My Jewish community includes women as full and fit members of its ritual community, its minyan. The Reform tradition is (officially) indifferent on the subject of women’s headcoverings, so the challenge of including women’s cover in the Minyan Project has required more investigation.
Modesty: walking humbly
Modesty in dress (and behavior) is governed by the principle of tzniut, supposedly mentioned first in the injunction of the prophet Micah (6:8): “[…] to walk humbly (hatzne’a leches) with your God”. This “humble walking” has repercussions in many aspects of Jewish life: sexual relations, contact between (or separation of) men and women, clothing (how much of the male or female body to expose, or not), and women’s voices and hair coverings.
Historically, Oriental (Sephardic, or Mediterranean) Jewish women were covered completely, similar to Muslim and Hindu women; “Mountain Jews” from Azerbaijan were similarly covered from head to toe. (These images are 19th-century paintings by Théodore Chassériau, left, and Max Tilke, right). Reproducing these headcoverings will take more than a bit of thought and doing.
In the meantime, I’ve started on the more accessible headcoverings worn by European Ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jewish women – the tied tichel (Yiddish for “kerchief”), sheitel (or sheytl, the ubiquitous wig) and snood (hairnet), though I expect to tackle the Modern Orthodox practices, including baseball caps, berets, and bandanas.
Here’s a progress photo of a first pass, the Snood Deux pattern for a start (we’ll see how it goes after a while), MCY silk & wool (thick & thin, worsted) and 3.25 mm/US 4 needles (16″ circulars). (A photo of the sheitel, a modified Hallowig, to come).
FYI: my own snood pattern will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, there are plenty of snood resources available online … including (other than the Snood Deux) vintage patterns for crochet (such as the Perky Snood, 1945 Loop-the-Loop Snood) and knitting (1944 Snood) (and a few others for purchase), and a contemporary open-work Summer Cotton Snood.
There are also the over-sized berets, known in urban circles as “Rasta” hats (perhaps Mango Moon’s sari silk rasta, or this, or this). And then there are instructions for a fabric snood, perhaps most similar to those worn by modern Orthodox women.
I’m not Orthodox, and my increasingly graying curls are (middle-aged-ly, modestly?) short … but if I were … and my hair was … I would … wear a snood. Especially as part of a modern minyan.