Can One be a Frum Jew with a Nose-Ring?

A classic Beyond BT post from December 15, 2005.

Growing up, I was always the nerdy kid. I was the one who did not fit in with the crowd, who did not care about being popular, who wore crazy clothing, who wrote poetry instead of paying attention in school, and who went through a rainbow of hair colors.

I first became enamored with Judaism when I joined my high school youth group. Despite my weirdness, I was accepted for who I was, and I did not have to change myself to have friends.

I first encountered frumkeit when I got to UPenn. The Orthodox students I encountered were warm and welcoming. Their love of Judaism sparked my interest, and I wanted more than anything to be like them.

As I started taking on more and more mitzvot, I thought that it was not enough just to be observant. In order to truly be frum, I had to have the” frum personality.” I ignored all the parts of me that I did not consider Jewish, and plunged into Jewish life, making huge Shabbat meals for everyone, going around the dorm building giving away fresh baked cookies or deli-roll, attending 5 shiurim a week (plus learning with a few chevrutot). Every activity I did was Jewish.

I think everyone goes through this stage, where they cut off all ties to their past persona and try to reinvent themselves as their new frum self. Unfortunately for me, this led to an identity crisis. I still did not feel like I truly was one of those Orthodox girls that I looked up to, and yet, I had definitely transformed into someone completely different than my own self.

It took me a trip outside to a park for me to consciously realize what I had done. Up until this point, I had not realized that there was this whole part of me that I had pushed deep down inside.

It takes a lot of thought to go back through your memories, your old essence of self, to pull out the remnants that can be saved, that can be incorporated into your new frum self. But I would argue it is something that we all need to do at some point. No one can completely re-create themselves.

For me this required dedicating more time to reading fantasy novels for fun, to taking walks in nature, and to relaxing in front of the television every so often. But even this was not enough. I felt that in some way I needed to reclaim part of my old unique self in order to be able to better merge that self and my Jewish self instead of having them as two different personalities. Something I had wanted to do since freshman year, but had told myself it was not something that conformed to Orthodox norms.

That something was getting my nose pierced. I had talked to my rabbi, who gave me the psak that there was nothing halachically wrong with this, (though he thought I was a bit crazy). I did not want to make an outward statement of rebellion, of rejecting the religion I had tried so hard to be a part of. But I wanted a reminder to myself that deep down inside I was still Rachel.

It was a very cathartic experience for me. And for all that I worried that people might shun me for not conforming, most people either did not notice it (since I got something small and discreet) or if they did, thought it was cool. Even the yeshivish community in Providence that I visit whenever I am living at my parents’ house did not really notice or think less of me.

So I would say that the moral of the story is that if there is something you want to do that does not conflict with halacha, but is not part of your community’s norms, go for it. People are more accepting than you would expect, and they might even respect you more for not being afraid to be who you are.

49 comments on “Can One be a Frum Jew with a Nose-Ring?

  1. Reading this again, almost ten years later, makes me sad. The author was so enthusiastic about being frum, even when she realized she’d lost part of herself in the process. She thought getting a nose ring was all she needed to do to find herself again, but I believe she eventually left the frum world completely. I hope she found herself and she’s in a good place now.

  2. Administrator, don’t send Yosh away. We need him and his sharp pungent wit on Beyond BT.

    He’s the chrain on our gefilte fish.

    He’s the maror on our Seder plates.

    He’s the paprika in our cholent.

    He’s the salt in our coffee.

    He’s the hot spicy mustard on our extra lean pastrami sandwiches.

    He’s the kick in our, um….complacency.

    So please keep Yosh and his comments, otherwise life would be too easy and Beyond BT would be too sweet!

  3. Yosh, as we’ve said before, the tone and rhetoric is inappropriate for this forum.

    Please email us at to discuss this if you wish to continue commenting.

  4. ross, the only thing vicious around here is the continual characterization of torah as something quick and easy that can be boiled down to sound bites and easily digested along with the daily deals from jcpenney that arrive in our inbox.

    can we please stop reducing mishlei and pirkei avos to mere slogans?

