the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

The Bible and Talmud contain numerous references to "hor" (hair). The Talmud advises "dos folk" to keep their "hor" free of vermin. Samuel taught: "Neglected and filthy ("shmutsik") hair causes blindness." The Talmud warns against the moral dangers of vanity ("gadles") in hairstyle. The rabbis criticize Absalom whose long hair, of which he was overly proud, caught in a tree and led to his capture. Joseph got into trouble with the wife of Potiphar as punishment for preening before the mirror.

Back in 1971, Martin Marcus ("The Power of Yiddish Thinking"), wrote about marrying into a Jewish family:

"Across the table from you, grandma, whiskery and inscrutable, has fixed her attention upon your tastefully Clairoled scalp. At long last she utters malevolently, 'This is your natural hair color, this blonde?'
You fire back, 'No, grandma it's a wig.
Actually I've been parech since the age of thirteen." (FYI: "parech" is a Yiddish word for a low life, a shady character. Lit., someone having scabs on their head.)

Before we begin our chronicle of hair events, here's a list of essential Yiddish terms/sentences:

"di hor" the hair
"der sherer" the barber
"der shaytl" the traditional women's wig
"der sheynkayt-salon" the beauty parlor
"lise" bald
"upsherin" cutting off/cutting off ceremony
"Ikh vil a naye frizur" I want a new haircut
"Ikh vil opfarben mayne hor" I want to dye my hair



According to "Einstein's Rules" by Andy Borowitz and Steve Brodner (The New Yorker, 4/30), "three words that are no longer allowed in our house: "bad," "hair," and "day."

John Edwards paid stylist, Joseph Torrenueva, $400 for a haircut.

Celebrity hairstylist, Jonathan Antin, charges $750 a haircut in his West Hollywood salon and up to $10,000 when summoned out of town."Tayer!" (Expensive!)


According to the book, "1,000 Great Things About Being Jewish," "A yarmulke hides a bald spot" and "The worst places to hide the afikoman is under Grandma's wig."

Deborah Tannen ("You're Wearing That? Unhderstanding Mothers And Daughters in Conversation"), wrote, "Hair is one of what I think of as the Big Three topics about which mothers tend to criticize (or advise) their daughters. The others are clothing and weight."

Britney Spears shaves her "kop."

The Today Show (5/22) ran a clip of Katie Couric on her first day with then co-host, Bryant Gumbel, which Couric jokes, was "172 hairstyles ago."


Michael Wex ("Born To Kvetch"), wrote, "shtytlekh are advertised like any other merchandise and each style has a name of its own, always some- thing like 'The Britney' or 'The Alexis'- never 'The Nekhome-Mindl' or 'The Sheyndee-Rukhl." There are also spicy, more suggestive names like 'Midnight Confession'--as in the old Grass Roots song--or 'Silken Whisper,' which has nothing to do with what the sheytl is made of...the wigs they describe are a welcome change from the old- fashioned sheytl that the pope could have spotted from a hundred yards off.."Gevalt, zi hot a sheytl via a mus-het" - she's got a sheytl like a moosehead.'"

The Urban Dictionary defines the word "Jew fro" as follows: A Jewish man (or woman) that has very curly hair, resembling an afro, widely known from being mentioned on the TV show, "The OC."

Billy Crystal ("700 Sundays") wrote "Once a month I got my haircut from this wonderful barber in Long Beach. Remember barbers? His name was Cosmo..He'd put a smock around me. And I'd say to him, 'Cosmo, leave it long in the back, okay? Long in the back.'"

"Sure, Bill. Like one of the Be-ah tuls, huh? Everybody wants to look like one of the Be-ah tuls. You will look like a Be-ah tul too."

He then started to clip my hair off...

"What are you doing!"

"Your mother called

Donald Trump said, "I'll be honest with you: I think I get the worst press of any human being in the world I think I get terrible public relations. I can read four pages of a story in The New York Times and if there's half of a sentence that says like, my hair is terrible, I look like [crap], I take it personally. Source: "TrumpNation - The Art Of Being The Donald" by O'Brien


John Kerry claims that the Democrats have "besser" (better) hair than their opponents. (A recent poll by the Wahl Clipper Corp. showed that Americans actually prefer George Bush's hair to Kerry's, 51% to 30%).

In the book, "Yiddish with Dick and Jane" by Weiner and Davilman, the Glossary of Yiddish words contains the term "pupik": "...In walks this 'Bridgette,' with the blonde hair, probably bleached, in a dress up to her pupik."



