I was walking down 13th Avenue in Brooklyn’s Hasidic neighborhood of Boro Park a few weeks ago, and I saw a woman walking down the street decked out in a hijab and an abaya.
My first thought was that she was an observant Muslim woman — there is no shortage of hijabi women in Brooklyn — but her Hasidic female walking companion and her shopping bags made me realize she was Jewish. My realization of her Jewishness was followed soon by a sense of anxiety.
“Please tell me this woman is Persian, please let this woman be Persian”, I muttered under my breath as the woman approached. Many Iranian Jews in America continue to wear the clothing of their homeland, with some older Jewish women retaining the chadors they had worn in Iran. As she approached, I could tell by her accent — the woman was Hasidic and she was apparently a follower of the hijab and abaya-advocating movement of ultra-Orthodox women taking hold in Israel.
“Muslim women are imitating Jews to try to gain God’s favour with modesty. The truth is that the women of Israel are lessening in God’s eyes because the Arabs are more modest in dress."