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


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University