Dr. Kelley Kline found that "Gentlemen do not prefer blondes. They prefer brunettes." She and her team also discovered that both guys and girls like "lang" (long), luscious hair compared to shorter cuts

Rabbi Shraga Simmons ( wrote, "In Israel, many boys got their first haircut on Lag B'Omer, at the tomb of Rebbe Shiman Bar Yochai in Meiron, Israel. It is an incredible joyous scene as thousands of boys receive their first haircut there all in one day."

Susan Kramer had 12 inches of her hair cut. She cut it for Locks of Love, an organization that provides free wigs for children who are balding due to disease.

"Just For Men" hair "kolir" (color) offers these youth-oriented frosted hair dyes: Bleach Blond, Sandstorm, Black Jack and Red Rum.

Donald Trump's hair was deemed worthy of its own David Letterman Top "Tsen" (10) List:

No. 7 Trumpy
No. 5 Unbe-weave-able
No. 4 Wiggy
No. 1 Taj Ma-helmet

Heeb, an irreverent Jewish review, published a 5-page photospread on the Jewfro in its first issue. They cited Albert Einstein and Bob Dylan as precursors of thes tyle. Other examples of people who have had Jewfros are Gabe Kaplan, Dustin Diamond, Matt STone and Art Garfunkel.

In the book, "Meshuggenary - Celebrating the World of Yiddish" we read the following Yiddish saying: "Zorgn un yor makh groy di hor"-- Worries and years make the hair gray.


A Salon Selectives poll [on Oscar night] stated that 32% responded that Julia Roberts still would look "sheyn" (beautiful) if bald.

Arnold Fine ("I Remember When!" - The Jewish Press) wrote, "Remember when Bobby PIns were the big 'cosmetic' item? By the way, you know who invented them? A policeman in London! That is why they are called Bobby Pins. Nevertheless, today the only place you can find them for free is in a shyul when somebody is having a Bar Mitzvah. Today, we use Velcro, so even the trusty Bobby Pin is going out of fashion!"

A Yale "Universitet" study found that people's self-esteen goes awry when their "hor" is out of place. They feel less "klug" (smart), less "feik" (capable), more embarrassed and less sociable.

In the book, "Jewish Mothers - strength, wisdom, compassion" by Paula Ethel Wolfson, Leah Lipman, who styles wigs for Orthodox women is interviewed. She says, "Once an Orthodox woman is married, her hair is considered an area of the body that is reserved for her husband and immediate family. Wearing a wig is a reminder for married women of laws of modesty and sets into motion a whole method of behaving...I feel that my wig is doing a mitzvah because I am helping Jewish women observe the commandments, plus I help them look really nice."

Al Gore was slammed for the way he looked durng the first debate. Gersh Kuntzman said, "He didn't have a hair transplant. The bald spot is still there, sort of."


Rabbi Nilton Bonder ("Yiddishe Kop") wrote about some of the questions the citizens of Chelm asked--and their answers: "And why does a man's hair go gray before his beard?" "Obvious! After all, the hair is at least thirteen yeas older than the beard," the rabbi replied, scratching the hair on his own chin.

Rosalie Sogolow ("Empty the Ocean with a Spoon"), wrote, "Even Naini Yeltsin let her hair grow out during her husband's Russian President Boris Yeltsin's heart surgery and recovery period, apparently abiding by the old fear that contact with a scissors is bad luck when a loved ones health is in jeopardy. Believers pointed out that after she went to have her hair cut, her husband became ill with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized again."


A senior colorist in London reported that a woman asked for hair the "kolir" of Buddy, the First Pet.


In Rebecca Goldstein's book, "Mazel," she writes, "In a few weeks, he ["Tzali"] wuld be turning three. His silken blond tresses would be snipped off, all except the earlocks, and he would be wrapped in a prayer shawl and carried off tothe cheder on his mother's back to begin his life of study."

Kathy Levine wrote, "I was born under the sign 'B.H.D.' (Bad Hair Day)."

O. J. gave this advice to "advokat" (lawyer), Barry Scheck: "Get a haircut." (Scheck was to share closing arguments with Cochran.)

The BBC shelled out $2,50 for Ivana Trump's hair and makeup when she appeared on the Frank Skinner Show.

Erma Bombeck wrote, "One of the first appointments a new widow makes upon hearing her husband has died is with her hairdresser. At the funeral she may look like roadkill, but every hair is in place and sprayed to stay there until the end of the century."


