Hasidic in the Heat

Ultra-Orthodox Garb Looks Ultra-Uncomfortable for Summer

Water Park: An Orthodox man cools off in a Jerusalem fountain.
Getty Images
Water Park: An Orthodox man cools off in a Jerusalem fountain.

By Lenore Skenazy

Published July 13, 2014, issue of July 11, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Aren’t you shvitzing in that?

To those of us who recently made the gleeful switch to shorts and tees from pants and sweaters, the garb of some Orthodox and pretty much all Hasidic Jews can look painfully off-season. Long coats, long sleeves, long skirts, long stockings, long side curls — well, those probably aren’t a big issue. But the rest? How can anyone dressing that way possibly keep cool?

The answer seems to be, by ignoring the ignorance inherent in that question.

While outsiders often assume that Hasidic men and women feel oppressed in the summer heat, this doesn’t seem to be the case. In many sects — heck, in many religions — covering hair, head, arms and legs is simply part of modesty, a way of being pious and doing the right thing by God. If that means feeling toasty, believers say, so be it.

“The truth is, at a certain point it almost doesn’t matter if you’ve got long sleeves or no sleeves: It’s hot, and you’re going to sweat,” said New Jersey lawyer Janette Frisch. She knows from secular summer clothes, because only in college did she start becoming more observant. “I kind of phased things in. I started with keeping kosher and keeping Shabbos, but the dressing came about 10 years later,” she said.

Why the lag time? She’d actually been worried about this very issue: heat! “I think I really did see it the way I’d say most people who are outside the Orthodox world look at it: ‘Why should I give up summer clothes?’ And I was very surprised to find out when I made the changeover that it’s nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be.”

The reasons, Frisch says, are both practical and spiritual. Practically speaking, it’s the 21st century; most places are air conditioned. But spiritually, she says, she came to understand, “It’s not about making yourself ugly, it’s about focusing on the inside, not the outside.” Ironically, once she did focus on the inside, the heat outside ceased to be an issue.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.