ABSTRACT

Representing the majority of observant (i.e. non-secular) Jews worldwide (and unlike the Reform and Conservative movements), Orthodox Judaism has no central organization. As such, the religious umbrella “Orthodox” covers a wide spectrum of beliefs and traditions, from Open Orthodox3 on the left, to Modern Orthodox, and the various sects of Hasidim4 on the right. Likewise, there are differences in observance across cities in North America, Europe, and Israel, as well as among congregations from Syrian, Russian, Afghani, Persian, and Bukharan Jewish descent (just to name a few!). Typically associated with large urban centers, Orthodox Judaism exists in many places, and the balance between (1) religious rules and traditions, and (2) secular circumstances is negotiated in each location. Indeed Judaism has always been multivocalic (e.g.

Dorff and Newman 2008: xvi), and as Markowitz aptly notes, “Jews … and Jewishness … are startlingly varied” (2006: 43). Rather than speaking of an artificially homogenous Orthodox Jewish dress, then, this chapter recognizes the range of Orthodoxies, and is intended as a jumping off point for thinking about how the wide-ranging varieties of Orthodox Jewish dress reflect, concretize, perform, and embody variations of an observant Jewish identity-each rooted in different evaluations, understandings, and negotiations between living in modern society on the one hand, and religious dictates and traditions on the other.