Perhaps the highlight of my time at JTA was this groundbreaking story on how Crocs were surpassing Chuck Taylors, Keds, flip-flops, et al., as the Yom Kippur shoe:
Like many High Holidays worshipers, Andrew Steinerman had traditionally dealt with the Yom Kippur prohibition on wearing leather footwear by turning to Converse’s classic Chuck Taylor high-top canvas basketball shoe.
Not anymore. This year the prominent Wall Street analyst sported a pair of black Crocs to his Modern Orthodox shul on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
And he wasn’t alone.
From secular beachgoers in Tel Aviv to right-wing Orthodox settlers in Hebron, Crocs – the bulbous-toed, open-back, rubber summer shoe – already were ubiquitous in Israel. Now, reports from several synagogues across America suggest, Crocs have surpassed Chuck Taylors, Keds, flip-flops and a host of other options to become the Yom Kippur shoe in the United States.
“It was so comfortable; I couldn’t believe how cushy it was,” said Steinerman, who opted for the subtle suit-matching black rather than one of the flashier Crocs colors. “Converse doesn’t have the right support. This was a big upgrade.”
Appparently too big of an upgrade for the haredi world’s most revered rabbi.
Rabbi Elyashiv of the Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodoxy has ruled that it is best not to wear Crocs shoes on Yom Kippur even though they are not made out of leather and, therefore, would seemingly be permissible for the holiday. His reasoning behind the ruling is that they are too comfortable, and thus don’t provide the level of suffering one should feel on the holiday.
Leather is traditionally not worn on Yom Kippur as a symbol of humility and increased humanity on the atonement holiday.
The halachic ruling came in response to a question posed to the rabbi by a young yeshiva student asking whether it is permissible to wear on Yom Kippur shoes one would normally wear throughout the year. In response, the rabbi ruled it is best to avoid wearing Crocs on the holiday. "It is permissible legalistically, but it is inadvisable," said Rabbi Elyashiv.
The decision adds even more poignancy to Allison Hoffman’s take in Tablet on the important question of what to put on your feet for this leatherless Day of Atonement:
For some of us, the real deprivation presented by Yom Kippur is not food, or even caffeine. It’s shoes—leather ones, to be precise. Rabbinic tradition, naturally, offers an array of explanations for why—leather shoes are considered a luxury; leather footwear was forbidden in the Temple; the need for shoes is a reminder of the sins of Eden. The real question, in practice, is what to wear instead.
Read the full story.