A Day Consulting Hollywood Producers about Traditional Jewish Dress

In the 1979 film The Frisco Kid, Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford star as, respectively, a greenhorn Polish rabbi and an American bank robber who together make their way from Philadelphia to San Francisco. The musicologist and composer Velvel Pasternak relates his brief stint as the movie’s wardrobe consultant, tasked with obtaining some ḥasidic garments, including a tall hat trimmed with beaver pelts known in Yiddish as a biber-hitl:

At the time, the central shopping area for ḥasidic clothing was in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. On a Monday morning, two weeks before the beginning of the High Holy Days, without thinking carefully, I dressed in a Pierre Cardin brown checked suit, and a wide-brimmed brown hat complete with colorful feather, and drove to Brooklyn. It was the height of the pre-holiday shopping season, and, as I entered the narrow Selko Hat Store, I saw the proprietress assisting eight Ḥasidim, who were busily engaged in trying on hats. . .

I approached her and said: “I would like to see a Polish-style biber hat in size seven and also in size seven-and-a-quarter.” (The studio had asked for a second hat needed for the understudy.) She gave me a strange look but went up a ladder and brought down two boxes. By this time, I had caught the attention of the Ḥasidim. With large grins, they left an open path to the mirror, and placing myself squarely in front of it, I removed one of the hats from its box. Aside from the ludicrous picture I must have created by trying on a biber hat while wearing a Pierre Cardin brown checked suit, neither hat was my size. . . .

While the film was being shot, I had the opportunity to answer several questions about Hasidim that others could not answer. I responded to such queries as, “Mr. Pasternak, is it proper for a Ḥasid to wear a shtreimel while traveling across the Rockies on a horse?” In addition, I gave Hollywood two pieces of unsolicited advice. It was not realistic, I informed the studio, that a ḥasidic rabbi, or any Orthodox rabbi for that matter, would dance with his future bride in public. I also advised them that in keeping with the subject of the film, the music score should, at the very least, have some elements of ḥasidic or East European Jewish motifs. Both of my suggestions were ignored. In the final scene, the rabbi danced with his bride-to-be, and the music was in lush Hollywood style.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Film, Hasidism, Hollywood

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem