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Hasidim in Fur Hats: Shtreimel Says, “I’m an Asshole”

Photo by Boaz Gabriel Canhoto

Photo by Boaz Gabriel Canhoto

I was sitting in the window of a newly opened vegan restaurant in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood when my wife started asking questions about the Hasidic Jews passing by on Rue Bernard.

“What’s with the hats?” she wanted to know, nodding discreetly at the stupid, lampshade-like headpiece one approaching Hasid wore.

“How the fuck should I know?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically.

“Ah, because you’re Jewish,” she said, making quotation marks in the air to let me know that she was using the word in a cultural sense.

With a platter of fried artichokes arriving at our table, this was no time to get into the definition of Jew – “ish,” by which I mean one who has appropriately renounced Judaism but reserves the right to adopt certain cultural affectations, as circumstances allow.

“What does it mean?” Jessica asked.

“Maybe he’s an elder,” I told her, knowing as I said the word that “elder” wasn’t quite right.

“Seriously,” she continued, curious about the symbolism of the approaching Hasid’s obnoxious hat. “What does it say?”

“It says he’s an asshole,” I explained, abandoning the cultural nonsense and claiming a place on the moral high ground.

“You think it’s real?” Jessica wondered aloud.

“Oh, it’s real,” I said with disgust. “Probably sable.”

Several more fur-hat-adorned Hasidim bothered past our street-side table, each one a blemish on my otherwise delightful view of area residents hopping on and off shared bicycles.

As I enjoyed my main course — mushroom, barley, kale, and zucchini risotto — I made a point to look into the offensive headpieces.

A “shtreimel,” I’ve since learned, is the Shabbat headgear of choice among married Hasidim, each fur-covered crown custom made and grossly expensive.

And while any Hasid who proudly wears the tails of slaughtered mink, sables, and foxes would smugly insist that he’s merely adhering to religious custom, I’d argue that he’s doing little more than betraying his loathsome sense of entitlement.

Just as celebrities who step out in fur coats are easy targets of ridicule for those of us who’d like to see the fur industry shamed out of existence, the arrogant Hasidim who observe Shabbat by wearing dead animals on their heads are a community begging for a sudden bitch-slap of unwanted attention.

As I told Jessica, and as I’d tell any Hasid who’d listen: Wearing a nightstand-size fur hat doesn’t make one special. It makes him an asshole.


  1. James wrote:

    Dave…You are a national treasure.

    Monday, July 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
  2. David Brensilver wrote:


    I’ve forwarded your comment to the folks at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

    Yours, with fingers crossed,

    Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

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