Friday, March 15, 2013

The Skinny on the Shtreimel - What's Up With Those Fur Hats?

Extensive, Inside Look At Shtreimel Manufacturer

I recently saw a great pictorial feature on a Meah Shearim shtreimel manufacturer. Definitely worth a look.

Since we are on the topic, let us discuss some other shtreimel related matters as well.

Litvaks and Shtreimels 

First, a few words about Litvaks and Shtreimels . At times one can hear people claim, that in the old days Litvaks wore streimels. After all, look at photos of Litvishe gedolim such as the Netziv, Aruch Hashulchan, and Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein, with fur hats. R. Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan himself, in his great work, mentions shtreimels, for example in או"ח סימן תקנ"א, יא. Wikipedia has an interesting entry on shtreimels, where it claims that they were worn by Lithuanian Jews up to the twentieth century.

However, we should keep in mind, that 1) those hats were not the same as the typical Hasidic streimel, and 2) even if some Litvaks (though it may have been mostly a Rabbinic, and/or affluent phenomenon) wore such headgear, we do not see such a great stress on it, going to the level of an obligation to do so, as is found among many Hasidim.

One should note, that among the Perushim community in Eretz Yisrael, which are Litvish, some still wear streimels. Rav Elyashiv zt"l, as well as R. Menachem Porush, z"l, were prominent examples of such in recent times. But they may have been influenced by other groups in terms of the form, the type of streimel they wear.

I would venture to say that it is similar with the Chasam Sofer, of whom there is a famous image with a fur hat on his head. So does that mean that all the Yidden in Pressburg wore the same? I have my doubts about that. I think there is a similar image of the Vilna Gaon as well.

Shtreimel Inflation In Recent Years

Another shtreimel (or streimel) topic is the growth in their size in recent decades. If you look at photos pre and even post WWII, you will see Chasidim, including Rebbes, in pretty low/small/thin/flimsy shtreimlech. Here is a good photo from only around thirty years ago, in which the shtreimels are also noticeably smaller than typical ones nowadays (though perhaps already larger than the WWII era models). In recent years, however, the size/height of typical shtreimels has greatly increased, and it is not common to see the old, lower type worn anymore - especially on the heads of younger men. You can still see it occasionally on older men who haven't upgraded to the new, larger models. A number of years ago, someone showed me a great article in Emunah magazine, How Shtreimels Have Changed Over the Years, which talks about this change. Recommended reading, definitely!


1 comment:

  1. Dear Sir/Madam,

    We are a fur company based in Moscow, Russia. One of our principal lines of business is the acquisition of wild fur. Should you be interested, we can offer e.g. marten and russian sable tails at affordable prices. We can also arrange the shipping according to your convenience if you place an order.

    Thank you for your interest!

    Warm regards,

    Kirill Ianelis