Jun 23, 2010

Adventures in Covering!

Yes, it's as exciting and thrilling as you think. It's Chaviva, your hair-covering newbie, and her wacky adventures in name changes and hair covering! Today's adventure begins in the Poconos at 5:30 in the morning (yuck) and ends, well, back in the Poconos at 6:30 in the evening (yawn!).

I got up at the you-know-what-of-dawn today in order to make it to Danbury, CT, today for a new driver's license. Yes, I know what you're thinking, we are moving to New Jersey in about a week, but you see, for ease of transition, it's easier to get myself in order in Connecticut first. This meant a visit to the Social Security Administration for a new card (where I discovered that my mother's legal maiden name is spelled differently than she thought ... according to the feds, anyhow), to the DMV, the bank, and to the post office for a new passport!

Whew. There was also some packing up of gigantic notebooks full of notes and papers so I can tackle my graduate exam in a few weeks after we're settled, as well as oodles of other things from the slowly emptying Galatz house in Connecticut.

Passport, Here I Come!
So what's the adventure? Hair covering. At two locations today I was required to have a photo taken -- the DMV and the post office (for the passport). At both locations, I was asked to remove my hat. What!? Remove my hat!? I played it cool, said politely, "I wear this hat for religious reasons." At the DMV it got a blank stare, so I replied with "I'm Jewish." It took the woman about 10 minutes to find the necessary paperwork for me to sign regarding my hat, and the paperwork merely said something along the lines of, "I vow that I must cover my hair for religious reasons, if I'm lying, you can throw me in the clink" followed by my signature (which, of course, is a whole other thing because I never know when to sign A. Edwards and when to sign C. Galatz). So I signed the paper, gave it to the woman, took my picture, and I have to say I was pretty pleased with the photo.

Then, a few hours later at the post office, the postal worker asked me to remove my hat. "Well, I can't," I said, "I've got to keep it on for religious reasons, I'm an Orthodox Jew." Another blank stare. "Um, well, I don't know what to tell you," he said. With my vast experience in this field, I asked him if there was a waiver or something I could sign, and he, once again, stared blankly at me. Inevitably, he pulled out a piece of loose-leaf paper and said, "I guess just write a note or something, to whom it may concern, explaining the hat thing." So I wrote the following:
To whom it may concern:
In my passport photo, I am wearing a hat. This is because I am a religious, Orthodox Jew, and am required by bible and law to cover my hair.
Thank you,
Chaviva Galatz
Hopefully my mention of "law" will play to their heartstrings. If they decline my passport, you can bet I'll raise a ruckus.

Overall I wasn't left with a sour taste in my mouth from either experience, it's just a long, grueling process this name change and getting married is. I'm forever going to be known by the non-Jewish public (and some of the Jewish public, unfortunately) as CHA-viva. As in, the "ch" of cheese. It gives me a nice Latina flare, right? I'm so diverse. Except not.

So my question for the readers is: Do you have a passport in which your hair is covered? A driver's license? Any other legal ID? How did you deal with having to cover your hair (or how did your wife handle it)? Is it a big deal? I almost think it'd be harder for a muslim woman in a full covering to get her driver's license ... how does THAT work?


Mottel said...

I have my yarmulka in all pictures. My wife has a sheitel in hers - so hard to tell if they even notice . . .

Mottel said...

subscribing to comments.

MichelChagall said...

I am wearing my kippah very clearly in my DL photo.

HSaboMilner said...

for my landed immigrant card (canada) i am wearing a mitpachat - a head scarf. I had to check off a box that said i wear one for religious reasons.

but there were guidelines i still had to follow. my ears needed to be showing, and there needed to be no shadow from my headcovering over my face. easier with a scarf than a hat.

but i also wear a sheitel / wig. so mostly i just wear that for these pix. the day i did pix for the landed immigrant card, my head was hurting, so i went the scarf route.

Anonymous said...

I have been wondering about this. I changed my social security card, but haven't changed anything else since I got married...in NOVEMBER. oops.

What is interesting though...is when I went to take the GREs and had my head covered, they almost threw me out because I didn't have a hair covering on in my license picture and they wouldn't believe me.

Luckily I was taking the exam in a very frum part of Boston, and one of the proctors explained to the other one, and I was let through.


Anonymous said...

mokumalef says:

For passport pictures I have always worn a sheitel and never been asked to remove it (if they'd even realized it is one ...). This I could never do, of course. The other thing is that up here in Canada they are purists altogether, because glasses too need to be removed. This creates very silly portraits for longterm eye gear wearers ...

