Jews: Dress Codes
There are no strict rules governing dress for most Jews, and many simply adopt the commonplace clothing of the people around them. Young people may need to be reined in occasionally if they wear clothes that their elders consider to be inappropriate, but this is more to do with being a teenager than being Jewish!
The only widespread rule is that women must cover their hair while praying and when they enter the synagogue. Men have a similar ruling that has developed into a tradition of wearing the kappah or yamulkah (skullcap) whenever they leave the house.
During prayer, the head is covered. For men, this is done by wearing the kappah. Women will usually wear a headscarf. This is both to show respect to G-d and also to serve as a reminder that there is something above every Jew, a higher authority – G-d Himself.
In addition, male Jews will wear tefillin at least once a day. These small black cubes are tied to the forehead and the dominant arm to remind him that his thoughts and actions must be for and guided by G-d. A prayer shawl – the tallit – is also worn by men during prayer.
People may wear whatever else they wish to during prayer, with the proviso that it is modest, clean and in good repair.
The rules governing dress on the Sabbath are much the same as those for everyday prayer; clean clothing in good repair, and a head covering of some kind is worn by both genders during the Sabbath. On certain holidays, more flamboyant clothing or even 'traditional dress' from the local region may be worn.
The more Orthodox Jewish communities will also vary in their dress, but tend to be more formal as a rule. Men might wear a hat at all times, rather than just during prayer, and they might also grow their hair and beard long because of an old injunction against shaving. Orthodox women will also usually cover their head when outside the house, and will avoid exposing their arms and legs. If possible, offer Orthodox Jews long hospital gowns that close without gaps and also cover the arms. If these are not available, encourage patients to bring a dressing gown.
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