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Shabbos Crown

C. Rosenberg

For chassidim around the world, it’s a non-negotiable part of their Shabbos wardrobe. But ask any experienced shtreimel maker, and you’ll learn that the handcrafted hat with a historic tradition demands an art and craft all its own

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

shiur

SHINING ON SHABBOS Rav Pinchas of Koritz used to say that Shabbos is an acronym for the words “Shtreimel b’makom tefillin” — on Shabbos, a shtreimel takes the place of tefillin, which are not worn on this day. Though Rav Pinchas’s acronym doubtlessly holds layers of esoteric significance, for hundreds of thousands of chassidim around the world, the regal fur hat is pashut pshat, a given, when Shabbos arrives (Photos: )

Visit the Boro Park location of Miller Shtreimel, and you can’t help but agree that Reb Shmuel Aryeh Miller has made it big. Just how big? Well, the iconic shtreimel in his window display is probably the largest in the world, at 3 feet (91 cm) in circumference and over 15 feet (4.5 meters) in height. But 25 years ago, Reb Shmuel Aryeh Miller — today a household name in shtreimel-wearing circles — was just beginning to learn the trade. 

“I went to as many furriers as I could and tried to learn everything they would teach me,” Miller recalls. “Back then, there were plenty of furriers around who were willing to work with beginners. Today that’s no longer the case. I also took apart several shtreimlach to see how they were constructed, and then used the knowledge I had gleaned to try making my own shtreimlach.” 

Try and fail, try and fail, but never fail to try was his motto during that early, learning stage. With each sample shtreimel Mr. Miller produced, he learned something new about shtreimel making — until he got the perfect product. 

Today, he’s considered a leader in the industry. Miller shtreimlach are proudly worn in Antwerp, Ashdod, Chicago, London, Lakewood, Melbourne — and anyplace else in the world you’ll find a chassid. The Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe of Yerushalayim has been outfitted with a Miller shtreimel, and received a VIP tour of Miller’s shtreimel factory upon his visit to the States. 

On a completely different note, Miller has produced shtreimlach for Yiddish-language plays by frum producers, when costume requirements included shtreimlach from historic time periods. Though his clients all know where to go when they need a shtreimel, few know about his behind-the-scenes efforts to construct the regal hats. (Excerpted from Mishpacha’s Behind the Scenes, Pesach Mega-Issue 5777)

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