  5. The above comment is a vicious, unprovoked attack on a member of this Beyond BT community. Yo, Administrator!!

  6. To receive quick easy Torah quotes

    “Quick and easy” Torah quotes?

    I can’t image any greater opportunity for ridicule. In fact, it’s a bizayon to Torah. You think HaShem was yagdil Torah v’yadir so that you’d have a wider selection of quick-n-easy Torah quotes to dish out via email?


    Can one be a Frum Jew with a nose-ring?


    Metsudath David comment on Mishlei/Proverbs, chapter 4, verse 24:
    Do not do what will give people an opportunity to ridicule you…

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  8. I don’t understand why someone would give in to some Secular Israeli’s conception of what Yahadut or Halakha are. Most Secular Israelis know nothing about Halakha aside from the negative impressions and stereotypes they get from Rabbanut bureaucracy.

    Just because a Secular Israeli thinks you can’t wear both tzitzit and an earring it doesn’t make it true.

  9. That was a great story, Rachel. I’d like to share a story (two months late!) that happened a couple of years ago — for you and your readers. During a walk home on Shabbos, I decided to ask a rabbi what I thought was a tough question. Now, this rabbi is particularly well-liked, and he is known for being quick with puns. I asked him, “What would you say to a Jewish girl who had (or maybe I said “wanted”) a nosering, and who defended herself based on the fact that Rivka Imeinu had worn them. — Caution: I will paraphrase what the rabbi said, since my memory isn’t perfect. — He quickly answered that he wouldn’t say a thing. I asked him why not. He answered something along the lines that there was nothing of significance to argue about. But I pressed on, asking him to pretend that he /had/ to answer something. So, he thought for a few seconds and said, “Well, I guess I’d say that when a person chooses his style of clothing, accessories, all the external things, he is usually copying someone else, or at least is influenced by someone else. He should recognize that. A person should consider if he is copying someone of substance.” The rabbi then paused, his eyes twinkled a bit, and resumed. “Or substances.”

  10. Hi
    i think you did what is rite. if u felt that you could complete yourself through this i think you were rite. i know from being a 13 yr old girl who comes from a non religious home and attends a frum school in a small city that i wanted to be myself even though i was facing alot of judgement from my friends. you want to show people what you were and then what you have become so that they look up and recognize what you have gone though. when your children grow up they will see what kind of mother they have, a woman that is tru in what she believes in and is not afraid to show that she is diferent. i look up to you and think this is an important lesson for everyone
    thank you for giving me this satisfaction

  11. I read this post with EXTREME interest. My oldest wants a nose ring so badly and has wanted one since she was 12 years old. She is now in seminary in Tsfat and was mentioning as a side note, that many of the girls there in Tsfat have nose rings. I laughed and said “what a co-inkidink!” I have no issue at all with her having one, I am ashamed to say I worry about ‘what the neighbors will think’, and of future shidduchim. Really though, when that time comes I hope the questions are about observance and middot and not nose rings, does she wear a shabbos robe and the fact I am not a 24/7 shietel wearing. (much prefering scarves and hats) Besides I really think it would look nice on her °Ü°
    kol tuv!~

  12. I totally understand where you’re coming from… Coming from a secular world, and wanting to embrace the frum world without losing what you love about yourself can sometimes be hard – especially when you see yourself as an iconoclast… When dressing tznius suddenly looks like jean skirt after jean skirt after jean skirt, even when every single girl knows it doesn’t have to be, sometimes you want to scream!!! :) It’s not about breaking with the past as much as it’s about breaking with that feeling that to be a BT, you have to stay in a box to be accepted, while being secular meant you got to shake the box however you wanted… so any box-shaking that’s halachically permissable can sometimes be so worth it. It’s not about total freedom to throw all the rules out. It’s about finding breathing room within the rules you already accept. Am I on target?

