Photo Credit: Jewish Press
Rivka Press Schwartz

Covering my hair has never been a challenge. I covered my hair when I was married, and continue to cover it now that I’m divorced. About three years after my marriage, I began covering my hair exclusively with hats, and since then, my hats – big, be-feathered, in all colors – have become part of my persona. (One of my two purple hats – doesn’t everyone need two purple hats? – made it into my caricature for this column.) So, it was a learning experience to find that there are women who always wear sheitels while profoundly hating them.

Over the years I have met them: the young woman from a community where hair-covering was unquestioned, who was sent to talk to me because she was questioning. The woman married to a serious ben Torah who got a lace-front sheitel as soon as they became available, despite her community’s disapproval, and said: “I hate covering my hair. I’m going to do anything that makes me feel less bad about it.” The educator who said, with surprising vehemence: “I have very curly hair and that was part of my identity. I hated losing that when I started covering my hair.”


It’s easy to judge those who struggle with the mitzvot we easily observe. It’s even easier, in our community, to judge women for how they dress or conform to communal expectations. It’s worth asking ourselves, in this situation, is there something going on for this person that I haven’t experienced? Is there something here about which I could be more understanding?

In fact, that’s a pretty good guideline for all of life, not just sheitels.


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Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz is associate principal at SAR High School and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.