Israel – Blessed be The Shtreimel Makers, Despite Fur Fury

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    Australian-born shtreimel maker Moshe Weiner holds a hand-made fur hat at his Jerusalem workshop. Photo: Gali TibbonIsrael – At Dusk on the Sabbath, few things are more spectacular in Jerusalem than the fascinating passing parade of fur hats moving inexorably towards the Western Wall.

    Great furry crowns of all shades of brown, lined with velvet and leather, some them 22 centimetres wide and 15 centimetres high.

    Others are so wide and flat that they look like a sombrero made of sable. Some can be so high you might think they are a top hat of mink.

    Shtreimels are what they are, the traditional head-wear of Hasidic Jews worn on the Sabbath and on holidays.

    But the shtreimel is not to be confused with spodiks or kolpiks, other varieties of hairy chapeaux reserved for more revered rabbinical sages. Once symbols of persecution, they were first imposed by 18th-century Polish kings who decreed that Jews must wear the tail of an animal on the Sabbath to show they were not working.

    The tradition spread through eastern Europe, with each Jewish sect adapting the shtreimel to their own taste, and instead of being a mark of persecution it became a symbol of pride.

    Standing at the Damascus gate to the Old City at 5pm on Friday, watching the stream of shtreimels make their way to the holiest site in Judaism, the practised eye can tell a lot about each person just from the cut of their hat.

    The name of the sect each Hasid comes from and from what part of Europe their ancestors came from. The shtreimel is also a dead giveaway for things such as income, what religious texts and customs they adhere to, and even whether or not they are Zionists.

    All of which makes the shtreimel an important garment in the life of a Torah observant Hasidic Jew.

    “It’s the gift of a man to his son on the day of his wedding,” said Menachem Eliezer Moses, a member of the Knesset in the United Torah Judaism Party.

    “It’s a very important part of the Jewish life.”

    Sitting in his parliamentary office, dressed in a black tail-coat, black vest and white shirt, Moses had just returned from a heated debate in the Knesset.

    “People want to ban furs imported from Asia because of the way the animal is killed there,” said Moses. “But what does this mean for the shtreimel?”

    With the proposed law carrying a punishment of one year in prison, Moses asked who would pay for the prisons to house all the law-breaking Jews who import the wrong kind of fur.

    “Today, as I told the history of the shtreimel, what it means to Jewish history and custom, I left them all wide-eyed in the Knesset. Jaws open,” he said.

    Moses said that the Opposition Leader, Tzipi Livni, was one who approached him after his speech offering congratulations. End result? The bill has been deferred to committee.

    “We hope for compromise. Jews like to talk, no?” Moses surmised.

    Not that this will affect shtreimel popularity in Israel, even if the law passed. In a Hasidic neighbourhood not far from the more celebrated Mea Shearim (100 Gates) quarter, we found Moshe Weiner, 31, a Melburnian and now one of Israel’s leading “shtreimelmachers”.

    “My great grandfather used to make them, so I got interested in the craft and now my business is here,” Weiner said.

    To make one shtreimel can take up to 400 tails of various breeds of mink, sable of fox – the scrap of the fur industry. With only 10,000 shtreimels produced around the world each year, it’s definitely what you call a niche market.

    But at a cost of up to $4000 each, it can be a profitable one too. “All my furs I source from Europe,” Weiner said. “So hopefully the law won’t affect my business at all.”

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    61 COMMENTS

    1. Livni has nothing better to do in retirement from being the shortest term PM
      they should ban the leather shoes, wears that too is from China killed livestock and child labor, Her makeup tested on animals. wool from tortured sheep.
      When she walks the streets in homemade cotton balls then she should comment on streimels from asia

      • I reread the article twice trying to understand your attack on Ms. Livni. Was it because she offered Mr. Moses her thanks for the speech?
        Furthemore how do you know it’s not a halachik problem to use fur from an animal that was mistreated? Rav Moshe Zt’l clearly prohibited eating white veal because of the way the animal is treated. (I don’t remember the exact siman). Tzaar balie chaim is ,according to the majority of pokim a d’oraysa. While according to halacha we can kill animals for human use that is only when there is a clearly defined use ,and while minimizing the pain as much as possible.

        • No, he didn’t. Go find it and read it inside. His prohibition had nothing to do with how he thought the calves were treated. (He was clearly misinformed about the facts, so nothing he wrote is relevant to practice, but even with that misinformation he did not even hint at any prohibition such as you think possible.)

