Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hasidic Rain

On my way home from work, I drive past the Calgary Jewish Centre. Twice now, I have been very excited to see an Orthodox Jewish man standing at the corner waiting to cross the street. That's right. It's not just about nuns anymore. I have expanded my sectarian excitement.

When Kyle and I went to New York in the spring, I was really interested in the Orthodox Jews we saw. On our flight back from Rome to New York, our plane was filled with Orthodox Jews returning home from Jerusalem for Passover. I sat beside one young Jewish guy on the plane and wanted to ask him a million questions. He, however, just wanted to sit with his lap top and read a million of his old emails so I left him alone. Okay - truthfully, I also read his old emails.

Orthodox Judaism is unlike many cultures and faiths in which women bear the burden of maintaining culture with their appearance. In Orthodox Judaism, it is men whose appearance is more distinctive. Women are expected to dress modestly and married women often cover their heads for modesty. Many women wear a scarf to cover their hair. However, less conservative married women cover their heads with a sheitel, or a wig. I was delighted to learn that there is such a thing as a kosher wig - one that is guaranteed to not be made with hair originating from idolatrous rituals.

On the plane and in the airport, I was looking all around me to spot women wearing sheitels. It wasn't an easy game because their wigs were such good quality. I have to admit that as I played my sheitel spotting game, I felt a bit puzzled by the use of a wig as a head covering. The women's sheitels were often very stylish and looked just like natural hair. Actually, after two days in transit their sheitels looked much better than my dirty mop. I was eventually informed that the purpose of covering a married Jewish woman's hair is to keep her natural hair private and reserved for her husband's eyes only.

So there you have it - some info about Orthodox Judaism inspired by my commute in Calgary.


Karen said...

Holy Crap, sheitel's are expensive! But I'm tempted!

arbyn said...

Nice one. I'm excited to learn all about Orthodox Jews but I'm going to miss your nun obsession.

To be truthful I'm still waiting for that calendar...

Jena said...

Jamie, I'm glad to know you share my fascination with the Jewish culture.
Were the young Jewish guy's emails orthodox in nature?

Miss you, thanks ever so much for the interesting and funny blog posts.

Aimee said...

I am also fascinated with Orthodox Jews. I have really enjoyed Chaim Potok's novels - particularly "My Name is Asher Lev" - for their depiction of this culture. He's an incredible writer, and if you're interested in Orthodox Judaism they're awesome.

Dave said...

This was a very educational blog! I had no idea that sheitels even existed!

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