Super Ugg Boots (Rettinghaus/Wikimedia Commons).
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/RETTINGHAUS)
Uggs, those sheepskin-lined boots which have lasted more than two decades as an American favorite, may actually be forbidden by Jewish law. The boots are a common choice for countless American Jews, but recently it became apparent that they may contain shaatnez, a mixture of wool and linen, which is prohibited by Jewish law.
Three separate shaatnez labs, which meticulously check clothing for any shaatnez, in New Jersey and England found shoes from Ugg which contained a mixture of wool and linen, according to the Five Towns Jewish Times.
The news caused somewhat of a panic in the Jewish community, with Ugg reportedly receiving more than 500 questions about the shaatnez issue.
Ugg has denied the claims that there is a shaatnez mixture in their shoes. In an email correspondence with Vox, Ugg senior service manager Mandi Geary said that Ugg has “been contacted by numerous members of the Jewish community following the release of erroneous information that our products contain both wool and linen. Please be assured that none of our current Ugg footwear products contain both wool and linen.”
The Shaatnez Test Center in Lakewood begs to differ, stating that they found seven different types of Ugg shoe styles containing wool and linen, including canvas sneakers, slip-on slides, moccasin slippers and classic style booties.
According to the Yeshiva World News (YNW) site, one customer named Chaya was told by Ugg customer service that “all our products contain linen.” An Ugg company spokesperson later told YNW that this was false.
A shaatnez tester at the Shatnes Laboratory of Williamsburg, Shloime Fischer, told Vox that he’s checked Ugg boots in the past and has never found shaatnez in their shoes.
“Ugg is a big line, with tons and tons of shoes and boots, and it’s really not common for them to mix wool and linen,” Fischer told Vox. “It could be that some shoes have, but I would say that 90% of the shoes they make, especially the popular boots that everyone wears, don’t have shaatnez.”
YNW reported that prominent rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Miller and Rabbi Dovid Harfenes, have ruled on the issue. Miller ruled that, other than the seven styles which presented issues, Uggs are permitted. Harfenes ruled that Ugg’s official statement, saying that none of their current Ugg footwear products contain shaatnez, can be believed since they put their statement in writing.
While many have fallen into panic, some have found comedy in this textile fiasco. Gav Bellino, the rabbi of the Sixth Street Community Synagogue in Manhattan, forbade the boots to his congregates, saying on his Facebook page “Uggs – even at the height of their popularity – were never fashionable or stylish... Did you actually need [the laws of] shaatnez to get you to stop wearing them? In my humble opinion, they are a great blight on the entire footwear industry and should be banned from our holy synagogues and Torah institutions.”
Rabbi Moshe Elefant, executive rabbinic coordinator and COO at the Orthodox Union, told Vox that he thinks people should not wear Uggs until further information are provided by Ugg on the materials it uses.
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