Haredi Fashion & Photography

Israel may have drag queens but it also has plenty of Haredim and Ultra-Orthodox Jews who adhere to to a more disciplined way of life in an entirely different direction from those drag queens.

The topic of fashion has hit the secular sect of Israel with full force and now  it may have also begun to make an impact on Haredi members.

While some may argue that it goes against the strict Haredi rules of modesty (besides covering their knees and elbows many of them also tend to stick to monotone colors) others argue that there are ways around it (the Lubavitch for example, keep to the rules of modesty but aren’t against bright colors and patterns.)

According to Ynet online, there is a new trend among the Haredi community in Israel. Loosely translated, the article states: There’s a new phenomenon in the Haredi sector.  Religious girls are now modeling clothes modestly.  They are photographed for catalogues, websites, and modest clothing stores.

And why not? While Haredim don’t always adopt modern technology,  they can’t ignore the rise of e-commerce and social media on the Internet. And so many of them want to advertise their clothing because otherwise, how will they make a living?

This has caused much hot debate among the Ultra-Orthodox religious community. Although these models are fully covered in modest garb (high collar, stockings, the works) and makeup artists, stylists, and photographers taking their picture are all women, does it live up to the strict standards of disciplined Ultra-Orthodoxy and Hasidim. They’re careful about their posing.

The article actually compares the Haredi advancement in the world of fashion to the Greek influence of 2000 years ago.  Not so sure I agree with this. They have a long way to go.

When I reverted to my Twitter friends to ask their opinion (I chatted with secular and religious,)  many of them felt that these particular pictures were still inappropriate for the Haredi sect.  So, then, what is appropriate?

This a hotly debated topic in Israel because there are so many Orthodox Jews and Haredim residing here.  Therefore, when one writes about Israeli fashion in Israel, they must address the religious community.

The clothes, jewelry and shoes are all Israeli.  The clothes and jewelry come from a store called אהובי לוי (Ahavi Levi) in the Kanfei Nesharim neighborhood in Jerusalem.  The shoes are from a store called Steps on 9 Malachi in Jerusalem.

The pictures in the article were not meant to be published openly.  They were intended for a female audience and for a spring catalog in a particular Haredi woman’s store.  Still, the BBC got their hands on them which again begs the question, is fashion photography within Haredi standards? In this world of rapid information at the touch of a button, the photographs can easily be seen.

The article contains a video interview with the first professional haredi fashion photographer, Shprintzi Friedman.

There is a debate about the length of the girl’s skirt in the photo.  A Mother in Israel blogger Hannah Katsman says she was struck by the length.  “Since when does “haredi fashion” include short skirts?” she questioned.

This isn’t the first time this issue has been brought up on the Web and argued.  There was much backlash when a religious woman named Mushka Greenberg wrote about her thoughts on fashion and the religious community for a Chabad.org called A Fashion Affair.

The woman, a fashion enthusiast, who among other things commented on the high fashion at a typical synagogue during a Friday night service,  said, “While Fashion and Judaism may have once been considered disharmonious and we’ve never mixed kippas with couture, it’s my belief that fashion and Judaism have more in common than we’ve ever cared to admit.”

The connection between fashion and Judaism? The variety, says Greenberg.  It is revamped every season, it transforms, it never stays the same. She meant that we can learn to accept Judaism and let it transform us with renewed vigor as fashion often does to every season. It’s being able to interpret the law (and Judiasm SHOULD be a religion that is questioned. I mean, isn’t that what the rabbis did?

“It’s our affair with novelty that keeps us on our tippy toes,” she says

Apparently, the critics (and there were many) didn’t understand what she meant.  Many, most of which are likely from the Haredi community, believed it was an inappropriate comparison.  But perhaps they weren’t looking beyond her words, to the bigger picture of what she meant.

In any case, this again begs the question–can fashion mix with haredim?

A former female yeshiva high school student seems to think so, in her own way.  Her blog post for her blog Man Repeller showcases fashionistas during New York Fashion Week unknowingly wearing frum friendly clothing. The blogger is playing off the “frum but cool” topic that can often have a Jewish outreach feeling for the non-religious (Greenberg did the same thing in her Chabad.org article), though I don’t think that’s what either were  going for in this case.

It’s still cool to see how these women used modest clothing to “make a statement.”

They may be modest when it comes down to it, but I’m not so sure the Haredim would approve.

Photos: Sprintzi Friedman, Chabad.org The Greyest Ghost,

Sources: Ynet: Culture, Chabad.org, The Man Repeller


4 thoughts on “Haredi Fashion & Photography

  1. Hannah @A Mother in Israel

    Business is business, fashion is fashion, and young people are young. Trying to stop this trend in fashionable (and not especially modest) clothes among charedim is like trying to stop a moving train. Thanks for linking to my post.
    What I don’t like in the Chabad site’s article is that she seems to disparage women who don’t dress fashionably and I think that’s superficial of her.

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