    I was recently divorced, sadly. It was unavoidable and in retrospect the best thing that could have happened for me – since then I believe I have found my bashert. But in the time after I became free, I felt the need to escape a bit and reexamine who I really was and try to find myself again… and – in the same spirit as you — I got my navel pierced. I’m in my mid 30’s and it’s my own mini-rebellion. No one will know but me and someday my husband and my mikvah lady :) I talked it over with a rabbi first, and he didn’t see a problem either. He kept a (mostly) straight face the whole time. ;) And if I ever have second thoughts, I can always take it out again.

    I loved your post… there’s room in the kehilla for all of us

  13. Rachel,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. Although I agree with your premise of not breaking abruptly with your past, I question the particular application here. While I find the shidduchim, tznius and separating-from-the-tzibbor issues to be very noteworthy, I must say that, to me, the most compelling points were those made by Chaim Grossfarstant (December 15th, 2005 18:27) and Eddie Dembitzer(December 18th, 2005 12:18).


  14. I’ve been debating whether to put in my two cents on this topic, since the issue is clearly not halachic and my own personal hashkofic persepective may not be relevant to the writer.

    In the course of reading the comments, however, I remembered an incident from my first month in yeshiva. I had arrived wearing an earring — not common even among new arrivals at Ohr Somayach. I was engaging in philosophic fencing every day with Rav Dovid Gottleib (and losing consistently). As it turned out, I was still a month away from committing myself to Torah observance, but I had decided to start wearing tzitzis.

    Not a week passed after I had donned my new tzitzis before I stepped into an elevator and, immediately, a SECULAR Israeli (in true Israeli fashion) accosted me.

    “Ma zeh?” he demanded. “What’s this?” He pointed to my tzitzis and said, “You can have this…” then pointed to my earring, “or you can have this. But this and this together? No! It’s impossible.”

    I won’t editorialize too much, but it occurred to me that if even a secular Israeli saw the contradiction in my appearance, then probably one or the other would have to go.

    The earring went.

  15. Excellent post. I like this blog because of articles like this.

    If your Rabbi said it’s fine – more power to you. You know if you yourself can deal with the naysayers. As far as preventing shiducchim? Hmmm… It’s all relative. It depends highly on the community. For example, here (in FL), you have a lot of Sephardi/Israeli/South American Jews who have very different customs. I remember when started their henna section – I was thrilled (although I know a lot of people were thinking, “Huh, what’s that?”). There used to be a woman in my neighborhood who was an Indian Jew. I don’t think she had a nose ring, but if she did, I don’t think anyone would look twice.

    Don’t get me wrong, Jew have a strong tradition of dressing distinctly from the communities around them; so in that aspect, it is commendable to ‘conform’. But the degree to which you take that depends on hashkafa. For example, I have no desire to sport a nose ring. But I also have no desire to wear short sleeve shirts. My Rav and shul are Yeshivish, and that would put me at odds with acceptable modes of dress. But I would not look down on any Jew for a second if they had long hair, or a nose ring, or anything else of the sort. Like your Rav said, it is not against halacha, so you are not committing an aveirah.

  16. Rachel,

    I don’t think you can get to the article online now without purchasing the issue of Lilith.

    It’s funny. As strange as a nose-stud might be to some people, a woman who wore t’fillin to shul would receive so many more weird looks than a woman who has a nose-stud, in both Reform and Orthodox shuls. Only the Conservative movement really has women wearing t’fillin on a regular basis.

    Do you daven regularly now that you have the t’fillin?

  17. This post makes me smile! I have been flirting with the idea of getting a nosering since I was in college (I’m thirty now). It may yet happen… :-)

    There was a great article by Rachel Kranson in Lilith a few years back about our foremother Rebeccah getting a nosering at the well. (I linked to it in this blog post about how I decided to spring for tefillin instead of piercing my nose last year…)

  18. Tanta

    I don’t know how long it will last. I realize that a nose-ring on a 50-year old woman would look a bit silly, so whenever I become that old, or maybe even younger, I’ll take it out.

    If I were banned from certain shudduchim, it would probably be with guys who haskafically wouldn’t work for me anyways, so I’m not so worried. No one in my community seems to care.

    I guess if it ever really became an issue (like if it would effect my kids’ shidduchim/schooling/whatever or if people wouldn’t eat at my house for only that reason) despite the fact that I might not agree with how other people judge someone’s frumness based on their appearance and not their actual mitzvot, I would take it out. I hope it never comes to that.

