Monday, April 26, 2010


A friend once asked me what kind of kippah I’m looking for when it comes to shidduchim. "It doesn't really matter to me," I replied.
"Really?" she asked. "What if he wore a black velvet kippah? What about kippah sruga? What about a black hat? A big white kippah?"
"As long as he wears a kippah, and we have the same values, that's what's important." I answered honestly.

Different head coverings for men (and women who are married, but that’s a different story) are just ways for Jews to separate themselves from other Jews. It adds to the judgmental mentality and increases negative feelings towards one another. "Oh, he wears *that* kind of kippah. Tsk, tsk. That's not my type of Jew. I don’t associate with those types."

I think that all Rabbis/ Gedolim of all movements, denominations, whatever (Chassidish, Yeshivish, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Conservadox, etc, whatever you want to call all those categories)- all Jews, should get together and pick one type and color of kippah, and declare that all Jews should wear it, as an attempt to avoid Sinas Chinam.

The main opposition to this idea would be: Which kippah do you pick? If you pick black velvet, those who wear kippah srugah or are prejudice against chareidim will refuse. If you pick a kippah sruga, the black velvet wearers would never agree. And picking one of those colorful conservative type kippahs that stand up on guys heads like a triangle, well, those just looks odd.

I was thinking maybe white velvet would work- kind of a combination. The main problem with this is that those who wear black hats will still want to wear black hats, and those who don't wear hats at all will not want to wear hats, so that will create division. And people wouldn't go for the white velvet idea because someone will claim that it is "against tradition" and put a ban on it.

Perhaps this wouldn’t solve anything, as those who are determined to be prejudice would find other ways to be discriminatory. Perhaps those wearing jeans or colored shirts would labeled by some as “modern”, and those in white shirt black pants would be labeled by others as “frummies.” But at least everyone wearing the same kippah would be a step in the right direction. It would facilitate the realization that, “Maybe this person doesn’t keep Torah in the same way I do, but we wear the same kippah, there is something the same about us, we are all part of Klal Yisrael.”


  1. Hmm, I don't think taking away individuality is a good way to avoid sinas chinam. If everyone dressed and acted the same as you, it wouldn't be hard not to hate them (well, at least I would hope) but that's not the way the world is.

  2. As Rav Shachter once quoted to me (during NCSY Kollel) G-d basically says that "variety is the spice of life" - hence the whole start of the Jewish people as 12 separate tribes, each with very different personalities/talents. Jews are NOT meant to be one externally unified people. We do all observe normative halacha (IE Shulchan Aruch) but how you dress and what your hashkafa is, along as its within the umbrella of Torah observant Judaism, is really up to you.

  3. BJG- I don't think dressing the same doesn't take away individuality. There can be 100 guys in a yeshiva all wearing white shirts and black pants and the same kippah- do they feel that dressing this way takes away their individuality? No. The same thing goes for schools which have uniforms. When people dress the same, it changes the focus to internal focus as opposed to an external focus. I agree with you that dressing the same would not stop people from hating each other. If it was that simple it would have been done a long time ago. But maybe this would be a step in the right direction, towards a better mindset.

    Shades of Grey- Let me clarify. One of the most beautiful aspects of Judaism is that we are all different. There are so many ways to keep Torah and be close to Hashem. I wasn't saying that all Jews should be the same in everything. I don't think all Jews should dress exactly the same, or keep Torah the same way. There are different opinions, minhagim, and that is great. My point is that we often focus on the external and that causes a lot of division, and perhaps if we changed one aspect kippot, then it might emphasize the message that internals matter more than externals.

  4. I do think that forcing people to dress the same takes away their individuality. The places this is common are Yeshivos, girls high schools , large blue collar work environments and prison. They all do it to discourage individuality. There are two things all of these places have in common, that they can not tolerate people acting on their own, they need everyone to be the same to succeed in their goal (or at least they think they do) and the people there are not really free. This is why most schools write off a percentage of their students as "unteachable" b/c they don't fit into their mold. Even amongst the "normal" students, there are always a few boys and girls who need to express their individualism by wearing "funky" accessories. OK, maybe my view is a little cynical, but I'm against any type of restrictions on individual choice like this. The problem is not that people are dressing differently, it's that people are judging wrongly, so work on the problem, not the victims.

  5. BJG- I don't believe Yeshivas or girls high schools discourage individuality, and I am sad to hear that you think so (and what's more sad is that you are by far not the only one with that view.) Then again, I never had to wear a uniform, so I can't speak from personal experience.

    You're right that there needs to be a better solution to the problem of judging wrongly. I wish I had a better answer.

  6. Yeshivas and girls high schools who have uniforms, absolutely discourage individuality, IMO. I've been through it, I've had the people who run a few of these yeshivas (even in elementary school) tell my father that they can't help the small amount of students who are "different". Different, meaning that they aren't exactly the way they want their students to be. I was considered different b/c I wasn't interested in learning or following the rules. I wasn't even a bad kid and instead of trying to motivate me they simply wrote me off (there were a few good teachers, but they were exceptions).

  7. My sister had a similar experience in a school that did not have a uniform. I don't think the two are connected, rather Jewish schools tend to be small and unfortunately not always run well. I find the approach that your yeshiva had disgusting and completely against Torah which states specifically in Mislei "Chanoch l'naar al pi darko." I'm sorry that you had that experience. I'm glad to hear it didn't turn you off to Torah completely, which is unfortunately the case with many who are victims of being labeled "different," despite being great people.

  8. I hated my school uniform simply because it was made of the cheapest polyester available. But the other reasons for it - convenience, removing attire peer pressure during an already emotional age, parents buckling under high tuition spared from financing a school wardrobe, durability (to the point it'll survive the apocalypse with the cockroaches) - made it ideal for school years.

    If a hypothetical kippah requirement were possible, it defeats the purpose. We're supposed to accept and love every Jew. Not accept and love IF they do something to earn it.

  9. I agree- we're supposed to love every Jew, but unfortunately, the bottom line is that we don't...

  10. ""It doesn't really matter to me," I replied."
    Sterngrad, I used to say the same thing about kippot/hats. But overtime, I've realized that
    1) I wouldn't want my husband to wear a shtreimel
    2) wouldn't want him to wear a black hat every day
    3) wouldn't want him to wear anything really colorful (as in, 5-10 colors. Those kippot are cute on anyone under the age of 13.)

    Other than that, I don't care what kind of head-covering he chooses.

  11. Sefardi Gal- you make a good point. I also can't really see myself with someone with a Shtreimel. But if everything else matched up- personalities, values, goals, attraction, etc, then the shrteimel wouldnt stop me. But the reality is that most men who wear shtreimels are completely different hashkafically than I am. I also don't usually have much in commom hashkafically with guys who wear those little tiny kippahs that you can barely see unless you're standing in the right spot. But again if everything else was Ok, I'd go for it.

  12. sterngrad: I had similar experiences in the two elementary schools and two high schools I went to (one high school was different but worse in other ways). I've also witnessed it happen to other people I know, some of whom are no longer religious and blame the schools. Personally it didn't turn me off of torah at all, just schools and teachers in general. I'm not saying it doesn't happen in schools that don't have uniforms, just that schools that have uniforms tend to operate that way.


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