Photo Credit: Jewish Press
Keshet Starr

Peyos are an in-your-face sign of being Jewish; nothing subtle about them. In my religious journey, I’ve wrestled with how visibly Jewish to be. I prefer to cover my hair with wigs over scarves for many reasons, but looking “normal” is definitely one advantage. If I’m out in public, in my long sleeves and skirt, and my children are running wild (theoretical scenario, of course), I’m self-conscious about how onlookers may judge me. Given all these concerns, how obviously Jewish should we be?

Rav Shraga Simmons offers two purposes for peyos. First, they combat vanity by limiting a person’s focus on appearance. Second, peyos visually separate the abstract thoughts developed by the “front” brain from the areas that control physical functions. But what’s the connection to visible Judaism?

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As frum Jews, we’re called to be different, to surpass the physical elements of life with deeper spiritual pursuits. This is, indeed, a responsibility – we feel its burden for a reason. But if there’s anything I learned in my childhood drama classes, it’s that the costume really does make a difference. By dressing in a way that announces our differences on the outside, perhaps we will get a little closer to our spiritual goals on the inside, too.

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Keshet Starr, Esq., is the CEO of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA). She has written for many publications and is a Wexner Field Fellow. A graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Keshet lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.