A Fascinating Custom

At the age of 50 a Jewish male traditionally grows an ornate pubic beard.  Decorations include shells, beads and coins , but there are no strict rules and a measure of individual creativity is definitely encouraged (fig. 1)

The traditional “Shalok” or “shalooq” is a way for an Ashkenazi male to indicate his approach to life to the father of a prospective match for his children.  At the ceremony of “shal v tuma” prospective interlopers will interbraid their shaloqim and have a mock battle or dance, while all the female members of each clan join in the festivities by singing ribald songs.  These ceremonies, performed under the half moon still bring cheerful melodies to the Ashkenazi communities of the upper West side of Manhattan and Los Angeles, although their initial atropaic function has been largely forgotten. [Fig. 2]

At the climax of the ceremony the most respected member of the community will sometimes manifest an item from the recesses of the shalok using stage magic; here we see a respected scholar produce a baby chicken. (Fig. 3)


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