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H&M Apologizes for Scarf That Looks Just Like a Jewish Prayer Shawl

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Photo: H&M
Photo: H&M

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Hey, Dolce & Gabanna: H&M sees your first abaya collection and one-ups you with a tallit.

This morning tipsters pointed us in the direction of a scarf on the fast fashion retailer's website. It's sells for $17.99 and looks suspiciously similar to a tallit, the traditional Jewish prayer shawl.

H&M even incorporated its own version of tzitzit, the knotted fringe you'll find on every tallit; the "striped scarf" comes with "fringe at the short ends." And though not a requirement, many tallitot come in the very same pattern and with a similar color scheme (black or blue stripes on white or cream cloth).

Here's a tallit you can buy on World of Judaica:

As you can imagine, some people are mad:

Others took to social media to crack jokes. "The Temple Emanuel Collection, exclusively at H&M," wrote one of my Facebook friends. "That is awesome. Is there a tekhelet option?" asked another on Twitter, referring to the blue dye used for some tzitzit strings.

This isn't the first time fashion has taken sartorial cues from Judaism. In 1993, Jean Paul Gaultier infamously showed his "Chic Rabbis" collection. In 2011, St. Bessarion, a Moscow design house, unveiled a collection inspired by Orthodox Jews. This past fall, Vogue even declared that Orthodox style inspired the season's "sexiest trend."

While the H&M scarf is certainly better than Urban Outfitter's take on Jewish fashion, let's not forget that the tallit is sacred to many. It's safe to say such a holy item shouldn't be knocked off (intentionally or not) for mass consumption.

Update: H&M has pulled the scarf from stores in Israel, WWD reports, and issued an apology:

"We are truly sorry if we have offended anyone with this piece. Everyone is welcome at H&M and we never take a religious or political stand," the retailer said in a statement. "Our intention was never to upset anyone. Stripes is one of the trends for this season and we’ve been inspired by this."

The scarf is still for sale online at H&M's US site.