  19. i totally feel it, i love the way eyebrow rings look and wanted one for atleast 5 years now!
    so it’s very commendable u recognized ur desire and fulfilled it
    how long will it last?
    probably not too long, but maybe forever. it depends on what it does for you
    and i do think also, that its important to be aware of the motivation behind it (like anything else)
    but i do think u to be very cool
    in my community i would be banned from shidduchim for certain yeshivos, doesn’t seem to be that way for u
    lol ;)

  20. I don’t see the problem at all. You have permission from her rabbi and it’s no more or less a yiddishe minhag than, say, piercing your ears.

    My husband and I live in Flatbush, where we have friends across the spectrum. No one cares that I wear t-shirts advertising conventions, or that my husband has a long ponytail. He’s still asked to take part in very “black hat” shiurim because all they need to do is talk to him to know he knows what he’s talking about.

    We watch television, read science fiction and fantasy, decorate our apartment with paintings from science fiction conventions and I pick up a stack of comic books every Wednesday. None of those things impact negatively on our Judaism, nor can I see how they would.

  21. Rachel, you remind me somewhat of myself. OK, I never got a nose ring, but can certainly understand your motivation. In fact, it’s that non-conformity issue that still, to this day, perhaps 25+ years since becoming frum, that still sets me somewhat apart from the mainstream. I still own my abundant record collection from the 60-70’s and my kids know my rather 60ish background. In fact, it leads to something that when I have the chance, I’d like to submit here as a “rant” – why do some people alter their entire personalities when they become frum?

  22. Rachel,

    I know you’re reveling in the love you’ve been shown here and perhaps it’s well deserved. You’ve made a difficult choice and the integration process is perhaps the hardest part of all. But I must register my disagreement with the general tone of approval that I’m reading in these posts.

    A nose ring is not something that should intrinsically affect your well-being on any level. Besides for its obvious lack of conformity, it’s a shame that you can’t come to terms with your new path in life unless you resort to something as empty and hollow as a nose-ring.

    I’ve worked with many a BT and have found that those who resort to these types of gimmicks don’t help themselves in the long run. You’d be far better served to take a step back and reevaluate yourself and analyze whether you’ve proceeded down the path of frumkeit in a healthy way. Did you run before you knew how to walk? Did you assume chumros that were beyond your capacity? Did you lose friends that needn’t have been lost?

    If any of those are true [and there are other things as well to consider] you might want to consider modifying your approach and taking a more even-keeled attitude. But to have an unhealthy approach and remedy it with a nose-ring is certainly not the answer.

    Please don’t think I’m insensitive to you. I’m not. I’ve devoted my life to heloping people in your situation and my pint in writing this was to express my sinceret hope that you’ll take the time to find real happiness and peace with your decision.

  23. Rachel you beat me to the punch on my response to Ryan.

    Ryan – Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my point. I am not saying that when it comes to learning BTs are being risky when they seek to dive in at full force. I am talking about BTs who take on too many lifestyle changes too fast, especially those that alienate them from their friends and families. The five or six experienced kiruv professionals I have recently discussed this with agree that this is one of the primary areas of concern for younger BTs. Additionally, the numerous BTs I have discussed this with have told me that they have experienced this either personally or have seen it in friends or acquaintances.

    There is a famous question on the tefilah where we ask Hashem “V’ha-seir sa-tan mi-l’fa-nei-nu u-mei-a-cha-rei-nu” (sorry I have not yet learned how to blog in Hebrew) -Remove the Satan (often translated or interpreted as one’s yetzer ho-ra (bad inclination)) from in front of us and from behind us. It is easy to see how something in front of us can serve as an obstacle to achieving our goal. The question is how something behind us can serve as an obstacle to achieving our goal. Rav Yisrael Salanter answers that while something in front of you impedes your progress, something behind you pushes you into something too quickly, before you are ready. Since taking on too much too fast will usually cause someone to tire or become overburdened, that is just as much an impediment to progress as an obstacle in front of you.