          Fur is a clearly defined use, and there is no requirement to go out of ones way to minimize the pain.

          • what the Rav Moshe said was that since there is no gain from white meat it’s assur to abuse animals to create that effect.
            As to your statement that Rav Moshe was unaware of the facts, I find these arguments tedious.
            How can you say that there is no requirement to minimize pain for a cleary defined use? What then does the issur of Tzaar Balie Chaim entail.
            How do you explain Lo sachsom shor bedisho?

          • Or rather, he prohibited the veal for a very different reason. (He was wrong about the facts, and therefore reached the wrong conclusion, but his reason had nothing to do with the calves’ suffering.)

        • Reb Moshe prohibited the meat because it was treif. There is no such thing as “glatt kosher veal” A young calf is supposed to be healthy without a single sircha even according to the makilim. If the meat is not glatt it’s treif, there is no middle ground for leniency. We check only the lungs of a behaimah on the assumption that if the lungs are good the rest of the organs are good. but in a case were the minoritiy of animals schechted are kosher, we cannot make that assumption and all the organs need to be checked. Reb Moshe did not assur veal because of tzat ba’alei chaim.

          • Exactly. Except that his facts about the prevalence of treifos in veal, as well as how veal is produced, were completely, bizarrely, wrong. In fact treifos should be LESS prevalent in veal calves than in grown steers.

      • “Livni has nothing better to do in retirement from being the shortest term PM”

        That is incorrect. Livni was never the PM, only the PM designate.

        #3- sure, maybe you should wear pants made from seaweed and feathers so they will not have to shear sheep. Or perhaps you should become a vegetarian so you do not have to eat slaughtered animals. No fish either. They are tortured when they have to flip up and down while not in the water. No root vegetables because the plant must be uprooted. Only things like apples that fall off trees. In addition, if there are ants in your house do not spray raid. Move to a hotel.

      • “Why cannot they use fake fur or make the shtreimels from feathers or other sustainable material that wouldn’t require killing thousand of animals??”

        Azoy….the Belzer rebbe should begin a new minhag for all chassidim and wear a new form of shtreimel made from duck feathers,…..I suspect the heilege rebbe in his feathered headress would look more like chief Sitting Bull with a beardel and payos. You are a true am’haoretz.

        P.S. You talk about “sustainable” materials. The last time I checked you have to kill the kaschke to pluck its feathers…how many kaschkes would it be ok to kill to make a “sustainable shtreimel”.

        • The kaschkes are schected anyway and their feathers are used in bedding and pillows. Why couldn’t they use some of the feathers to make shetreimels?? This would be sustainable since no additional animals would be killed simply to make a hat.

          • Just for the record and notwithstanding the alledged cruelty involved. Mink ranching is just as sustainable as any other type of farming. Just because you think something is icky doesn’t mean it’s not sustainable.

    2. Are there any vegan shtreimel available? Is there a reliable source for tefillin, mezuzot, sefer torahs, and shofars that are made from animals which died of natural causes?

    3. “To make one shtreimel can take up to 400 tails of various breeds of mink, sable of fox – the scrap of the fur industry.”

      400 tails to make one shtreimel?? How big is it??

      • What “mitzvah”?? As the article says, the Shtreimel is a relic of eastern europe where the requirement for yiddin to wear a hat made from the schvuntz evolved into a fashion statment by some ehrleche yidden who could tanz around like Polish nobility. It is a MINHAG, and a somewhat questionable one at that, and not a MITZVAH!!

      • It would fulfill the same mitzva that a real fur steimle does, none. If the object of chassidishe levush is the distinctive apperance, fake fur would be as good as real fur. Incidently, fake fur streimlach were advertised in Monsey. they are, of course, significantly cheaper that the real thing and they won’t get ruined in the rain.

    4. This article is full of inaccuracies to be polite. It doesn’t take 400 tails to make a Streimel. Until about twenty years ago they used to use about 26 tails for a Strimel and for those who wanted a taller Streimel they used 52. Nowadays a Streimel isn’t anymore the same. It is a patchwork of many pieces of different tails to cover the hollow frame. It is prettier and lighter weight this way, but IMO a Streimel it is not.

      The history of Streimlich as given here is also Plotchik. He is mixing up the red pointy hat or yellow star with Streimlich. Also a Streimel doesn’t tell you much about the person wearing it; rather a hat does.

