Fur is a loaded topic for everyone these days, but for Jewish women it has long been laden with meaning. For our grandmothers (or mothers) it was often a symbol of arrival, of having made it — perhaps it was the one luxury our self-sacrificing foremothers allowed themselves after years of making do. So we’ve inherited these coats, and they hang in our hallway closets.
Remember those childhood hours you spent stroking it, sitting next to Mom or Bubbe in shul. We have complicated feelings about the furs. (A friend of ours wore hers for the last time when someone shouted at her, “How’d you get the blood out?”) Did you send your inherited fur off the Salvation Army, but now feel bad about it? Though it’s unclear that fur is any worse than leather, down, or even high-pollutant human-made fibers like thinsulate or polyethylene, fur’s high visibility/high indulgence factor particularly invites scorn. It feels so good as we brush past it in the closet; it reminds us of Ma at Benjy’s Bar Mitzvah — but we could never wear it. Tel-Aviv Chief Sephardic rabbi, Haim David Halevi, recently issued a compassionate ruling that since Jewish law forbids the causing of pain to animals, the manufacture and wearing of fur coats is forbidden. What’s a daughter or granddaughter to do?
The following story and vignettes tackle the issue.