Chassidut Belz / Chassidut Toldot Avraham Yitzchak / Clothes / Minhag / Q & A

Q & A: “Why should outsiders not wear chassidic Clothes ?”

One of my blog readers asked why some Haredim may be upset about outsiders wearing clothes of various chassidic groups ?
On a very basic level, the answer is very simple: Why should anyone wear a “uniform” if he is not entitled to do so ?
Why should a person feel the desire of wearing a police uniform when he is not a policeman ? Of course, a police uniform is something official and chassic clothing is not. Nevertheless, why should one feel entitled do show the outside world what he is not.
I have come along this kind of behaviour many times. First, we have to see the difference between
1. “Shomer / Shomeret Minhag of a specific chassidic group – Someone who only follows the customs of a chassidic group”.
2. An official member of a specific chassidic group. Either born into the group or joining later on in life.
3. A Jew who is not an official member of a specific chassidic group but puts on the clothing of a chassidic group. Hopefully a Jew because various Christian missionaries could use haredi clothing for their evil purposes.
Let me give you an example of how a lot of chassidic Rebbes are dealing with Jews who would like to join a chassidic group:
I know someone who once joined the Belzer Chassidim on an official basis. By the way, in Chabad or various Ba’alei Teshuva Breslover Ba’alei Teshuva movements it has become customary to put on a certain hat or other clothing and calling themselves a Chabadnik or Breslover. Not so in other chassidic groups where there is actually a longer process of receiving membership. Meaning that the potential candidate has to live like every other Chassid of the group; within the community and following the Rebbe. This trial period can take 2 – 3 years or longer.
But coming back to the person I happen to know:
He once joined the Belzer Chassidim but wasn’t too happy because Belz is a large group and there is no way that you can speak to the Rebbe very often. Simply because there are a few thousand Chassidim and the Rebbe is extremely busy.
So, the person I know started looking for a smaller chassidic group where it is easier to approach the Rebbe on a personal basis. The person joined Toldot Avraham Yitzchak and, as we know, there is a huge difference in the clothing of a Belzer Chassid and a Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Chassid.
So, how did the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe react and what was his advice to the potential candidate ?
The Rebbe accepted the candidate for a trial period of 2 years or so but did the candidate also have to change his clothing style ?
No, because the Rebbe said that, as long as someone is not officially Toldot Avraham Yitzchak, he is not entitled to wear their clothes. Meaning that the candidate had to continue wearing Belzer clothes.
I have ran into quite a few people who turned out to just follow the Minhagim of a specific chassidic group. For whatever reasons. Maybe because they like the group and feel close to it. The group makes them feel like home and the community is very welcoming even to non – members.
I also came across Jews who were in the process of becoming an official member. Once I thought about joining Satmar but skipped this idea due to personal reasons and not because I have anything against Satmar. πŸ™‚
Nevertheless, there is quite an amount of Jews who either feel attracted by chassidic clothes, a specific Chassidut or both. If this happened to me and I am very honest about it, I would start going to their Synagogue, get to know some people and eventually speak to the Rebbitzin. In case of a male Jew, of course he has to introduce himself to the Rebbe. πŸ™‚
Personally, I don’t understand people who are not going to introduce themselves first. Why not going to this particular chassidic Synagogue and start talking to the Chassidim ? Even if it is Gur, Belz, Toldot Aharon or others. By the way, I know someone who has joined Gur on an official basis. However, there is one person here in Jerusalem (I am not mentioning his name) who is wearing Gur clothes but I don’t know whether he is Gur or maybe only keeps their customs. But, never mind, as he seemingly does have intense connections to Gur.
I have also come across Jews who simply put on chassidic clothes but are not chassidic at all. They are just attracted by the clothes, find it somehow cool and want to make an impression. At least, this is what they think they do.
Then there are those who start wearing the clothes of a particular chassidic group and don’t see anything wrong with that. I know a guy who does so but, and this is absolutely wrong what he does: He tells others that he is an official member of the group. This is a lie but others believe it.
If someone chooses to lie, he can only get away with it among people who have absolutely no clue about chassidic groups. The truth of the matter is that all Chassidim know each other. The Belzers know every Belzer, the Gerrer know the Gerrer, etc. If not, one Chassid knows all the other Chassidim and everyone has a connection to all the other members. So, if I came pretending that I am Satmar or Belz, a real Satmarer or Belzer would know immediately. In other words, you cannot get away with lying.
Why are Chassidim angry that an outsider is wearing their clothing style ? By the way, it is extremely hard to get hold of the real Toldot Aharon, Shomrei Emunim or Toldot Avraham Yitzchak clothing because they are sold privately. To members only.
First of all, you are giving a wrong impression. Lets say, you are wearing these clothes and you do something wrong. Your behaviour is inappropriate. Other people see you and start talking in a negative way about this chassidic group you pretend to represent. You are actually causing them a bad reputation. So, why should the Chassidim not be upset about that ?
As I said, reality shows that you can only impress other people or live a kind of a lie but the real Chassidim are fully aware of the fact that you are not one of them. Even if they don’t always let you know but you are and remain a weirdo and an outsider. By wearing the clothes in vain, so to speak, you are just causing yourself to get a negative reputation and this will make it extremely hard that a Rebbe may be willing to accept you in the end.

2 thoughts on “Q & A: “Why should outsiders not wear chassidic Clothes ?”

  1. Hello Miryam. Very interested article (as always)! Just two comments:
    1) I know Misnagdim who are married to Chassidim, and who wear Shtreimel on Shabbat and Chagim only, but black kippa or hat on weekdays.They might also prefer the Chassidic Shabbat and chagim tfillot and minhagim, but still not identify as members of a certain Chassidic group.
    2) The same for dati-leumi or hardali who wear more “frum” Shabbes clothes than during the week, especially in Europe (for example, kippa on weekdays but hat on Shabbes)
    I think this is acceptable, but would like to hear what you think of this attitude.

  2. B”H

    The person asking me the question was, and I hope that this is right, referring to Ba’alei Teshuva. When Ba’alei Teshuva decide putting on chassidic clothes of a particular group but are not official members.

    Anyway, there is a difference when some Midnagdim put on a Streimel on Shabbat. Why ? Because it has something to do with an old Yerushalmi custom. The old Yerushalmim who are still around in Mea Shearim do follow their own customs and mentality. Just look at Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv z”l who was a Midnaged but wore a Streimel on Shabbat.

    The Dati’im Le’umim and Chardalnikim I see wear a white shirt on Shabbat.

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