Help us be better Jews


Our church, like most churches, is doing our annual Christmas musical: Joseph & Mary, Innkeepers, styrofoam buidings… the whole spectacular enchilada. We’ve got the generic middle-class rabble, some shepherds, plus a Rabbi & his wife (no wise men).

A couple of us were discussing that we’d like to try for some authenticity in dress, hair, & beards rather than our usual “wear a stripey tunic and rope belt” thing.

So, what I was hoping to get from you, gentle doper, is suggestions on how us men & women should dress & do our hair, hats/headcoverings, beards, etc.

Brief research seems to indicate that Yarmulkes are modern but that’s about all I’ve found so far.

So… ideas?

Watch “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Cross gartered sandals?

Watch Fiddler on the Roof if you want to find out what late 19th century/early 20th century Russian Jews wore…don’t watch it if you want to know what first century Palestinian Jews wore.

But to answer your question, a Jewish man at that time and place would probably wear a tunic tied with a belt at the waist. Over that, he’d wear a tassled robe with open sleeves…the quality and decorative status of which would depend on his social class and wealth. On his head he’d probably either wear a square headdress tied off with a decorative cord (look up ghutra or kaffiyah to see what I mean, or just look at a picture of Yasser Arafat), or a turban. He’ll probably be bearded and wear sandals.

A woman would wear a long robe that goes down to the ankles, and would cover her hair with a veil.

If your character is a Greek or Roman male civillian, he’s probably going to wear a close fitting tunic, with possibly a cloak covering him. He’ll probably wear sandals and be clean shaven. If he’s Roman and it’s a special occassion, he also might wear a toga, which is a long piece of cloth wrapped around the body. A Greek or Roman woman would probably wear a “female tunic”, which looked similar to the tunics that men war, but were longer. You’re more likely to find longer hair on Jews than on Romans or Greeks, but all three groups are likely to have short, curly hair.

Of course, social class makes a difference. A very poor man might just wear a loincloth…a piece of fabric tied around the waist that covers the genitals, while a rich man would be dressed in expensive fabrics and wear jewelry. Some Jewish craftsmen wore earrings symbolizing their craft, and a freed slave who chose to remain with his master wore earrings in the upper, cartilige part of his ears. A Jew was not likely to wear a tattoo, but a Greek or Roman man might.