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Tinsel taboo

Prominent Hasidic rebbe bans glitzy head coverings for women

Spokesman Rabbi Yisrael Brecher of the Vizhnitz dynasty says ‘some headscarves don’t reflect any religious piety’

Illustrative: Headcovering for Orthodox Jewish women for sale at a shop in the Jewish quarter in Antwerp, Belgium, on December 9, 2014 (Johanna Geron/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Headcovering for Orthodox Jewish women for sale at a shop in the Jewish quarter in Antwerp, Belgium, on December 9, 2014 (Johanna Geron/FLASH90)

The grand rabbi of the Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty has banned certain flashy kerchiefs used by some religious women as head coverings, a ruling that was said to have taken many by surprise.

The decree was passed on, through Rabbi Yisrael Brecher, a prominent figure in the sect, to thousands of Hasidic women from across Israel who gathered at a conference held Sunday on the issue of modesty in the Hasidic community. The grand rabbi, Yisroel Hagar, was in attendance, sitting in front by the Holy Ark; he and the various speakers were separated from the female audience by a partition.

Held at the Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem and drawing some 5,000 women, the conference was hailed as a “historic” event by Hasidic news outlets.

“Women who tend to wear homemade headscarves when leaving the house should make sure that the headscarf is appropriate according to the gentle Hasidic spirit,” Brecher told attendees, speaking in Yiddish.

He added that “some headscarves are not suitable at all and don’t reflect any religious piety, that God forbid let some hair show, something which is completely unacceptable.”

The rabbi singled out so-called Chanel coverings as strictly forbidden for Hasidic women. “Chanel” is a popular name for headscarves using fancy fabrics, due to their similarity to materials used by the international brand.

Illustrative: Knesset member Sharren Haskel, wearing a head covering, speaks in the Israeli parliament on May 13, 2019, during a Plenary Hall session. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The specific prohibition caught some women off guard, according to the Haredi Kikar Hashabat website, and has since become the topic of the day within the Hasidic community.

The rabbi did not offer an explanation for the prohibition, but on Monday issued a clarification that the ban only applies to public areas and not the home.

Brecher also spoke out about the required length of skirts, proper haircuts according to tradition, and kosher wigs, with a list of approved shops handed out to the thousands of attendees.

The Vizhnitz dynasty is one of the largest Hasidic sects in Israel.

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