You Can Try, but You Can’t Hide It


yarmulkeBy S. Friedman

A number of years ago I worked for a gentleman who owned a large company that employed over 1,000 employees and was spread out amongst at least 10 separate facilities.  I was one of the few frum people that worked there.  We were mostly people just getting our feet wet in the industry, and the principal owner felt it was incumbent upon him to afford fellow members of his community an opportunity.  For that I am ever grateful, as I was on the receiving end of what the Rambam describes as the most virtuous form of tzedakah.

He was a very fair and accommodating superior, and I dutifully performed any task that was asked of me to the best of my ability.  However, there was one point of contention between us, one that both of us felt strongly about.

My boss was a big believer in portraying a “corporate” image.  He wanted every facet of his business to resemble the professionalism that one might expect from a Fortune 500 company.  To that end, he was always dressed to the nines.  A handsome man, his suave demeanor depicted to everyone the level of sophistication that he wanted others to aspire to.

He also did not wear a yarmulke while at any of his places of business.  Being thought of as an “ultra-orthodox” Jew was the equivalent of being a Country Bumpkin in his eyes.  He was forward thinking; not old fashioned.  And he wanted to ensure that everyone thought as much of him.

This image that he tried to depict was extremely important to him.  He approached me and shared with me his thought process, and was quite blunt in regards to how he didn’t want to be viewed as “the Jewish owner.”  He criticized my color blind sense of fashion that resulted in my dark pants and white shirt every day wardrobe.  My tzitzis, though tucked into my pants pockets, were visible and hence too stark of a reminder of my religiosity.  My beard, though trimmed, was noted as well.

In conclusion, he told me that he would not go so far as to suggest I remove my yarmulke, however, at the very least I should begin to wear blue shirts.  I won’t go into the debate as to whether there is a right or wrong in wearing a colored shirt.  One thing is for certain.  In the context of corporate America, wearing a white shirt is certainly accepted business practice.  It was only a fellow frum Jew who was familiar with our idiosyncrasies that was turned off by someone wearing an exclusively “yeshivishe” ensemble.

It was a few months later, and I was walking through the hallways of one of the facilities.  As I wasn’t a familiar face there, I noticed the staff looking me over and trying to ascertain who I was.  Then I overheard two ladies whispering to each other:

“See that Jewish guy there; I think that’s the owner.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right, but it might be his son because I think he’s older.”

So there I was, with my tzitzis in my pocket, white shirt and dark pants, beard and a yarmulke to top it all off, and here they thought that I was the boss!  How could they have possibly confused me with a man who presented himself as someone who would grace the cover of the latest fashion magazines?

He had made a very concerted effort to remove any and all outward vestiges of his yiddishkeit, but to no avail.  At the end of the day, be it for good or for bad, we are recognized as Jews.  We are in golus, and the moniker “Jew” will usually bear a negative connotation.  But try as you might, you cannot hide  who you are.  Maybe it’s better not to try.

{S. Newscenter}


  1. They know when you’re a Jew. Whether you dress like it or not. The nazis didn’t look for yarmulkes and white shirts.

  2. I would like to add a story of my own. I have a friend who left kollel after a number of years to pursue a college degree. As he was proud of his yiddishkeit, he dressed as he always did, with a suit jacket and pants, pressed white shirt, payos behind his ears, and large yarmulke. In one of his science classes was a fellow coreligionist from his town, who tried to “fit in.” He wore colored pants, an untucked colored shirt, and a baseball cap. He changed his name from Shmuel to Sam. As my friend was one of the best students in his class, when it came time to studying for exams, a few of the better students would join him for study sessions in the library. Now and then, they would respectfully ask him questions about his religion. One day, they were shmoozing, and one of them asked my friend–Hey–isn’t that guy Sam Jewish? Why doesn’t he dress like you? Why isn’t he proud of his religion? He looks like a slob with that baseball hat and his shirt untucked like that. (This coming from students dressed in shorts and t-shirts.)
    The lessons of this story are clear, and should be made to clear to those of us who are not so proud of their Judiasm especially much of today’s youth–First of all, no matter how hard you try to fit in, you will be recognized as a Jew. So you might as well cultivate a sense of pride in your Yiddishkeit. And if you behave as you should and carry yourself respectably, you will be respected for it, not denigrated. People hold Jews to a higher standard and expect them to play the part. That is a fact, whether you like it or not.