Webster's New World College Dictionary lists "baldies" as "folically challenged."

The following expression is found in Anna Sequoia and Louise Sarezky's book, "French for Mrs. Katz - All the French a Jewish Mother Could Possibly Need":

"Chauve schmauve. Est-ce qu'il pense que nous sommes aveugles?" (Bald, schmald. Does he think we can't see?)


Michael Ventura wrote, "Don't dye your hair unless you're a woman over forty ("fertsik") and you dye it the color of my obsessions. And if you're a man, then really don't dye to cover gray ("groy")."

Hillary Clinton and the family have a personal services contract with Christophe of Beverly Hills for haircuts and makeup.

Hillary Clinton told health czar, Ira Magaziner, to get a haircut and a new tie ("kravat") before a "televisye" appearance.

Bob Ziller, a "psikhologye profesor" caims that just admitting to a Bad Hair Day and lauhing it off is an excellent way to cope with the troublesome tresses.


One out of three American women "kolir" their hair. Between the ages of 28 and 55, it's one out of two.

Will Durst (Comedy Central) said, "Clinton looks like he sleeps in a hairnet ("hawrnets")."

In the book, "Letters to Rifka" by Karen Hesse, Rifka is detained on Ellis Island because of the ringworm she suffered from in Europe. The HIAS lady said, "Even though your ringworm may be gone, if your hair does not grow back, Rifka, the American government will have to view you as a social responsibility." Rifka replies, "Some Jewish women shave their heads on purpose. It is writen into the Jewish law. To be bald is not a sin."

Chaim Potok ("The Gift of Asher Levy") wrote, "Later that afternoon, some friends of my parents' came over to the house--most of them couples their age and a little younger a few my age, with little children." The men wore dark suits and dark hats; the women were handsomely wigged and garbed..."


Molly Katz ("Jewish As A Second Language") wrote, "You'll know you're a truly valued conversational partner when they do you the honor of sharing crucial points of advice. Obsevations such as 'You look nauseating in peach' or 'That haircut emphasizes your double chin' should erase any insecurity you may still have about your role as a companion in repartee."


According to "Jewish Proverbs" (Chronicle Books), "Gray hair is a glorious crown won by a righteous life."

Lucille Ball's first words to her daughter after "harts" surgery were mumbled under "der zoyershtof" (the oxygen) mask. She said, "Wouldn't you know--this is the day I was going to get my hair done."


Dean Sullivan defines "corona" as "the goofy haircut some monks receive to ensure their vow of chastity."

Rogaine, which is rubbed into the "skalp" was approved for hereditary male-pattern baldness. (It was approved for treating female-pattern hair loss in 1991.)


R. W Jackson defines a "hairpiece" as follows: n. A wig worn by a bald man, giving the appearance of a bald man wearing a wig.


Alfred J. Kolatch ("The Second Jewish Book of Why") asks, "Why does Jewish law prohibit men from dyeing their hair?"

Maimonides points out that the commandment in Deuteronomy implies that a man should not wear brightly colored clothing or shiny jewelry if such be the practice among women in his locality. He also points out that a man should not pluck white hairs from his head or face, a habit of women. Nor should a man dye his graying hair, which is a woman's practice as well."


Cynthia Freeman ("Come Pour The Wine") describes Fayge at the Shabbes meal: "Her curly black hair has been shampooed and fell in small ringlets around her really lovely full face, and her eyes, the color of soft ripe olives sparkled...Well, on Shabbes you wear your best. Every woman should look like a queen."
Sam Levenson ("You Don't Have to Be in Who's Who to Know What's What") wrote, "A girl with a rich father doesn't need a beauty parlor."
Novelist, Judith Rossner, was described in a Chicago Tribune profile as the "grown-up Wunderkind with an open, oval face framed with a Jewish Afro."


Shana Alexander wrote, "Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices. I hate men in bangs. I like my men in long hair, crew cuts, thinning hair, and no hair. I can't stand long strands plastered over a bald pate."
Hair spray surpasses "lipshtift" (lipstick) as the #1 selling beauty aid.
Men found the crew cuts they had worn in the services "bakvem" (comfortable) and easy and they became the standard civilian style.
The book, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" by Anita Loos, was a bestseller.
According to Leigh W. Rutledge ("When My Grandmother was a Child"), in 1900, "Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo."


Marjorie Wolfe's basic regimen is shampoo, conditioner, and "tfile" (prayer).

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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

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