Sarmatian belief and customs became an important part of Polish noblity
culture, penetrating all aspects of life. Sarmatism enshrined equality
among all Polish noblity, and celebrated their life style and traditions,
including provincial village life, peace and relative pacifism,”

“Sarmatians strongly valued social and family ties. Women were treated with honour and gallantry. Although large numbers of children were born, many of them died before reaching maturity. Girls and boys were brought up separately, either in the company of women or men.”

“Funeral ceremonies in Sarmatian Poland were very elaborate, with some
distinctive features compared to other parts of Europe. They were
carefully planned events, full of ceremony and splendour.”

“Some funeral ceremonies lasted for as long as four days, ending with a
wake which had little to do with the seriousness of the situation, and
could easily turn into sheer revelry. Occasionally an army of clergy
took part in the burial.”

and so on…

Haredi dynasties are Polish nobles. Not only by their traditions, but actaully also by their blood (and typical Polish temperament).

Maybe for you it all sounds like a strange nonsense. But believe me, nothing is more Polish outside Poland than Haredi Jews….

julis123 says:

Yes and we all know how it ended up for the Jews of Poland. Not exactly something to celebrate with your choice of clothing.

Pole says:

It ended up in German Holocaust. No need to blame us Poles.

If Poland wanted to get rid of Jews, our gov. would not have sent Jan Karski or Witold Pilecki to London and Washington in order to stop the German murder. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BBegota There is no logic behind it, right ?

Unfortunately many Jews seem to focus more on Polish anti semites than on the German Holocaust. Dunno why it is so tough to get the facts straight when it comes to WWII.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalplan_Ost
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration_with_the_Axis_Powers_during_World_War_II

julis123 says:

Oh please. Poland wasn’t far behind Germany in passing anti Semitic legislation prior to the outbreak of WWII and many Poles were willing participants in the extermination of the Jews.

41953 says:

Hasidic men and women should be left alone, of course, but the author’s repeated references to “Torah” are inaccurate. The Hasidic life-style is based much more on Talmud and on the particular spin placed on Talmud by Hasidic rebbes.

Pole says:

Please get the facts straight. “Anti semitic legisaltion” is not this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponary_massacre

Germans killed more Jews per month than Poles (Jedwabne, Kielce) per century. Saying that Poland was not “far behind” Germany, is sad.

julis123 says:

I suggest that you read this: http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/term/550,anti-jewish-legislation-in-poland/

Also let’s not forget the post-war pogrom in Poland in 1946

Pole says:

How many Jews died ? ~38-42

“pogrom” is a huge word you know. Germans kileld ~100 Jews PER HOUR during the war.

Sydney Pfeiffer says:

I don’t see the point of the kerchief (aside from covering the hair).

Women in the 19th century began to wear sheitels as a halachicly valid alternative to the bonnets and kerchiefs they wore till then.

I asked a rabbi about the fact that some sheitels look “so good.”

His reply was

1) so what;
2) the woman knows absolutely that her hair is covered and why (with all the emotions that come with it, and there are many); and
3) there is no mitzva not to look good, especially if the woman feels better about herself, which is the real justification.

And the comment that woman shave their heads–the overwhelmingly vast majority do not.

For those who say it violates the spirit of the halacha, give us a break. Halacha sticks to halacha not the spirit (unless you are drinking on purim :-) )

I’ll chime in here with a counter-anecdote. Needing a minyan to say Kaddish prior to flying out of JFK on a business trip, it was a group of Chassids who were readily identifiable by their dress who helped cobble one together to say Maariv before we took off on our respective flights.

Toss in the guy wearing the leather jacket with a chain hanging out his back pocket who pulled a kippah from his backpack and we were 10.

No one blinked twice (and they even came back when they realized I needed to finish up with Kaddish Yaton) about anyone else’s sartorial style, beards or lack thereof, or even the absence of a mechitza from the women sitting at the gate.

