Haredi Rabbi Schlomo Pappenheim made a surprising statement on Tuesday, when he called on Chassidim to abandon their traditional shtreimel hats, which are normally made out of real animal fur, in favor of synthetic versions. He couched his advice in traditional Jewish law, saying that the production of shtreimels disregards the law which prohibits causing animals needless pain (tza'ar ba'alei chayim).
Pappenheim went so far as to say that wearing a shtreimel today constitutes Chilul Hashem, or the desecration of God's name, due to the wide public awareness of the need to prevent cruelty to animals. “We live in an era in which people are more stringent, and they make a lot of noise about tza’ar ba’alei chayim. So we must stop this custom of hurting animals,” he said, according to Ma’ariv.
The shtreimel is a fur hat worn on Shabbat and other special occasions by Haredi men, such as after marriage. It is made of the tips of sable, mink, marten, or fox tails, and each hat is made up of about 30 animals. It can cost between $1,00 and $5,000.
Pappenheim is the chairman of Ha’edah Hacharedit, an anti-Zionist faction of Israel's Haredi public estimated to have between 50 and 100 thousand followers. He made his remarks at an animal rights conference which featured other prominent religious leaders.
"We should get to a point where people would be ashamed to wear anything but a synthetic shtreimel," he said.