Everything You Wanted To Know About Yarmulkes
February 6, 2015 9:30 AM   Subscribe

You can tell a lot about a Jewish male by the type of yarmulke that he wears. Like the jacket and shirt on his back, the absence or presence of peyes, the headgear announces to the world his family’s tradition and his Jewish denomination.
posted by Chrysostom (72 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wore a yarmulke for quite a while. When I was a boy, I went to a Jewish high school, and I definitely favored the Kippah Sruga and the suede yarmulke while at school, and then took it off when I went home.

Later, I just sort of wore a hat all the time (still often do), and really liked the Bukharian Yarmulke, which I wore fer several years. People kept thinking I was Muslim, and, when I explained, they thought I was a religious Jew, neither which were true -- there actually isn't a commandment to wear the thing, and I did so as a way to participate in something I felt a great cultural debt to. Ultimately, it was just too confusing to outsiders, and even other Jews.

I tend to signify one of my other ethnicities, Irish, a lot more now, usually with fiddler caps and flat caps, and nobody ever gets confused about that.
posted by maxsparber at 9:38 AM on February 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have at least one at home that isn't shown here: the as-good-as-disposable yarmulke handed to me at each Bar Mitzvah I attended as a (Catholic) kid, or Jewish wedding as a Catholic friend. I think they were always either four or six slices, definitely with the satin lining and the velvet exterior, often with a little date and time stamped inside to mark the special event.

If you don't mind an honest question that isn't a deliberate derail: I was raised to be respectful of other religions. Was accepting those yarmulkes and wearing them throughout the ceremony the correct, respectful thing to do? I do know that Catholicism has a few expectations about how non-Catholics behave during Mass, and I assume there are comparable guidelines for every faith. Dang, I need to find such a list...
posted by wenestvedt at 9:42 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Was accepting those yarmulkes and wearing them throughout the ceremony the correct, respectful thing to do?

Yes.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on February 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


the as-good-as-disposable yarmulke handed to me at each Bar Mitzvah I attended as a (Catholic) kid

That's a variation of the last one shown. Whether the exterior is velvet or satin is a matter of preference, and they come in a wide range of colors to suit your decoration scheme. As you mention, they're traditional souvenirs. Of course, they're slightly too nice to actually discard, so anyone involved in the American Conservative or Reform communities is likely to have a small stash of them, acquired at various B'nei Mitzvah and weddings, somewhere in their house.

What's not listed here is the cheapest form of yarmulke, usually available for free in a big bin at your local Conservative or Reform synagogue. They are made with four slices of black polyester and have no lining. They convey the message "I do not go to shul."
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


And for the sake of nitpicking, the article pluralizes the kippah sruga as "kippahs srugas." I have no idea how the author could be so knowledgeable about Judaism and not know to pluralize the Hebrew as "kippot srugot."
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:57 AM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Stewie is offered a yarmulke)

Stewie: No, I don't think so. It's not that I have ideological differences, I'm just not a hat person.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:04 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


They convey the message "I do not go to shul."

Or "Danny's Bar Mitzvah, 1988", stamped in faded gold embossing.
posted by dr_dank at 10:06 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


the satin lining and the velvet exterior, often with a little date and time stamped inside to mark the special event.

At my sister and brother-in-law's wedding, they gave out kippot that had their names, date of their wedding and each one said "this kippah is not a winner" inside.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:06 AM on February 6, 2015 [18 favorites]


High school basketball. I recall the puzzled looks on my teammates' faces when we first played a school with Jewish players wearing yarmulkes on the court.

"Why are they wearing hats?"
"They're not hats. They're yarmulkes."
"The fuck's a yarmulke?"
"It is a religious head covering for Jewish people."
"How the fuck do you know this?"
"Because I saw a Woody Allen movie."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:06 AM on February 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


I was not expecting the mention of puffy paint.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:09 AM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, reform men and women wear kippot srugot. I made my own when I was still wearing kippot.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:11 AM on February 6, 2015


Was accepting those yarmulkes and wearing them throughout the ceremony the correct, respectful thing to do?

Seconding zarq, yes. That is what they were there for. It would also be acceptable to keep your yarmulke after the ceremony (though as a non-Jew, you might not have much use for it, and it would also be okay not to keep it). We bought yarmulkes in bulk for our wedding, in a color that coordinated with the other wedding colors. They did have our names and the date stamped on the inside. This is also common for bar or bat mitzvahs. We have a bunch of leftover wedding yarmulkes at our house, as well as yarmulkes we've gotten at other people's weddings. The satin or other cloth ones are the cheapest, but some people do velvet or suede ones instead.