      Lastly when Tsar Nicholai I issued many decrees against the Jews and among them was to forbid Spodiks; the “Sar” Reb Moshe Mantefiore went to plead with him. Before his “audience” with the Tsar (TSORer HaYehudim) Montefiore met with the Vurker Rebbe, who begged him to also plead with the Tsar to allow the wearing of Spodiks. Montefiore who had no understanding of Spodiks replied through an interpreter “Ich Zeh Nish Kein Kedusha In Di Beren-Mintz”. That’s when the song was composed of “Men Darf Tzi Bahalten Ah SPODIK Ahn Alten Bechadrei Chadurim Zeiyer Git”.

        • no the previous lubavitcher rebbe wore a kolpik during the week, and all of the previous rebbes of chabad wore streimels.
          and rav kook wore a spodik, not a streimel.

          and the streimel was not a decree of 18th century poland, but that of 16th century germany. get the history straight. and the chasidish style of dress ha nothing to do polish nobility. that rumor was started by the assimilited yidden of america at the turn of the century, because they were embarressed by their east european counterparts. so they made up this rumor in an effort to get them to change to modernishe dress.

    5. I would also like to point out something that very few people know, that not one animal is killed for the tails; rather they kill these animals for its body fur which fetches a lot of money. The tails are to them “garbage” sold to make trinkets out of them. The Streimel Machers pay them much more then the trinket makers, but not enough to make them kill these animals.

      Also the price of Streimlich isn’t anymore $4000; you can get a beautiful Streimel these days for less then a thousand dollars; and the Streimel Macher still makes a good profit on it.

    6. Its mamash tzar bal chaim to kill an animal for a shrimel. it should be poshut to ban it by the gedolim, nowdays when you could have a shtrimel made of systethics it a kal ve chomer thats its osser . i dont wear a shtrimel so its hard for me to pasken that a plastic shtrimel is comfortable but i would sure like like to hear from a godol regarding this issue.

    7. 1. However he did NOT say the meat was forbidden because of the abuse. Without the level of treifos that he claims, the meat would be permitted no matter how much the calves suffered.

      2. As you say, his psak against the treatment is premised on the claim that white meat is not better than red, in any way whatsoever. In other words, if there IS a gain to be made, then the treatment is permitted. This is clear in Shulchan Aruch: tzaar baalei chayim only applies when it is for no purpose at all.

      3. His statement of the facts, as he had been informed of them, is utterly bizarre, and bears no relationship whatsoever to the truth. Whichever idiot or liar he consulted did him no service.

      4. White veal tastes better and more tender than red, so by his own terms his psak is invalid, and it is permitted to produce it even if that would involve the calf suffering, which it doesn’t.

      5. How can I say that there is no requirement to minimize pain for a cleary defined use? Because it’s true. If you think there is such a requirement, feel free to look for it and report back where you found it.

      6. If you want to know what tzaar baalei chayim entails, look in shuchan aruch. It only applies to pain deliberately inflicted for no reason at all. It is even permitted to pluck a feather from a live bird to make a quill! No decent person could bring himself to do such a thing, but there is no issur! So how can locking a calf in a cage and feeding it lots and lots of milk be assur?

      7. What has lo sachsom got to do with it?

      • 1. Not true Rav Moshe states clearly that Tzaar balie chaim is assur even if it makes money for the owner. He gives an example of someone paying the owner of animal to abuse it for his sick enjoyment. I remember the tshuvah..
        2.,3,4 The tshuvah refers to monetary gain as not a real gain. If the meat is better maybe the tshuvah isn’t factual. I’m not here to discuss white veal.
        The Noda Beyuhuda assers hunting ,the rema says that those that hunt have no chelek l’olam haba. Isn’t that a human enjoyment? Rav Ovadia Yosef assurs going to a bullfight as mesaye ledvar aveirah.
        5.-6. Plucking a feather to make a quill is an example of case where someone needs a quill,and doesn’t want to kill the animal. There clearly is an issur to hurt an animal more then necessary for the task at hand. I truly can’t imagine how you can argue that point.
        7. Lo sachsom is the mekor for the issur of Tzaar Balie Chaim . While threshing with an ox you can’t muzzle the ox or even give him lesser qualty food because he is pained by the deprivartion. So you are feeding him but oats instead of wheat .
        The other mekor is unloading the heavy load of a donkey. (ozov taazov) Both these cases are not gratutios pain!!!!!!
        The Chasam Sofer says that Verachamoff al kol masov is the mekor for theissur. Again it’s a question of Rachmones. If the fur from the Far East is cultivated under far worse conditions then elsewhere or then necessary .I still think it’s ossur.
        The Mishna in Sanhedrin says you need a beis din of 23 for a shor haniskal, the Ohr Hachaim say thats because of tzaar balie chaim.
        The Gemara in Baba Metzia i thing it’s daf 24 talks about the yissurim of Rebbe.Please learn that Gemara.
        I’m closing my computer now. I would be glad ,however to debate this with you at another time.

