Lincoln Barber Shop, Oak Park, Michigan

The Parade of Rabbis’.

Just prior to Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) the Lincoln Barber Shop, Oak Park, Michigan was busy.

 Three Rabbis visited the shop within a span of an hour or two, along with other customers, while Luc Vrydaghs, Belgium documentary filmmaker and I were scouting for a barbershop with character. We had contacted Jeff Levy in advance asking if we may visit. He was so gracious and quite humorous on the phone.

The shop is run by Jeff and Ellen Levy. Both are trained Russian barbers. Jeff is a fourth generation barber, who began cutting hair at age 13. “What was I to do? ” My grandfather’s father was a barber. The trade offered a secure future in a very unstable country for Jews “.

Jeff served in the Russian Army. He showed us photos of him in uniform, complete with an impressively large military hat.  In 1979 Jeff learned that he may be recalled to duty in Afghanistan. Nearly overnight, Ellen and he packed one suitcase, and left their home forever.

Migrating to America was no easy task. Fortunately international Jewish relocation support services where successful in re-settling the couple in Oak Park. Jeff went to work in an established barbershop, and eventually took over the business from the retiring owner. Ellen works part-time, cutting male heads, and in the back of the shop, provides discrete services to women.

We learned that Orthodox Jews require specific techniques in the cutting of hair. In addition, the community barber is called to provide the first hair cut to boys at age three.  Services are often provided at the child’s home, or in the barber chair. He then carries on the barbering services throughout manhood, cutting many second and third generation heads.

Jeff is very animated when sharing cultural information.  He notes that he holds his opinions to himself in the shop.  His role is to be non-committal of the general barbershop discussion.

Ellen added, “ I have stronger opinions.  Sometimes the customers get to hear them. That Putin!  Don’t get me started on him!”

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