After their immersion the Haredim congregate near the exit from the mikveh to prepare for the early morning prayers. As they shroud themselves in their tallits and put on their tefillin one notices that virtually all of them are wearing spectacles. Out of nearly 50 mostly young men who regularly frequent the place, only five without sight problems could be identified. Here, even without undressing anyone, observations provide some kind of hard data, conclusive empirical validation for the claim that there is such a thing as the Haredi body.
Written By Prof. Gideon Aran
For their part, the Haredim are aware of this optometric characteristic of theirs, and hurry to provide a passable rationalization that links glasses with erudition. In what is almost a reflex reaction, they bandy around a phrase that sounds as if they have rehearsed it many times in the past: “while the secular children are playing football, our children are reading the Torah, and that’s why they are short-sighted”.
A joke circulates in Haredi circles that suggests that glasses are the identifying feature of the Haredi, a matter of style that has become compulsory, almost like his beard and sidelocks, to the point of implying that there is peer pressure to wear glasses. With a wry smile, they relate that a not inconsiderable number of yeshiva students wear non-optical spectacles with lenses made from regular glass.
On the other hand, they jest, those that do not wear glasses are truly righteous: though they are actually as short-sighted as the rest, when they go out into the street they remove their spectacles so as not to commit the transgression of seeing the shape of a woman. Alternatively, they have not spent years studying at yeshiva, thus their sight has not been damaged.
Taken from “Denial Does Not Make The Haredi Body Go Away Ethnography of a Disappearing (?) Jewish Phenomenon”, By Gideon Aran.