Friday, June 21, 2013

Anti-Semitism in America: Being hated because you look Jewish

Tablet Magazine   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.” [...]


  1. I don't know. I was in New York including Flatbush and Boro Park a few times and didn't notice any angry glares.

  2. In Miami frum women stand out because they are wearing clothes.

  3. Since her husband is a big strong football player who knows martial arts, I hope he has stared down the anti-semites and broken their bones. Good Shabbos.


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