a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

What Do I Wear on My Head?-A Cross-Post

Posted on: February 21, 2015

When I was still in the process of converting to Judaism I found Jew in the City and her post about why Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair. The vlog didn’t speak to me. I don’t have a husband and I don’t find hair to be particularly sexual. Yet, I was intrigued and clicked my way through her channel to Wrapunzel to hajibis. All the while fascinated and in awe at the reverence to religion these women exhibited. And while I loved them all (and watched them ALL) I still couldn’t quite picture myself converting to Orthodox Judaism and because it was clear that Reform Jews didn’t cover, I shelved it.

As I started to meet women who wore pants and wore head covering I started to ask questions. It was this time that I realized that covering wasn’t (or didn’t have to be about a sexual thing, but rather a connection to G-d and the realization that putting something on my head could, perhaps, remind me that there was something above me. I reconsidered the idea and have tentatively decided that when M and I tie the knot that I will cover my head both wigs (who doesn’t want straight hair they don’t have to straighten) scarves.

Below is the piece I wrote for RitualWell about head covering.

A few days ago while wasting a rainy Seattle day indoors, I flipped to E!, one of my guilty pleasure channels. The show Christina Milian Turned Up was on. It is not something I normally watch, but I was intrigued when Liz Milian, Christina’s younger sister, mentioned Judaism. She was preparing for the rabbi to come to her house to help her kasher the home she shares with her family.

I was, of course, instantly drawn and quickly Googled my way to her Facebook and Instagram pages which I am now enthusiastically enjoying.

It is not just that Liz Milian is a woman of color in the public eye converting to Orthodox Judaism, it’s that she’s doing so in a real, passionate, and committed way.

I’ve always been drawn to Orthodox Judaism; there’s a level of commitment to mitzvot, to be sure, but what really piques my interest is the tradition, joy in Jewish life and practice, and the communal norms and expectations. There are aspects of Orthodox Judaism, specifically hair covering and ideas of modest dressing, that are intriguing and seemingly easy mitzvot for me to introduce into my life.

In Orthodox Jewish communities it’s expected that when a woman is married that she will cover her hair. What she covers her hair with varies from community to community. Some favor long, amazing (albeit expensive) wigs, while others favor shorter wigs and still other communities use scarves and hats. These head coverings mark a woman as married, and it’s also presumed that when a woman (or man for that matter) wears something on their head that they’re probably a bit more religious than the person who’s head remains naked. This presumption may or not be true, but it’s been my experience that a person who covers their hair and dresses modestly is likely to be living a more halakhically observant Jewish life.

So what happens when you’re a Jew like me—a Jew who doesn’t identify with any particular religious denomination and instead picks and chooses?

Read more here. 

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