Ofra said...

I am a Yemeni Jew in the United States and it is the custom in my Orthodox community to wear a headscarf like the Muslim women. When I went to get my driver's license, I had to push it back to show my ears and forehead (and I had to sign a silly waiver too). One guy wanted me to remove it so they could put in my hair color (NO) but luckily there was someone there who thought and went by the color of my eyebrows.

Daniel Saunders said...

I didn't even think of taking off my kippah for my passport photo, but it can't be seen anyway. I probably would have taken it off if I'd been asked, as there isn't really any halakhic problem I know of to taking it off for a couple of minutes.

Ambaa said...

I think there are certain kinds of head coverings that immediately look religious and the authorities don't question (or are nervous about questioning). A hat doesn't strike anyone as a religious thing, so that's probably what startles them.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

@Mottel, @Michel @Daniel A kippah is a lot more low-key, tho. It doesn't really show in a photo. If you have one of those gigantic na nach style ones, it might be a problem, but it still doesn't cover your ENTIRE body of hair, your ears, etc.

@EveryoneElse I should have thought about it better and worn a tichel ... but I wasn't thinking. I hope it doesn't kick back to me. Luckily, our next trip isn't for five months away, so I've got a bit of time to get it all hammered out.

@Ofra What an interesting experience! I didn't know Yeminite Jews had their own head-covering style ... although I should not be surprised. You know, I need to learn more about Yeminite Jewish customs; I'm utterly fascinated with Yeminite Jewry :) We once had a visiting rabbi at my shul who was running the high school on a 3-year plan, and when he led services it was like being in a whole other world (a beautiful, intriguing one).

@Aamba I have to wonder then: Do people assume the only scarf-wearing folks are Muslims?

Anonymous said...

My wife, who works for the Department of State, says that according to 7 FAM APPENDIX E 1340 ATTIRE B:

"Hats or Other Headgear, Bandages: Hats or other headgear, such as wide headbands or scarves, which completely obscure the hairline, should not be worn in passport photographs, unless the headgear is part of religious attire which is worn daily. Headgear worn as religious attire is acceptable as long as the face is not obscured. A signed statement from the applicant regarding the religious nature and the daily use of the headgear may be required in questionable cases. Photographs, in which applicants are wearing a thin headband, or sunglasses on the top of the applicant’s head, are acceptable.
If bandages obscure the head or face, a medical statement must be requested."


The picture looked fine to her.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

@Anon WOW! Thank you so much for this post. It's given me hope that my situation will go along smoothly, because I seem to meet the criteria and I wrote a note ... so here's hoping :)

Beth said...

@Melissa, don't feel bad, I haven't changed my name on everything and I got married in August 2008. I probably never will change it on everything unless forced, because my full name doesn't fit on most things, anyway.

Chaviva: the name-changing process is one of my major complaints about getting married, since people still tend to 'expect' you to do certain things with your name. I think you're lucky because it's a free name change, and you have already gone through the emotional process of changing that, so now it's more the physical process. My sister was upset with me for changing my name, and I just had to say, "Just wait until you get married..." like the big sister I am. It's such a personal thing!

I am lazy and paperwork-avoidant, so not only have I not changed my name most places (except on driver's license, SS card, and major documents) we only recently got a joint checking account. I got some very unwelcome comments at Wells Fargo about not having an account with my husband. What do they know? We stopped using them as our primary bank a long time ago, so I enjoyed explaining why my checking account had $5 in it and how I never pay ATM fees with my Fidelity brokerage account. Hah!

Anonymous said...

@Beth Glad to know I'm not the only one. haha

the rabbi's wife said...

Oh gosh, I just realized I'm still using my passport with my maiden name, head uncovered. I guess I'll change it over when it gets closer to expiring. why pay the huge fee unnecessarily, right? We have to travel with a bajillion documents proving who we all are anyway, because of he dual citizen thing. The only thing I've not been able to get because of my tichel is a visa card with my pic on it. Bank of America stinks.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

@therabbiswife That's SO weird. BoA let me take one with my tichel on :) I *had* to get a new passport, tho, because both my first and last names changed, which would have caused a huge ruckus (going from Amanda Edwards to Chaviva Galatz, no less).

Suburban Sweetheart said...

How odd. Haven't these people ever dealt with a single Jew or Muslim or Sikh?!

TMC said...

just a question because I'm curious... why do you choose to wear hats vs. a scarf or another more 'traditional' covering?

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