A prominent leader of the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem issued an unusual call against animal cruelty on Thursday by asking Hasidic Jews to adopt synthetic shtreimels, the traditional fur hats worn on the Sabbath and holidays.
Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim, who chairs the Eda Haredit, the powerful umbrella organization of ultra-Orthodox Jews with tens of thousands of members, said that modern shtreimel production violates Torah prohibitions against causing needless pain to animals, and, because of widespread public debate on the issue, wearing one in public amounts to a desecration of God’s name.
“We live in an era where people are more stringent, and make a lot of noise about cruelty to animals. We have a desecration of God’s name here. So, we must stop this custom of hurting animals,” Pappenheim said, according to a Maariv report.
The rabbi was speaking at a multi-day conference in Jerusalem organized around Torah and secular responses to animal rights and welfare.
In the early days of the Hasidic movement, Pappenheim argued, the pain an animal suffered from being captured and skinned was not taken into account. “Today,” he added, “that won’t work.”
Pappenheim said that he only wears synthetic shtreimels, but does not support legal procedures to prevent traditional, real fur shtreimels from being used. Instead, he argued, people should be educated so that “it would be a shame” to not go synthetic.
Long a part of Hasidic custom, traditional fox or martin fur shtreimels can cost several thousands dollars, but synthetic fur hats can run as little as one-third of the price.