Conservative Jewish synagogues often have bins of yarmulkes outside the sanctuary, for people who wear yarmulkes during services but not at other times. My in-laws' synagogue has a sign outside the sanctuary asking men to cover their heads during services.
posted by Anne Neville at 10:12 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I do, however, understand how the author could be so knowledgeable about Judaism and not know that kippot srugot are generally crocheted, not knitted. Most people don't know the difference between crocheted, knitted, and woven material, in my experience, unless they are particularly savvy clothing shoppers or actually do one of the said crafts.

If you've admired these kippot in your community and want to crochet one of your own, I found this book (a design guide rather than a beginner's guide, but with some really neat designs): The Complete Guide to Yarmulka Design by Ricky Wolbrom and Mati Jacobovitz. (For the basic item: Crocheted Passover yarmulka courtesy of the fabulous Manhattan yarn/craft shop Purl Soho.)

You CAN knit a yarmulka, though it needs blocking afterwards to hold its shape: Basic Knit Kippah (Yarmulka) in Reverse Stocking Stitch by Jennifer Tocker, for example. Personally, I've knit a lot of hats and I think it's hard enough to knit a disc in the round, much less a convex disc! But there are lots of examples of knitted yarmulkas of various shapes and designs on Ravelry.
posted by gillyflower at 10:16 AM on February 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


From Blu Greenberg's "How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household": A man wrote into an "Ask the Rabbi" column. As part of a professional commitment, I am required to view a film. But, films are off limits in my community. Should I wear my black kippah as always, or remove it so as not to bring disgrace on my community? Answer: You should not go around bareheaded. Instead, substitute a smaller colored, crocheted yarmulke.
posted by Melismata at 10:18 AM on February 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Not Jewish and haven't even been to a service, but I've always wanted one of these.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:18 AM on February 6, 2015


Oh and yes, knitted?! Absolutely not. Crocheted.
posted by Melismata at 10:23 AM on February 6, 2015


As for the brightly colored/smiley face/pop-culture reference variety, you ain't seen nothin' until you turn the corner onto Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem and are confronted with this.

Yes, that is Shrek, Pikachu, and the Pringles Potato Chips logo, among many others.
posted by gillyflower at 10:25 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I grew up sporting a couple of beautiful Kippah Sruga, one made for me by a holocaust survivor at our temple, the other at a Jewish antique store in New York.

I have since lost my hair and shave my head, so now I settle for one of the satin jobs from out of shul loaner box.
posted by sourwookie at 10:26 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have at least one at home that isn't shown here: the as-good-as-disposable yarmulke handed to me at each Bar Mitzvah I attended as a (Catholic) kid, or Jewish wedding as a Catholic friend. I think they were always either four or six slices, definitely with the satin lining and the velvet exterior, often with a little date and time stamped inside to mark the special event.

Yes! I am someone who was raised in a fairly observant, Conservative Jewish household, who is now married to a non-Jewish woman. Our kid is not being raised Jewish except for lighting Hanukkah candles at his insistence once he realized he was loosely associated with another present-receiving holiday, so my need for wearing a yarmulke tends to be limited to once every several years. I still have a Tallit bag for such occasions, which includes the original bright gold souvenir kippah from my Bar Mitzvah nearly 30 years ago (and the same tallit as well).

I've always found it funny how dramatically contradictory customs are when it comes to head coverings. It would be extraordinarily disrespectful for someone (or at least a man, though as noted in the article some of those traditions are evolving) to enter a Jewish house of worship without first covering their head (and I know there are a few other religions with similar customs). Yet, in virtually any other circumstances it is thought to be extremely rude and ill-mannered to wear any sort of hat indoors.
posted by The Gooch at 10:51 AM on February 6, 2015


I've always found it funny how dramatically contradictory customs are when it comes to head coverings. It would be extraordinarily disrespectful for someone (or at least a man, though as noted in the article some of those traditions are evolving) to enter a Jewish house of worship without first covering their head (and I know there are a few other religions with similar customs). Yet, in virtually any other circumstances it is thought to be extremely rude and ill-mannered to wear any sort of hat indoors.

Worth noting: many Reform synagogues do not require yarmulkes. The Reform generally philosophy de-emphasizes ritual and eschatological approaches to G-d and Judaism.

This sounds ridiculous to admit, but I had to look up the spelling of yarmulke to make this comment. It was always a "Kippah" (Hebrew word, pronounced: key-pah) when I was growing up and now that I'm an adult I don't really bother calling it anything else.
posted by zarq at 10:58 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not Jewish and haven't even been to a service, but I've always wanted one of these.

What's stopping you? It's not offensive for a non-Jewish person to wear a yarmulke. In fact, if you went to a service at a synagogue where men generally wear hats during services, you'd be expected to wear one. (A prayer shawl or tallit is a different story, and you should not wear one of those)
posted by Anne Neville at 10:58 AM on February 6, 2015


Great article, though in my experience suede kippot are way more common than satin among Conservative Jews. Satin, as was mentioned above, is the "I grabbed one of the free kippot on the way in because I don't own my own" kippa.