        • Of course money is a real gain. What bigger gain could there be. That teshuvah is best buried and forgotten; it’s an embarrassment to R Moshe that he was so misinformed. Every single “fact” reported is wrong, often the exact opposite of the truth. And since the facts are wrong, the conclusion is wrong too.

          The NB only assers hunting for fun, because it’s a bad midah to enjoy killing. He has no objection whatsoever to hunting for a purpose. Yes, human enjoyment is something that would justify tzaar baalei chayim; the problem is that a good person WOULDN’T get any pleasure from it.

          How do you know how badly the person needs the quill? With a bit of effort he could get a quill from a dead bird instead, and any normal person would do so, but nevertheless it’s technically permitted to pluck it from a live bird.

          You still haven’t shown that there is an issur to hurt an animal more then necessary for the task at hand. And you certainly haven’t shown that one must take positive steps to minimise the animal’s pain, when hurting it for a legitimate purpose. You just keep asserting it. Repeated assertions do not make something true. If you “truly can’t imagine how you can argue that point”, then the problem is with your imagination. You can’t make a claim, with no proof at all, and expect nobody to challenge it.

          Those places may be where we learn TzBCh, but it has its own gedorim, as evident in Shulchon Oruch.

          Once again, it doesn’t matter what is happening in the far east; even if they are deliberately torturing the animals to death, and charging admission to watch them writhe in pain, how could that possibly make the furs ossur? Your only proof that TzBCh could asser the resulting product was from R Moshe, and he specifically did NOT say anything of the kind.

          • He said that Rav Ovadia Yosef asseers going to a bull fight as mesaya ledvar aveira.
            So we have Rav Moshe and Rav Ovadia prohibitng use of gains from tzaar balei hayim.
            Yehudim are rachmonim,bayshonim and Gomlie Chsodim.You Rabbi Milhouse clearly show a lack of rachmim and of the midah of baishon (attacking Rav Moshe) Hopefully you have the third siman.

    8. The streimel makers must continue theri great work. We must never allow others to dictate to us how we should erase any of our traditions.
      90% of the PETA and fur complainers, wear leather shoes and belts and carry leather wallets, but more importantly, they have no religious reason behind it, our Chasidim do.
      On and on my dear brother Chasidim!

      • Yes. I agree. But, that does not mean that we can’t make an effort to avoid fur from sources which abuse animals more than others. I guess no furrier can obtain fur by simply “asking” the animal for it, so there is some form of action necessary which we prefer not to think about.

        But, if there are those who are more cruel than others, we certainly SHOULD avoid those. I know I would prefer to wear a shtreimel which was made with the least pain possible to the animals.

        As far as the shoes, belts, wallets, etc, that is not the same, since those animals are being used for food anyway. The same goes for tefillin, mezzuzah/tefillin/Torah parchment, etc.,
        And, we don’t kill an animal to get its horns; do we?

        We should try to have shterimelech with the least pain. But PETA are not really relevant. They know no middle ground or limits. They were upset about that fly? Next they will try to ban killing the insects on our vegetables… LOL

    9. It is not tzar baalei chaim. Hashem created the world for man and we may use animals for their fur. You don’t cut a tail off a live animal, that would be cruel. I am sure it is killed humanely and the rest of the fur, can be used for other purposes. Only PETA and like minded people would consider it tzar baalei chaim.

    10. Too bad that many of you don’t care about cruelty to animals. And since when is wearing a streimel a mitzvah? Just a minhag.

      And this article seems to be saying that the Rebbes of Ger and Alexander, for example, are more important than others. It says that those who wear the spodik are more revered.

    11. It would be relevant for fur buyers to put greater pressure on their suppliers to institute humane treatment of the animals. Why should yidden be a party to indiscriminate disregard for animal pain – it isn’t necessary.

    12. “People want to ban furs imported from Asia because of the way the animal is killed there,” said Moses. “But what does this mean for the shtreimel?”

