Williamsburg has a new voice for women’s fashion — Hasidic rabbis.
A spate of Yiddish posters calling on Orthodox Jewish women to avoid wearing “tank tops,” T-shirts and “clingy dresses” were papered all over South Williamsburg this week as temperatures climbed into the 90s.
And the women are heeding the admonishion.
“It could be 105 degrees out — you’ll never see any of my body,” said a Williamsburg woman, Sara Stern. “Our way of life is beautiful — very discreet.”
The tank top ban is the latest edict from the Central Rabbinical Congress, a council of rabbis known for enforcing strict moral codes on Hasidic women.
While plenty of folks will find the edict to be a sage guideline, you may not be surprised to learn that others are not as positive about this campaign. Here's Gothamist to explain:
The flyers, which are in Hebrew, were issued by the Central Rabbinical Congress, a group of rabbis known for enforcing "strict moral codes" on Hasidic women. The signs are an attempt to dissuade women from shopping for the revealing clothing available at Manhattan department stores. Apparently there's been a handful of "bad apples" more interested in fashion than modesty, and the CRC is on a mission to keep them covered. But Baruch Herzefeld told the Brooklyn Paper that the group is intimidating women in the neighborhood, saying “These men think they are doing God’s work, but they are fanatics — everyone in Williamsburg hates them.”
Well, maybe not everyone. This neighborhood is not exactly South Beach:
The Council’s edicts appear to be having an effect.
Several Williamsburg residents said that the posters’ message primarily detours young women from buying revealing blouses, shirts, and tops available in Manhattan department stores.
“A very small percentage of women wear this kind of clothing and even if they are they’re wearing them over long-sleeve shirts,” said a proprietor of Englander Dry Goods on Lee Avenue.
The neighborhood’s strict Orthodox women typically wear below-the-knee skirts, shirts whose sleeves go well past the elbow, and blouses that cover up the neck. No, it’s not exactly a burka, but put it this way: There is very little risk of sunburn on even the brightest summer days.
Stern said that the traditional dress is part of a thousand-year tradition of modesty among the Hasidic people — though there are a few “bad apples,” who flock to the latest trends.