I personally wear a sruga when I go to shul, but I'm one of the only people in my (Conservative) synagogue who does. It's all suede or the occasional Bukharian.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:05 AM on February 6, 2015


"It is a religious head covering for Jewish people."

At the synagogue service before my grandfather's funeral, one of his friends that my grandmother had asked to speak was the local Monsignor. When he arrived to the synagogue, he asked if we had a yarmulke. As he clipped it on, he said with a grin, "I was gonna wear the red one, but I thought it would confuse people." :)
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on February 6, 2015 [19 favorites]


zarq: "This sounds ridiculous to admit, but I had to look up the spelling of yarmulke to make this comment."

I hope it was not disrespectful in some way that I used yarmulke? To my (very limited) understanding the two terms were basically interchangeable.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2015


No, the word yarmulke is not disrespectful or offensive. Yarmulke is Yiddish, kippah is Hebrew.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:31 AM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


What Anne Neville said. You used it well, and not in any way disrespectfully. :)

Yarmulke struck me as a word more people were likely to recognize, which is why I used it. I honestly have no idea if most people know the word kippah.
posted by zarq at 11:37 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


There was a Jewish online dating site that actually asked what sort of kippah you preferred as a metric (none was an option, as were at least two choices of hat).

Back when I was in high school, it seemed like all Modern Orthodox girls knew how to crochet, had a copy of the Complete Guide that gillyflower referenced, and a drawer full of chut (DMC #8 yarn FTW) in a zillion colors. A lot of Jewish girls' schools would even sell the yarn in the canteen along with school supplies and candy, as a fundraiser. To be honest, it was mostly a way to flirt - make a guy a kippah with his favorite sports team or cartoon character = instant win.

Nowadays that seems to have gone by the wayside. The suede kippah has taken over for the cool guys, plus the community has made a hard turn to the right so a lot of the kids in the kippah-wearing set don't date at all. I tried to teach my stepdaughter, but she just didn't see any need to learn. I keep hoping that the whole Ravelry / DIY / maker explosion will bring it back, especially now that so many people are doing pixel graphics which are perfect for crochet patterns (OMG SERGEANT PEPPER). I still keep my hand in and make for my family, but it feels sort of like being good at buggy driving or faxing.
posted by Mchelly at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I married into a Jewish family and I'm always wearing a kippa at family events. Now I'm going to be all self-conscious about wearing the *right kind* of kippa. Thanks MetaFilter.
posted by monospace at 11:47 AM on February 6, 2015


Now I'm going to be all self-conscious about wearing the *right kind* of kippa.

And so you start down the road to becoming a kippster.
posted by cortex at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


Or a Kipper Kid. In which case, this is the headwear you would want.
posted by maxsparber at 12:06 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


there isn’t necessarily a clear and definitive Jewish law, or Halacha, requiring it

Goddammit. This is like when I found out the rationale for not eating dairy with poultry.

Not a fan of the minhagim. Halacha or GTFO.
posted by asterix at 12:23 PM on February 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Chrysostom: I hope it was not disrespectful in some way that I used yarmulke? To my (very limited) understanding the two terms were basically interchangeable.

I would like to point out the eponysterical nature of that comment -- on the same poster's own FPP about Jewish religious headgear -- when it is made by a user named after a fourth-century Archbishop of Constantinople and important Early Church Father.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:45 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


when it is made by a user named after a fourth-century Archbishop of Constantinople and important Early Church Father.

...who is known for the Adversus Judaeos.
posted by zarq at 12:51 PM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


zarq beat me to it.
posted by asterix at 12:52 PM on February 6, 2015


I hasten to add... those homilies are not the only thing St. Chrysostom is known for, of course. Except for them, the man led an interesting (and to all accounts admirable) life.

But they're certainly part of his legacy.
posted by zarq at 1:01 PM on February 6, 2015


Yeah, obviously Adversus Judaeos was not where I was going with my username.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:11 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I blew up a space pirate named Chrysostom in Elite:Dangerous the other day and I thought of you and sort of muttered an apology.
posted by cortex at 1:16 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not a fan of the minhagim. Halacha or GTFO.

As I mentioned to zarq a few years ago, for that, you'd have to go with Karaite Judaism.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:17 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know Karaite, but I know kah-razy.
posted by maxsparber at 1:44 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, obviously Adversus Judaeos was not where I was going with my username.

