The Italian Artisans Whose Hats Have Become a Marker of Jewish Piety

The main way ḥaredi men identify themselves to outsiders and to one another is by wearing a brimmed black hat. For many Ḥasidim, such hats are replaced by fur ones on Sabbaths and other special occasion. For non-Ḥasidim, the gold-standard of haberdashery is the broad-brimmed fedora manufactured by the Italian firm Borsalino. Bill Motchan delves into its history, and how it became a symbol of Jewish religious devotion:

The Borsalino hat brand began as a small workshop owned by Giuseppe Borsalino. At age sixteen, Guiseppe headed for Paris to study fashion. He dreamt of returning to Italy as a certified master hatter. He eventually opened a large factory in Alessandria. By 1914, production at the Borsalino factory rose to two million hats per year.

The company grew over the decades but continued to focus on quality. It takes nearly six months and over 50 operations to create one hat. The creation of a Borsalino is decidedly old-school. In fact, two of the original machines used by the Borsalino family in 1857 are still churning out hats. The process begins with Belgian rabbit fur, magically transformed into smooth felt. A Borsalino is primarily handmade. . . .

Long before the Borsalino became the hat of choice among Jews, it achieved popularity in Hollywood. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman wore them in Casablanca. Jean-Paul Belmondo and Marcello Mastroianni wore Borsalinos. Fred Astaire, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway favored the hat, too. Al Pacino—as Michael Corleone—wore one. So did the real-life mobster Al Capone.

How it became associated with Orthodox Jews remains something a mystery, although Motchan interviews a rabbi with a theory.

Read more at Saint Louis Jewish Light

More about: Clothing, Haredim


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security