Pole says:

Julius123. I fear our debate goes in the wrong direction. Unjustly blamed Poles and traumatised Jews argue -from a victim’s perspective- about sad and unnecessary crimes committed against each other and the Hitler-Stalin Holocaust, the German industrial murder fades into the background. From a psychological standpoint it is understandable that sometimes 40 feels more like 6.000.000, that a crime commited by neighbours hurts more than Dr. Mengele’s bestialic mass murder. But at the end of the day those feelings should not get in the way of our relations. It should not poison our minds. 1000yo Polish Jewish heritage, Poles and Polish Jews deserve better than that. ps: Visit this site plz https://www.facebook.com/jcckrakow.org
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151723774341419.1073741838.193974016418&type=3

peace.

Natan79 says:

You don’t argue for two reasons: you have no arguments and generally you are not capable of arguing anything. You are only capable of insulting, just like your pal S. You are intellectually null, which is bad but not all a surprise. That has been my typical experience with Hassidim in Israel and New York.

Natan79 says:

If you had actually read what I wrote, you would have seen that I primarily referred to Israel. Apparently for you it’s OK if these people not only dodge the draft, but are even arrogant about it. Well for most Israelis, including myself, it’s not.

Natan79 says:

You look stupid.

I really don’t understand people. First everyone complains about how Jews and Muslims are mistreated (think Holocaust), and then they turn right around and blame or look down on them. For instance the government continuously blames Muslims for anything that goes wrong and calls it terrorism, no matter whether the blame should go to them or not. As for the Jewish, the Holocaust caused a huge outcry, and then now people are behaving like this? Humans are really quite hypocritic.
Aside from the sheer stupidity of some people, what happened to “free country”? People have the right to wear, observe, believe in, and do what they want, as long as they’re not hurting others. I don’t see how covering your head and observing / practicing your religion regardless of whether you are Muslim, Jewish or whatever else can hurt anyone, can you?

surfer_dad says:

And, off course no “visibly Haredi” person in Israel has ever discriminated against secular Jews (or non-Jews) either.

surfer_dad says:

I think it should be required for every b’nai mitzvah to at least meet and mingle with Jews of different stripes (VERY different stripes if possible) before their big day.

The more I think about it, the better an idea I think it is!

charles.hoffman.cpa says:

we dress to show who we are
and men who wear a black suit in the middle of the afternoon want to show that they’re not just observant, but that it’s their whole life.

like gang colors, how we dress is as much a form of self-identification with a group as a function of religious law

Hezakiah says:

I’ve seen morons act like they have no respect even if they supported freedom of religion in the US.Walking around the corner to see the rabbi at Lubavitch in Philly, I ran into a douchebag yelling at two elderly rabbis.Being not only Yidden,but the 6’3 326 lb Prez of one of the local 1%er biker clubs, I asked this piece of crap if he’d rather try me on for size instead of a couple of old men.The coward scum ran for his life. The days of wringing our hands and apologizing for what scumbags think we’re like are over, we have guns now.

Amber Collier says:

just as Francisco
replied, I am taken by surprise that some people able

to earn $7708 in one month on the computer. have you seen this w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

Diana says:

You know, whenever I see Chassids I feel PROUD. Proud that we have some in our community that really live up to what we should do. I feel sad that fellow Jews put them down or are ashamed about them. They are living the life-shomer shabbos whereas we are picking and choosing what we will follow and not follow. Yeah, some of what they do might seem extreme and out of touch-not with the times-but they have principals and stick to them and I respect that. They keep tradition alive. Sometimes I want to wave at them and shake their hands but suddenly realize that their modesty doesn’t permit that. But I’m happy they are preserving so much in Judaism which is important to me. And I am so grateful for the niggunim and other wonderful things which we still have thanks to them. There is a good movie called, “Arranged” about two young women who are modestly dressed and are about to be wed. One is a Muslim and the other is an Orthodox Jewish woman. They become friends and are examples of the best which can exemplify this type of smart, caring, and modest type of female who is observant in a modern day world. Their students automatically think they must hate each other, which is ridiculous.
If people would think rationally, they would realize that it’s just a difference in observance and not a major deal, I would really appreciate it, especially when it comes to our own tribe, if we could treat them with the respect they’re due.

ambetz says:

Lovely article.

