Wearing Swine on My Sleeve

Chaviva Galatz // Teaneck, NJ

I am, for all intents and purposes, an Orthodox Jew living in New Jersey. I converted to Judaism once in 2006 and again in 2010 (because once is just not enough), so I know what living in a people-eat-pork world is like. My mom would make pork cutlets that were edible for the simple reason that they were doused in lemon-pepper seasoning (which I can’t even eat today).

But being an Orthodox Jew, I don’t eat or even reference pork or pigs on a regular basis. I do, however, own a shirt emblazoned with a pig that I happened to pick up at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive this year in Austin, TX. The shirt is simple, featuring text that says “The SXSW BBQ Company” with “Original Flavor” stamped onto the flat image of a porker.

I used to wear a lot of T-shirts and cardigans, and luckily for my mode of modest dress that style still works. So a few weeks ago, I threw on my piggy piece for a trip to Woodbury Commons in New York. What didn’t occur to me, however, was that this outlet mall is in the environs of Monsey and Kiryat Yoel — two very, very religious areas with a very specific set of Orthodox Jew. There I was, in the blazing heat at an overstuffed outlet mall with my pig-proud shirt among women in black skirts and foam head coverings. Can you imagine the looks I got?

Married woman. Hair covered. Skirt below the knees. Cardigan past the elbows. Shirt covering her collar bone. Oh, and that big pink pig, too.

As I wrote about that incredibly awkward experience and it’s connection to modesty, or tzniut, in Judaism, I realized that my choice wasn’t particularly wise. I suppose in that instant I learned that modesty is more about the length of my clothing, but what’s on the clothing. It might be just as weird to sport a Joe’s Crab Shack shirt to synagogue or to buy my favorite rabbi his own shark-skin kippah.

Some things, I suppose, are better left in drawers.

Chaviva Galatz, a convert to Judaism, documents her journey through Judaism and her ever-evolving life as an Orthodox Jew on her blog called Just Call Me Chaviva.

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