shtreimel, שטרײַמל and a Jewish family

This spring I spent a few weeks in Israel where I, among other things, did a photo shoot (you’ll find one of the photos in the link section at the bottom of the post). When I was there Kathryn at vastlycurious.com asked me about the shtreimel. I’d figured that I’d use the answer I wrote her as a separate post, so here’s the explanations on this famous Jewish fur hat. The fur hat is called a shtreimel, which is a Yiddish word: שטרײַמל.

I met this lovely Jewish family in Jerusalem.

I met this lovely Jewish family in Jerusalem.

I have always wondered the meaning of the furry hat? Can you explain please?
It’s not all of the haredi / hassidic jewish men that wear the fur hat. It’s normal for jewish men to cover their heads, but most people just wear a kippah. The men that wear hats, wear them on top of their kippas – it’s therefore considered to be/ believed to be extra spiritual, but there’s no demand for this in religious texts.

They wear the shtreimel on shabbat and holidays, but in Jerusalem you’ll find that members of the original Ashkenazi community also wears the hat (Ashkenazi = European).
Since the shtreimel שטרײַמל is worn on special occasions, it’s always worn together with special clothes that aren’t worn on weekdays.

Jerusalem_9766

Click for larger version.

In Hebrew there’s also a word צניעות (tzniut), that’s referring to a way of clothing (it’s actually more than that, it’s like a concept on modesty regarding how women should behave and dress) for women. Anyway, since the hat, the shtreimel, is worn by married men on shabbat and holidays, and their women is dressing according to צניעות, tzniut, on Shabbat you’ll see families on a walk, where the men wear their elaborate hats and often the women wear their most beautiful dresses (they never wear pants).
It’s a beautiful sight and if you ever visit Israel (and especially Jerusalem), make sure to stay for Shabbat or one of the Jewish holidays.

Tell me do the women still shave their heads?
There’s 3 different types: those that shave their heads after marriage, because they’re not suppose to show any hair (they wear a wig instead). Then you have those that wear some cloth to cover their hair (usually a hat or some kind of scarf) and then you have the large majority of Jewish women that wear their own natural hair without covering it.

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49 thoughts on “shtreimel, שטרײַמל and a Jewish family

  1. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge – Spring – Bonnie Bonnie Black |

    • The fringes are called tsitsit (or in plural tsitsiot (ציצית)). It is a part of the Talliot (the Jewish prayer shawl) or, like in this example, it is a part of the undergarment (these boys are young and the prayer shawl, Talliot, is not worn before they’ve had their Bar Mitzvahs).
      The wearing of tsitsiot is commanded in the Bible / Torah. You’ll find the passages in the book of Numbers 15:38 (http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0415.htm) and in Deuteronomy 22:12 http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0522.htm

      In the Judaism section of about.com, you can also read about this practice:

      «In more observant Jewish communities, boys and men often wear a Tallit Katan (little tallis). The Tallit Katan consists of a simple rectangle of cloth with a hole for the neck and fringes on the four corners. Sometimes the Tallit Katan is simply called Tzitzit.
      They wear the Tallit Katan every day, all day long, under their shirts, with the Tzitzit hanging out. They do this because they want to fulfill the mitzvah of wearing Tzitzit more often than just during prayers and because it is written “and you shall see them.” »
      judaism.about.com/od/worshiprituals/f/tzitzit_what.htm

  2. Thank you such an wonderful and informative post!! I have no idea about Jewish customs( there are hardly any followers in India) leave alone the customs regarding hats…loved reading it!

  3. Beautiful portrait. The spelling of shtreimel in Yiddish needs an ayin between the mem & lamed. Also, there are Orthodox women who do not shave their heads, but wear a shaitel over their own hair. Thank you for sharing these great photos

      • I saw the Yiddish article on Wikipedia, but they are wrong. In Yiddish unlike Hebrew 2 yuds are used as vowels, and an ayin is used to make the vowel sound. There are no nikudos in Yiddish. So a Mem & Lamed need the ayin in between to make the vowel sound. I studied Yiddish at YIVO (the Yiddish Institute in NYC for 2 years! 🙂

        • According to YiddishWit.com there’s “no e before final syllabic l” (http://www.yiddishwit.com/Search.html). At YiddishWit they even specify that you should write “shtrayml, shlimazl, seykhl”, they don’t write it with Hebrew letters, but you’ll see it in Yiddish words as bagel בײגל. Of course it’s still possible that the spelling is incorrect, but if you’ve ever registered an account at Wikipedia and contributed to articles, you’ll know that mistakes and spelling errors are swiftly corrected.
          I haven’t studied Yiddish, so I won’t claim any expertise on the field.

          • at the end of the day I say whatever, there are more important things to worry about. It just caught my eye when seeing it as unreadable in actual Yiddish. Your photo is fabulous and that is the ikkur. The spelling is the toffle. 🙂

        • I think linguistic debates are interesting, but then again I’m probably considered a geek by a lot of people 😀
          At one point I was actually thinking about studying Yiddish, but then work came along and stole my time (life).

          • If you can find the time take it… it is not easy in terms of 3 genders, the usual irregular conjugations, but it is a descriptive and emotional language. My husband grew up speaking it which was my impetus for learning it.

  4. Oh ya, I saw this right after you first posted it but didn’t have a chance to leave a comment at the time.

    I really like the first one in black in white. For me, it totally tells a story about each of the characters in the family. Did you just stop and ask to take their photo? How did it unfold?

    • I was walking up the street from Damascus Gate towards Tzahal Square and there were some police horses next to a tree. I saw them from a distance and decided to photograph the horses. The family came from the opposite direction and we arrived about the same time. They looked like a wonderful & friendly family, so I asked them if I could take their photos and they said yes.
      The youngest one put on his awesome camera smile, but the oldest son was concentrating on the horses (which made the photos even better in my opinion).

  5. Seen that post that is the root of this. Glad for the further knowledge that you share. What’s impressive here is you having those knowledge. You really get there to not just look but broaden your knowledge and perspective. Well done, CG.

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