    In your particular situation, it is quite unfortunate that the schools you were enrolled in did not recognize your potential and seriousness. Perhaps Rabbi Horowitz can address that particular point since he has a wealth of experience in chinuch and schooling and I have nothing to offer but my own personal experiences and observations.

  24. Ryan,

    I’m sorry that you had such a negative experience with Jewish learning institutions. But that shouldn’t reflect upon all of frumkeit, because there are plenty of people who do encourage BTs to learn. Maybe they just didn’t have a place for someone with your level of learning and motivation in those institutions. That’s where a good chevruta can come in.

    Though I would say there’s a difference in taking learning slowly and taking practice slowly, and it seems [correct me if I’m wrong] that David was commenting on the latter.

    To which I would say: I definitely took on practice too quickly, but I couldn’t have done otherwise and still considered myself a moral person. Once I learned something was wrong, I stopped doing it (to the best of my ability). [Of course, that was in retrospect a really bad idea…] I had no trouble being accepted, though, Baruch Hashem. [And when I first started frumming out I had turquoise hair…]

  25. Thanks for the great discussion regarding Rachel’s post. I found myself laughing out loud at Yaakov’s post (#16), shkoyach!

    I hear both sides of the discussion. On one hand wearing a nosering is uncommon in torah observant communities, however, it’s not an aveira and if it allows you to feel more like you, then gezunta heit.

    Does that mean I want my child marrying yours? At first glace I think it would give me pause, but like so many things in torah, there is a good deal of grey area, and I guess I would be forced to ask questions.

  26. I think all this focus on the nosering itself has diverted us from many of the other good points Rachel has made.

    For example, the whole issue of BTs (especially younger BTs) jumping in feet first to make up for lost time. This is a common area of concern especially when nearly everybody with experience in this area would caution slow growth and especially when it comes to stringencies and outward appearances.

    Mark mentioned that Reb. Heller said that “conformity cuts you off from your past, while non-conformity cuts you off from your community.” By jumping in feet first you will be completely abandoning your past and you will likely not be accepted by your community either. A ship without an anchor. Moreover, there is just no way that an absolute beginner can do it all without either losing their sanity or becoming overwhelmed. This past Yom Kippur I wrote a piece on this issue which is way too long to post here. Anyone interested can e-mail me and I will send it along. Good Shabbos to all.

  27. Yosef,

    You have certainly bored down to the core of that pasuk.

    All this talk of black hats and nose-rings has inspired me to consider pinning a nose ring through my black hat — you know, kind of sticking up through the top. I think I have finally arrived at the perfect balance between conformity and non-conformity.

  28. mordechai: in my previous post i should have added that wearing nose-rings is not a yiddishe minhag ad yom hazeh. even among caucasian non-jews it appears to me to be srictly a counter-culture phenomenon.

  29. To Mordechai (and all those who chas v’shalom think that Yaakov Oveenu didn’t wear a black hat):
    The pasuk in bereishis 28:10 shteit: “Vayeitzei Yaakov meebare sheva vayeileich charunnuh”– “and yaakov left beer sheva”. Now, would a tzaddik like yaakov oveenu leave his city without putting on his black hat?? Of course not!!
    So we see from the pasuk that even the avois (zichroinum livrocho) wore black hats, and it’s just as much of a mitzvo dioraiso as wearing a nosering.

  30. *wow. I completely misread your comment before, Menucha, and took it the wrong way. I’m so sorry.

  31. It’s nice to see someone else from the Livejournal BT/ger community on here. In response to Meyer Zvi’s objection that it isn’t a ‘Yiddishe Minhag’, scroll up and look at Yaakov’s citation of Bereshit. It seems a nose ring would be more of a ‘yiddishe minhag’ than running around in a frock coat and black hat.

    But, I digress. Kol Hakavod to you Rachel! The tent of Torah has enough room for everyone, even those with nose rings.

