Traditional Judaism considers the hair of a married woman erotic. As a result, married Jewish women are generally expected to cover their hair, except in front of her husbands, and sometimes in the company of other women. For most of Jewish history this practice was not disputed - mainly because society at large also considered it immodest for women to let their hair down in its city streets.
However, as the general definition of modesty has changed in the last two centuries, Jewish women have followed suit, debating the necessity of covering their hair in a world that remains "uncovered." Today, most observant, married Jewish women cover their hair in some way although a vocal minority declines to do so at all. Hair covering has, therefore, become the bellwether for religiosity, turning practice into politics.
Sources dispute the when, why, and how of hair covering, but nearly all agree on one thing: it is the obligation of married Jewish women to cover their hair in some manner. To be frank, it is not always an easy observance. It can, in fact, change the very nature of a woman's identity when her reflection fails to display what she once considered an identifying trait.
This collection of essays explains the law, considers the customs, and includes the voices of women from around the world who are very much moved by the nature of this challenging observance.
The traditional Jewish community has long been silent on the very personal, yet also public, matter of married women covering their hair with hats, scarves, and even wigs. Hide and Seek is the first book to discuss this topic, and includes legal and sociological perspectives of this observance, citing relevant texts and rabbinic discourse, as well as the history, tradition, and customs of Jewish communities from around the world. The book also includes 24 personal essays from women regarding this sensitive issue.
Lynne Meredith Schreiber is a journalist, college instructor, and author of three other books: Driving Off the Horizon: Poems by Lynne Meredith Cohn, In the Shadow of the Tree: A Therapeutic Writing Guide for Children with Cancer and Residential Architecture: Living Places. She lives in Oak Park, Michigan with her husband and son.
Excerpts from Hide and Seek:
"The role of the Jewish woman is far subtler than the role of the Jewish man. I want to feel closer to God in my own way, not by copying the ways of Jewish men. By requiring me to make an unmistakably feminine, explicitly Jewish decision every morning of my life, covering my hair helps me stay connected to my identity as a Jewish woman, yearning for holiness."
Rivkah Lambert Adler, Ph.D., Jewish educator and Rebbetzin
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