  3. B’H i work for a frum company and with its ups and downs -never have i been bothered yo change my appearance. I have a trim beard and i do NOT shave during sefira or the 3 weeks. i do were my Ttitz out and i dont care were i may be. At a client in the urban cities or a professional trade show.

    On the contrary, i usually am respected by many for my openness and integrity.

    For those who think that by hiding your true ‘identity” creates better opportunities and more money- you are only fooling yourself.

  4. Um they thought you were the boss because they couldn’t dream an employee would dress like a “Country Bumpkin” The boss is free to dress as he pleases

  5. We must start teaching our children and Bochurom, that all of mankind, adults and children, Yiddishe and Non-Yiddishe, are precious in the eyes of our Creator, Hashem Yisborach.
    Halevai, that our children should see, that we worry about the well-being of every person and we make an effort, not to exclude any person, from our Teffilohs. Especially when we Daven for Refuah Shleimo, we must daven for Yidden and Non-Yidden who are R”L not well.
    That will strenthen our empathy and concern for every Human Being, regardless of what kind of mother they were born to. And that will be M’oirer Rachmei Shomayim.
    HKB”H will, Never-Again, bring any Haterd or Pogroms or Holocausts against us.

  6. The story goes that a bochur, let’s call him Yanky, decided that for bein hazemanim he would go down to Miami Beach and “live it up”. So he goes out and buys a Hawaiin shirt, a nice comfortable pair of shorts, a pair of sandals and a baseball cap. He arrives in Miami goes into the airport restrooms to make his transformation. Yanky removes his white button down shirt, his black pants and his dress shoes. He puts on his new Hawaiin shirt, his shorts and sandals. He takes off his yarmulka and replaces it with his favorite teams’ baseball cap. He comes out of the restroom, finds the first bus that is heading towards the beach and gets on. When the bus arrives at Collins Avenue he gets off at the first bus stop. He begins to cross the street, when out of nowhere, a car plows into him and knocks him down unconscious. He finally awakes and comes to his senses and is lying on the ground looking straight up into the bright, powerful sun and says ” RS”O, why did you do this to me, I haven’t even done anything wrong yet?”

    And the Riboine Shel Olam looks down and says “Yanky? I didn’t realize that it was you.”

  7. B”H I also work for a large Frum Company. Half are Yidden & half are Goyim. Even though we deal with many large Companys sales staff, we are allowed to dress like a frum Benie Torah as long as we do so in a respectable way (ironed white shirt, no stains on the pants, clean Yarlmuka, clean Tztitzes, women with long skirts/sleeves etc…). B”H our boss is very Matzliach and is a big Baal Tzadaka as well.
    The point over here is: HKB”H is the one and only one who provides parnasah. If that is the case, why would someone go against what HKB”H wants and think that he will see simon bracha from his work??? HKB”H doesn’t need aitzos or help from humans! Years ago I went for a job interview, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to wear a Yarlmuka. I thanked him for his time and walked out. There is such a lack of Emunah out there by Employers and employees, its mamesh frightening!

  8. Sol,
    Don’t get carried away. There is halachik debate amongst authorities as to whether or not one is infact permitted to daven for the health of an aino yehudi. Respect? I absolutely agree, they deserve respect. Teffilos? Not so simple.

  9. Unfortunately character building has been substituted with an easy stand in —a uniform. Wearing a police uniform makes you no more a police officer than wearing a white shirt and black pants makes you a mentch.

  10. “I won’t go into the debate as to whether there is a right or wrong in wearing a colored shirt.” Umm…debate??? What religion do you belong to that proscribes what color shirt you have to wear? Is this one of the questions we will be asked after 120 ???

  11. To the dude from brisk:
    When the author says “whether there is a right or wrong.” doesn’t mean that there IS a right way and a wrong way. He means whether it is without merit or for good reason for those who wear white shirts.

  12. To: zeier poshut

    During WWII, Jews used to approached young SS men and ask, how could you refrain from doing everything in your power to relieve the suffering of young jewish children. They answered, that, ‘there is a debate amongst the authorities as to whether or not one is infact permitted to’ help a Jewish child.