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September 09, 1988 - Image 92

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-09

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Chasidic Dress:
A Guide For
The Perplexed


Expert observers can identify a Chasid's sect by his hat, coat, or whether or not he wears white socks.

No frozen poultry for this Chasid, who serves as a shochet, or ritual slaughterer.

ow do you tell a Gerer
Chasid from a Lubavitch?
One simple way is in
noticing how they dress.
If, for example, the man
wears his pants tucked into his socks,
you can be fairly certain he is a Gerer.
That's one of dozens of differences in
dress and style, some more subtle than
others, that help an observer identify one
Chasidic sect from the next. Virtually all
of these differences stem from customs
dating back to Europe.
If you're walking through the Mea
Shearim section of Jerusalem, or Wil-
liamsburg in Brooklyn, notice the dif-
ferences in streimlach (hats) — some are
rounded and made of mink, some are high,
some are flat — and bekkeshehs (coats),
most are black but some are brown with
In Mea Shearim, those pinstriped coats
indicate either followers of Reb Arele, a
Neturai Karta sect best known for its in-
tolerance of non-observant Jews and
outspoken opposition to Zionism, or they
are Karliner Chasidism, who are, by com-
parisons, Zionists.
During a recent visit to Mea Shearim,
I approached a Chasid of Reb Arele and
asked, in halting Yiddish, why his group
wore the pinstriped coat. He answered, in
Yiddish, that the Biblical Abraham wore
such a coat. I asked him how he knew that
to be true. He smiled and answered, "And
how do you know he didn't?"
So much for historical authenticity.
Rabbi Yitzchak Lowenbraun of
Baltimore, himself a Chasid, who claims
he is able to identify a Chasid's sect from
a block away, can go on at great length
about the intricate differences among
Chasidic garb, discussing velvet collars
and cuffs, the significance of rounded
lapels, and whether or not anyone but a
rebbe would wear white socks during the
I had been told that you can tell a
Chasid's marital status by his socks.
White socks indicate that you are married.
Black socks mean you're single. All of
which was fine until I spotted a middle-
aged Chasid walking through the streets
of the Old City in Jerusalem with light
gray socks. I decided that he was either
from a sect I hadn't heard of, or that, like
too many of his non-Chasidic compatriots,
he made the mistake when doing his laun-
dry of mixing his blacks with his whites.

Gary Rosenblatt



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