Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fur flies over threat to Hasidic headwear

Tip of the shtreimel to photographer Gali Tibbon for this hairy tale about a possible ban on animal pelts from Asia, and how it could impact the ultra-Orthodox community inside Israel. Note that there also are fake fur hats for the rain - a better look perhaps than an elasticated shower cap fastened on for protection

For Jason Koutsoukis' original article,filed from Jerusalem, click here

At dusk on the Sabbath, few things are more spectacular in Jerusalem than the passing parade of fur hats moving inexorably towards the Western Wall.
There are great furry crowns of all shades of brown, lined with velvet and leather. Some are so wide and flat they look like a sombrero made of sable; others so high you might think they were top hats made of mink.
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They are shtreimels, the traditional headwear of some Hasidic Jews worn on the Sabbath and on holidays, but not to be confused with spodiks or kolpiks, other varieties of hairy hat reserved for more revered rabbinical sages.
Once symbols of persecution, they were first imposed by 18th-century Polish kings who decreed that Jews must wear the tail of an animal on the Sabbath to show they were not working.
The tradition spread through eastern Europe, with each Jewish sect adapting the shtreimel to its own taste, and instead of being a mark of persecution it became a symbol of pride.
Standing at the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem's Old City before sunset on Friday, watching the stream of shtreimels make their way to the holiest site in Judaism, the practised eye can tell a lot about each person just from the cut of their hat — the name of the sect each Hasid comes from, and which part of Europe their ancestors hailed from.
The shtreimel is also a dead giveaway for things such as the income of the wearer, what religious texts and customs they adhere to, and even whether or not they are Zionists.
Sitting in his office at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, dressed in a black tailcoat, black vest and white shirt, Rabbi Moses had just returned from heated debate in the Knesset chamber.
"People want to ban furs imported from Asia because of the way the animal is killed there," he says. "But what does this mean for the shtreimel?"
With the proposed law carrying a punishment of a year in prison, Rabbi Moses asks who will pay for the prisons to house all the law-breaking Jews who import the wrong kind of fur.
"Today, as I told the history of the shtreimel, what it means to Jewish history and custom, I left them all wide-eyed in the Knesset. Jaws open," he said.
Rabbi Moses said that the opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, was among those who approached him after his speech, offering her congratulations. End result? The bill has been deferred to committee.
To make one shtreimel can take up to 400 tails of various breeds of mink, sable and fox — the scrap of the fur industry.
Customers are fussy... The hardest part is measuring their heads to get an exact size.
With only 10,000 shtreimels produced around the world each year, it's definitely what you would call a niche market. But at a cost of up to $4000 each, it can be a profitable one.

1 comment:

rubi paul said...

A nice post.I like the hat
furry stuff.