      Let me get this straight- we all KNOW ( or most of us anyway) how in-humanely animals are treated in asian countries. How is it NOT understood that the mink, fox or whatever other animal is used, was probably tortured for that fur. If you don’t comprehend the extent, google “china fur trade” sometime and i’m sure you would think twice about where your fur is coming from. I am not a PETA person, but sheesh-go synthetic, or find fur from a humane source.
      the NEED for food, work, etc. It’s obvious with the quill for example, the person NEEDED it for writing to do a job. Who NEEDS a shtreimel? No offense

      • Why do people write “No Offense” when they clearly do not care if they step on other peoples’ feelings.

        The Shtreimel IS an important thing in our lives. We DO need them. The fact that you do not understand our need, does not make our need less real.
        I am sure, if I went though your budget, I would find things which you consider “Needs” but I would wonder about.

        One of the beauties of Judaism is the multitude of various versions of Jewish culture. My father, may he rest in peace, used to walk with me in Boro Park on Shabbos, while he was wearing his shtreimel and white socks, and tell me to learn to respect ALL variations of our people, including those tine crocheted kippot. He used to tell me that every variation of Jewish culture was forged in a different kiln under fires which only those who went through them could appreciate, and that I should learn to NEVER look down at ANY variation just because it makes no sense to me.

        Can you just accept that it is a “need” in OUR culture, which many not be a “need” in yours?

        I will respect the bent down black hats, and kippot serugot,…. please respect my shtreimel.

        • You’re right I shouldn’t have written “no offense”. I should have posed my question, do you NEED to fulfill this Minhag with fur from an asian trader? Why not make the effort to purchase from a better source? I seriously dont take offense to our differences, we are all yiddin.

          • No problem…

            I do agree that we should try to deal with fur dealers who are not totally cruel, etc.,

            The problem with the PETA people is they know no limits. They are elevating the animals to a higher level, almost, than people. I love animals, by the way. I agree, and when I go for my next shtreimel, IY”H, I will ascertain the fur source, and avoid those sources which are the worst abusers of animals… to the best of my ability. I believe my shtreimel maker in Willi told me the furs are from Europe. But, to be honest, I did not cross-examine him on that. He just mentioned to me in his description, that they were of European origin.

            Which ARE the best sources to buy furs?

            All of you who know… how about telling us who will buy Shtreimels, where we should attempt to get the fur from?

            I believe most of us would much rather know that we choose fur dealers which were more humane than those Asians mentioned in the news lately.

        • Well written.

          What is funny is that most who wear “regular” hats are not aware of what those XXXX’s are in side the hat. The 4X for example contains more “Beaver” or “Rabbit” or similar animal fur in the “felt” than the cheaper 3X, etc.

          So, the “Felt” hats also contain FUR…. (beaver, rabbits, etc.,)

    13. You people are such major “amaratzim” for thinking that you cant kill an animal for fur. You are allowed to kill animals for a purpose. Making an item of clothing out of them – regardless of whether or not you subscribe to the wearing of a shtreimil – is FOR A PURPOSE.

      If you have a problem with it. go thru the sugya in gemorah chulin.

    14. ? Why not use fur from a kosher animal, since there is a mitzvah in our holy Torah b’yad Moshe, that touching the carcass of an unclean animal makes a person unclean (Wayikra 5,2) and we should not do it (Wayikra 11,8).

        • What is “fur”?
          “Fur” is the hair of the coat of a mammal.
          Which kosher animals have fur?
          A few examples of cloven-hoofed animals that chew a cud:
          water buffalo, goats, sheep, giraffes, buffalo, deer, and many more choices, B”HK.
          There is another Torah issue here also – because males are the ones who wear the shtreimels, and our holy Torah b’yad Moshe tells us that a male should not wear a female garment (and vice versa), then the source of the kosher fur should be a male kosher animal – if one seeks to be a chassid, yes?

      • I see so much criticism of Asian fur suppliers, yet it seems like in Asia the meat of animals raised for fur is eaten and not wasted, while in many other places the meat is wasted, or the animals are forced to eat the meat of their own species.

        • “Forced?” You make it sound as if they “objected”. They’re animals. You give them meat, they eat it. They don’t care where it came from. You think minks don’t eat each other all the time?

    15. Picking on Shtreimels is unfair, and maybe just a form of prejudice, as ALL better hats are made of animal fur. Those beautiful black felt hats contain rabbit, beaver, sometimes other animals you don’t want me to tell you about. they are just processed into the felt, which “looks” like a non-fur fabric of some sort.

      The felt hats with no fur content, do not hold their shape, and fall apart quickly when rained on. Those who write these articles know this. They all know that ALL hats are made out of fur…. real fur… so why are they picking on the Chassidic headwear?

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