  32. I’m right with you on this issue.

    We became frum a few years ago. I have also always been a nonconformist and had a hard time giving it all up. (My husband and I still have a TV and still watch, but not nearly as much as we used to. No time!) Recently, though, I had blue hair extensions put into my sheitels. I always wanted blue hair and now, at 40, I’m doing it. Some of the ladies in our community think I’m a weirdo, but others think it’s cute and funky and no problem, although they wouldn’t do it.

    I think this is just something I have to work through. Eventually, I’ll probably cut them out, but for now, I’m loving them.

    By the way, Rachel, are you in Philadelphia? My stepson is at Wharton.

  33. rachel: i assume you are single. please forgive me if i am mistaken. although it is halachically forbidden for a male to wear an ear-ring, how would you react to a possible shidduch with a BT who continued to wear an ear-ring as a sign of his individuality? i realize that in the case of a female there is no halachic issur to a nose ring, there is the issue of “minhagim” which must also be seriosly taken into consideration. nose-rings are not a yiddishe minhag. i’m therefore concerned that you might be seriously limiting your shidduch opportunities.

  34. In response to Menucha:

    I don’t think something such as tzniut is so black an white as to call having a nose-ring an avierah. If I thought of it as such, or if my rabbi had said no, I probably would not have one right now.

    Different communities have different standards. I’m going to be living in Israel after college [b’ezrat Hashem], in the dati-leumi community, where tzniustically it wouldn’t be as much an issue. [The issue being standing out? My nose-ring is actually a small stud, with a clear stone, so it’s a big giant ring like a bull or something…]

    If I were living in Lakewood, it would be an entirely different story…

  35. There are a lot of reductionist Jews out there condensing the entire scope of their Judaism into a single legitimate plank in the platform. To some it’s religious zionism (or anti-zionism!)for others it’s messianism, for still others it’s Holocaust remembrance. All are arguably authentic Jewish values but Judaism is distorted when one gets monomaniacal about any particular one. Altough non-conformity is a healthy part of our Judaism is it the be all and end all? Is it a stage that we ought to outgrow or a middah that needs to be nurtured, channeled and sublimated to new avenues as we grow and our circumstances change?

  36. Funny how 3,500+ years later the fad of nose-rings has returned:

    Bereshit 24:47 …I then placed a ring on her nose, and bracelets on her arms.

  37. Can One be a Frum Jew While Still Speaking Loshon Hora? It’s a semantical question. If being Frum is the same as being Torah-observant then the obvious answer is “no” just as it would be if you replaced the words “While Still Speaking Loshon Hora” in the question with the words “While Still eating shellfish”. But in the way most people use the word frum the sad answer to the question is “yes”. We pick and choose which behaviors we will tolerate (including some heavy-duty aveiros) and which we won’t(including some perfectly benign and morally neutral activities e.g. wearing nose rings or multiple earrings). Rachel-thanks for sharing it got me really thinking about this. May HaShem lead His daughter who loves Him to grow and glow with the radiance of Kedusha.

  38. Your post brings to mind the big “which type of BT are you?” debate that I had with some friends when we were all single in or post-college:

    some of us did the gradual, subtle, ease your way into frumkeit “thing”, absorbing things into our selves slowly, while

    others did what you did, and jumped in head first, then tried to navigate through all of it.

    . . . I guess it’s a little bit like learning to swim. And what we decided was that there’s a significant correlation to personality type.

    But sof kol sof, we all absolutely need to learn to incorporate being frum and being “me”, whoever that is.

  39. Gershon,
    Sh’ifos for unfulfilled desires, can be a much bigger part of a person’s past then things they actually did in their past. People can be stalked forever by a desire that they never saw to completion. But things they actually did are much easier to separate from.

    When she has to drive carpool, she’ll worry about it.

    Rachel, yashar koach! You deserve tremendous credit for pursuing Yiddishkeit while still in college. It takes a lot strength to do that.

  40. I wonder about that. The nose-ring might be overlooked at this stage in your life. I am sure that at some point it will have to go. YOu might get some odd looks when you’ve got kids and you’re out at the school doing carpool… How about something more internal and less of an outer statement.? How about writing some good poems? THAT would be a far more profound part of your past to hold on to. Especially since it seems you never had a nose-ring before!

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