Rivka Malka Perlman says:

Really interesting read. I wear those Israeli style coverings you mentioned – and I live in Baltimore. I can’t tell you what great reactions I get. I love walking round the world Jewish. I’m proud. Its an entry point for a more meaningful, spiritual conversation. I get at least one complement a day from people of every race and ethnicity. Often , they’ll ask me to show them how to tie. People respect commitment to a decision and the beautiful colors and styles appeal to everyone. I also led a group at a breast cancer hospital. They were so gratified to see an approach to head covering that was royal rather than just the default sad chemo scarf

This article emphasizes what I have often observed, that we, as Jews, don’t suffer much obvious anti-Semitism as long as we don’t look obviously Jewish, or don’t do anything obviously Jewish. I just wish we didn’t judge each other as well.

Chanita says:

Your story is very interesting. I have experienced a lot of mean stares by people who can see I am Torah Observant from mostly Muslims. One experience stuck to me the most because a Orthodox Jewish woman was trying her best to stare me down and she looked at me with so much hate and venom coming from her heart. Did it really bother her because I dressed like a Jewish woman and was the wrong color? My ancestors are mostly from South American, America, Ethiopia and the DNA testing showed many to be jewish and I am related to a few jewish people in Poland. I embraced it in spite of the color of my skin. I was already Torah Observant before I found out anyway. I would think this woman would be happy I was Torah Observant too. Anyway, that’s my experience and it hurt more. I know I will never being fully accepted and as long as I am Torah Observant I do not care. It’s my walk…

People talk about embracing diversity, yet they shun people who are too different from them. It’s really scary the state of this world. I’m sorry that your husband has to go through that.

Tziona says:

the article is very well put. I just wish you talked more about the pressures we get within our own circles/communities to wear a sheitel (wig) instead of a tichel (scarf). Maybe that’s an article in itself :).

Schvach says:

Chazak chazak, I also prefer married frumettes in teichels rather than in shaytals, and like you, I don’t see the point in a married woman covering her hair with someone else’s hair. As for the bigotry of the Jewish left and of many non-Jews towards Jews, what can one say? The Jewish left specialized in bigotry: on the one hand they distance themselves as far as possible from Judaism (I mean the religion, not the culture), but on the other hand they shrink from the possibility of formally denouncing Judaism and leaving altogether. Not very honest or sincere as far as I can discern.

I think the bit about subway stares for your visibly Jewish husband versus your incognito in a realistic wig fails to bring into consideration that the difference isn’t just about visibly Jewish vs not, it also about gender.

Akiva Shapero says:

I have been a Chasidic Jew for the last 25 years. I wear a Black hat, black suit and a long (now white) untrimmed beard. I have been called every name in the book. It is no big deal as the world hates Jews and now you know. Move on, stay positive and tell your husband to legally carry a piece, just in case.

I respect your article. As an orthodox single male who is from Miami, and now has lived in Brooklyn for 6 years, I never once felt that someone was staring at me in public even when I did wear a black hat and jacket.I regularly take buses and trains in NY, and even in Miami or other big cities I have visited, I never once felt people were staring and looking at me in disdain. So in summary, I find your experience in this big city of Ny, to be interesting.

Beth says:

Interesting insights. Nice article.

Hair today says:

Does the sum total of your religious existence boil down to what covering you wear on your head, or indeed whether you wear or not such covering. How mundane and petty if it does.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

My Fashion Choices—and My Husband’s—Reveal the Risks of Looking Hasidic

How people treat us in public often depends on what we’re wearing on our heads, whether it’s my wig or his yarmulke

More on Tablet:

Sneaking a Peek at Poetry on the High Holidays

By Jake Marmer — Just because you’re in synagogue doesn’t mean you have to read what’s in the prayer book