The Jewish Community

On a typical day in Postville, one can find people from many different parts of the world walking the streets in traditional Orthodox Jewish garb, including the long black robes and distinctive hats of the local Jewish residents who put Postville on the map. On Shabbat, or the sabbath, which starts on Friday evenings and ends on Saturday night, Jews are forbidden to drive, so families walk through town on their way to the synagogue. Long beards and hats distinguish members of the different Jewish sects. Followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement often wear a traditional black, broad-rimmed fedora. Members of the Sigit movement wear large, saucer-shaped fur hats that may be two feet wide and about six inches tall. Members of the Belz sect also wear fur hats, but theirs look more like traditional Russian sable hats, rising up to a foot above the wearer’s head.

There are also members of the Vizhnitz movement, as well as other Orthodox and even secular Jews who come from diverse locations, ranging from Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey to Russia, Argentina, Lithuania and Israel. Every day, observant Jewish men wear kippas, or skullcaps, in public as a sign of commitment to G‑d. (Out of respect for the sacredness and holiness of the Divine Name, Orthodox Jews do not spell out the name of the creator in writings. This lessens the chance of it being erased, destroyed, or discarded, even in languages other than Hebrew.) The Jewish married women dress modestly and generally wear wigs or scarves in public out of modesty.

Among Orthodox Jews, gender segregation starts at an early age. Jewish children start attending boys’ or girls’ schools when they are about four years old. Adult activities outside the home, including worship, parties, and work are generally segregated, too.