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What Is a Jewish Hijab?

Jewish hijab refers to the head covering worn by Jewish women after marriage.
Morning prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
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  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2014
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The term "Jewish hijab" is sometimes used to describe the head covering worn by some Jewish women after marriage. It should be noted, however, that the term "hijab" is not used within Jewish communities to describe this garment or the practice of wearing it. The reason why some people describe a Jewish woman's head covering as a Jewish hijab likely has to do with the common association of head coverings with Islamic modesty standards, which are collectively known as hijab. Modesty codes in Judaism, on the other hand, are properly known as tzniut. The nature of a Jewish women's head covering and standards of modest dress are different from that practiced by Muslims, however, and the styles worn as part of both Muslim and Jewish hijab are also distinct.

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Modesty standards vary within the Jewish community, with some branches of Judaism rejecting strict modesty codes while others embrace them. Some women in Orthodox Judaism practice a custom of covering their hair in public after marriage, reserving the sight of their natural hair for their husbands. These women may choose to wear a wig, known as a sheitel, while others may tuck their hair under a hat, snood, or headscarf. Unlike many Islamic head coverings, those worn by Jewish women do not typically cover the wearer's neck or chest. Nor is a woman usually obligated to wear such a covering until after she is married. Unmarried women and girls are not required to cover their hair, although they may still be expected to dress modestly by covering their legs and arms while in public or in the presence of others.

In Muslim communities, women are typically expected to dress modestly from the age of puberty. Modest dress is often defined as covering the entire body, with the exception of a woman's face and hands, in a way that does not reveal the woman's body shape or hair. While these dress standards are known as hijab, the headscarf or head covering worn by many Muslim women is also colloquially known as a hijab. In countries like the United States, where the majority of women do not cover their heads while in public, the wearing of a headscarf is often associated with the Islamic practice, leading some to refer to head coverings worn by women of other faiths as either a Christian or Jewish hijab, even though the women who practice this custom may not refer to their headscarves in this manner.

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MrsPramm
Post 3

I think the original modesty codes in both Jewish and Muslim tradition come from originally living in the desert. Men and women would both wear scarves over their heads, just to protect them from the sun.

Although, often these sorts of practical customs are written into religious texts as "rules" to teach the next generation and therefore they persist even when the need for them is gone.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@pleonasm - Well, yes and no. I don't think you have to respect culture when it is actively harming someone. For example, putting a 2 year old into a full burka, in my opinion, is harming that 2 year old by impeding their development. Expecting a woman to wear a scarf around her hair, on the other hand, is no more harmful than expecting women to wear shirts. Maybe it is restrictive, but not really harmful.

On the other hand, I do think that there's no way to change these things except from within the culture. An outside force coming in and telling people how they should act or dress isn't going to do anything except oppress them.

pleonasm
Post 1

Within all these religions the wearing of "hijab" varies a large amount, mostly due to culture. For example, one of the girls that I teach at the moment is nowhere near puberty and she is still expected to keep her headscarf on.

I've even heard of very "devout" parents expecting their infant girls to keep to modesty standards and covering them to their eyes in order to do so.

On the other hand, I've seen communities which considered themselves to be very devout and yet didn't hold with these traditions of modesty.

Personally, I don't like it at all and I think that people should be able to wear anything they want. But you have to respect culture.

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