Every once in a while in our Wrapunzel universe, we come across a woman with a really amazing perspective, one who inspires us with her stories. Everyone has a different journey toward hair-covering, and hearing someone else’s journey is both fascinating to read and comforting – often, we find something that reminds us of what we ourselves have gone through. And that’s why we’re so excited to introduce you to our latest Lady Wrap Star, Meira – this is her story. We hope it will enlighten and inspire you as much as it did for us!
“When I was growing up, our neighborhood was “ultra-Orthodox” Jewish, and in that world, I did get to see some hair covering. At that time, and in that place, the women who covered their hair outside of shul had only two options. They wore shaytls (wigs) whenever they needed to look good and they wore tichels whenever they didn’t need to look good. Those tichels were kerchiefs- small triangles of fabric tied around the head. They weren’t ugly, but they certainly weren’t pretty.
However, I grew up in a “Modern Orthodox” Jewish household. My mom never covered her hair outside of shul (synagogue). Neither did my grandmothers, my aunts, or my married cousins. So with the exception of the Rebbetzins I knew who wore shaytls, hair covering was off my radar. I never really considered it as something relevant in my world. And that led to some confusion. My teacher for Jewish studies in 1st and 2nd grade would show up in school with dark brown hair in a shoulder-length heavily layered hairstyle. It was very flattering on her. But this teacher also lived in my neighborhood and I would see her in shul on Shabbat. Same face, but here, her hair was gray, straight, and worn in a beehive updo. Naturally, I was a little shy about saying Shabbat Shalom to this person who had the same face as my teacher but who might be a totally different person.
Only when I was 12 did the concept really enter my consciousness. My cousin got married and covered her hair. She has a small head and thin hair so she could wear department-store hats which are usually too small for full hair covering. To this day, she is the best hat-wearer I know. Several months later, a young woman from my shul got married and she too started covering her hair with structured hats. But I saw her show up in shul a few times with what looked like nothing on her head and that left me wondering ‘aren’t married women supposed to wear something on their heads?’ It wasn’t long before I figured out that she was wearing a shaytl.
Finally, when I was 16, I attended a shiur (lecture, class) in my shul and the rabbi was discussing hair covering. He went through the sources and his take was that covering the hair was simply a custom, not law. As it was, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of wearing a shaytl and having people wonder if I was covering my hair or not. Plus, I imagined that many coverings would be hot or otherwise uncomfortable. So I figured that if it’s not law, then why bother?
The good news was that I was already active in NCSY (a Jewish outreach group for teens and tweens). I had a lot of friends and a lot of leaders whom I admired and respected and I wanted to emulate them. The married women all covered their hair. That made me more comfortable with the idea. But I still couldn’t stomach the idea of a shaytl. At that time, if you covered your hair, you had many more options than just the tichel and the shaytl. But you still had to wear a shaytl for work and for special events- you’d look weird otherwise.
Two weddings changed everything. I went to a wedding in New York where the bride’s sister walked down the aisle wearing a beautiful hat that matched her gown. Then I spent a year studying in Israel and while I was there, I attended a wedding in which the only women wearing shaytls were the kallah’s (bride’s) mother and a few of her American relatives. All the other married women were wearing hats, berets, or mitpachot (Israeli scarves) and they all looked beautiful.
For me, that was it. I decided that once I got married, I would cover my hair but that I would not wear a shaytl. More good news: when my husband and I were dating, the subject came up in conversation and I found out that he didn’t prefer shaytls either, nor did his mother who favored hats, berets, and snoods. For our wedding, my mother-in-law wore a hat made to match her gown and she looked wonderful.
I started covering with hats and berets, but something about mitpachot appealed to me and I tried them, but I had trouble finding wraps that I liked. The first wrap I discovered was the basic crown wrap. I liked it, but I wasn’t excited about it. Then, my husband and I went to Yerushalayim for our cousin’s bar-mitzvah and it was there that I saw a wrap that I loved. One of the relatives at the bar-mitzvah graciously showed me how to do the Yerushalmi twist. That wrap became a signature look for me for a long time. After a few years, I even took the plunge and began wearing mitpachot for special events. I felt more elegant and beautiful than I ever did before.
About 2 ½ years ago, a friend directed me to Wrapunzel. That was a watershed for me. Not only did I discover a plethora of scarves and wrap styles, but I found a whole community of women who love scarves as much as I do. That community has given me so much encouragement and support in so many ways.
Along the way, I’ve learned two important things involving hair covering:
- Hair covering is a very deeply personal mitzvah. Therefore, every woman needs to find the method of covering that works well for her and leaves her looking and feeling her best. Otherwise, she’ll resent it. Some women are more comfortable wearing hats in shul and that’s it. Others are more comfortable wearing hats or berets and showing their own hair underneath. Still others wear shaytls. To be clear, I have nothing against shaytls on other women as long as the shaytl flatters the woman wearing it. I just don’t like them on me.
- As Jews, we have to live within Halacha (Jewish law), but within that realm, there are so many options. No one should feel that hair covering or modest dress has to look frumpy or unattractive. Yes, married women have to wear hair coverings, but we can look wonderful in our hats, berets, shaytls, or wraps. And when we look that good, it makes for a wonderful Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name).
As I wear my mitpachot, whether they’re Israeli square scarves, 2-in-1s, pashminas, and all the variations, I feel that they express my creativity and individuality in ways that I never experienced before. And I’ve found that when I express myself that way, it draws people in and commands respect.
I am so proud to be a part of the Wrapunzelution. Thank you to Andrea Grinberg and to all my wonderful friends for giving me a place to really express myself and feel good about it.”
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