From Quora: How would a Jewish man possibly react if someone cut his beard with a scissor?

Here is an answer from history:[1] Paraphrased and copied (with some abbreviations) from a paper by Glenn Dynner (who was my teacher at SLC):

In 1845, Tsar Nicholas of Russia decreed a ban on traditional Jewish clothing, because “Traditional Jewish attire was now deemed clannish and visibly repugnant, while Jewish hairstyles were said to encourage the spread of the scalp infection known as koltun.”

This was the banned look:

According to the ban, “Jewish men must no longer wear silk, certain kinds of wool, Jewish-style long coats, belts, Jewish hats, yarmulkes, short Jewish-style pants, knee-high laced shoes, beards or peyos.”

The ban also outlined specific restrictions on women’s dress.

It was forcefully enforced.

Here is a specific instance from Dynner’s paper:


“An incident that caused Polish officials some concern and embarrassment occurred on a train to Kraków and involved three Galician merchants […] As the train was making its way, two of the Jews, Markus and Leibel, were attracted by music coming from the dining car. Upon entering the car they encountered several uniformed railroad clerks, police, and the Police Inspector, Jaskiewicz. The police demanded to see Markus and Leibel’s passports and began to question them. Then, at Jaskiewicz’s order, they produced scissors, grabbed Markus, cut off his peyos, and stripped him of his Jewish-style shirt and jacket. Next,they grabbed Leibel and ripped off his outer clothes.

At that point, their third friend Berek entered the car. As neither Leibel nor Berek had visible peyos, the police at first only ripped off their shirts and jackets. But next they began to go for their beards, beginning with Markus.

Now, something remarkable happened: Berek began to physically defend his friend, while certain passengers and railroad clerks began to vocally protest against the behavior of the police. Finally, at the appearance of a Habsburg inspector, the police desisted. Though Inspector Jaskiewicz was to later claim that the “fanatical” Jews had “quarreled” with him, he was reprimanded and sentenced to twenty-four hours in a military prison.”


How about that!

Here is the full paper by Dynner: The Garment of Torah.

See also parts of the book Memoirs of a Grandmother for a woman’s telling of how scissors were used left and right.

Footnotes

[1] The Garment of Torah: Clothing Decrees and the First Gerer Rebbe

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