I figured. :)
posted by zarq at 1:58 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


When buying a kipa use your head
posted by Postroad at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2015


My rabbi has a kippah that has details that remind me of an African American church hat. It looks lovely on her.
posted by jb at 2:33 PM on February 6, 2015


I've knit a kippah - I got the size a bit wrong, but otherwise it worked out very well. I did it in the round, bottom up, and mostly stocking stitch. But I finished it so that the pearl side showed, rather than the knit side.

It was purposely a relatively large kippah, like the size of a Bukharian kippah, but round. Basically, you just make a watch cap/toque, but with a much shorter rim (1/2 an inch before beginning the decreases, rather than several inches).

It's more knobbly and textured that my crocheted kippot (which is also a function of the yarn), but also involved less effort to deal with finicky counting.
posted by jb at 2:51 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I, too, make my own kippot. I usually wear a crocheted kippah (made by jb) with my every-day casual clothes. I like them quite big, but not 'I'm a hippie Jew' big. I find that they stay on better when they're bigger, and also it feels more like I'm wearing a hat, which is really the point.

One of my definitions of the kippah, when I have to explain it, is "it is a hat that it's socially acceptable to wear indoors when you'd normally have to take off your hat."

But I also make my own out of cloth, cotton or similar, usually six slices (I love that word; never heard them called that before), and about 17 cm diameter. I find that the cloth ones have the virtue of going well with more formal clothes, while at the same time not broadcasting affiliation with any of the more conservative branches of Judaism (I'm a lefty Reform type). They're understated and smart.

If anybody wants to make their own tailored kippot, I made a spreadsheet that will produce patterns for kippot in any size and with any number of slices. So if you want to sew a seven-panel kippah made from your old bedsheets and perfectly fitted to your head, or a tiny twelve-panel kippah sized to a doll, memail me and I can equip you appropriately.
posted by Dreadnought at 3:29 PM on February 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


A few years ago I was working retail. A woman had come in with her son, who was wearing a yarmulke made from drug rug fabric. This seemed worthy of comment, so I approached the kid and his mom.

At this point, my aphasia kicked in. "That's a cool...uh...hat you're wearing," I said. "Are you a surfer?"

The woman grabbed her kid by the forearm and marched him out of the store.

Fin
posted by pxe2000 at 5:11 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


What a magnificently educational thread. As a shikse in New York City who has lived for many years near Yeshiva University, I've long wondered about the connotations of different yarmulkae.

This also prompted me to look up what animal suede was from. I was utterly convinced it was pig, so the suede yarmulkes were freaking me out.

And finally, I had never heard the term "drug rug" before, despite having grown up within driving distance of Baja California and recently having admired again the accuracy of the costumes in the Are You There, Jah? It's Me, Ras Trent sketch.
posted by gusandrews at 6:48 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


This article and video are fascinating and leave me with even more questions.

Why are the six-slice ones regarded as more pious than the four-slice ones? Is that agreed upon by everyone or is it just the people who wear six-slice ones that see them as more pious?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:05 AM on February 7, 2015


Jews rarely agree on anything universally. There are Jews who believe wearing a kippah is vital to Jewish identity and those who could care less. For many of us, it's more a question of "should we or not?" if we think about it at all, and if so, "what do we want to wear?" Most of the information imparted at the link would probably be new to many Reform or Conservative Jews. So, it's hard to answer your question definitively.

But I believe that the people who care about it strongly are probably serious traditionalists like the Hasidim. I know some Hasidic schools have rules about which kippot (plural of kippah) their students are allowed to wear. Six panels, not four. Six lay flatter against the head so the kippah is less obtrusive and to them, appears more "frum" or pious.
posted by zarq at 3:10 AM on February 7, 2015


the local Monsignor.... "...was gonna wear the red one, but I thought it would confuse people."

I had a really awesome historical story ready about the zucchetto after you mentioned this.... but then I got lost on a Wikipedia-editing tangent while trying to find verifiable external links for the history of the galero, and I forgot what it was in the first place.

This kind of thing happens to me too often.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 6:26 AM on February 7, 2015


Don't forget http://isohedral.ca/3d-printed-kippahs/

Craig has come up in the blue previously.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:49 AM on February 7, 2015


Oh, this was interesting. I grew up super-Orthodox, so all of this is old hat (no pun intended), but it's nice to see it explained in such loving detail.

Believe it or not, within the 4-slice black velvet category, there are a large variety of subgroups, which vary depending on the size of the kippah and where it's worn on the head. They denote various attitudes towards the yeshiva world and secular culture (i.e. smaller and sitting on top of the head = a bit more open to the world) Someone should do a sociological study of all these; it's really fascinating.

Anecdote: When I was in yeshiva for high school, there was a strict rule re: kippah size - had to be at least 7.5 inches in diameter when folded.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:51 AM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why are the six-slice ones regarded as more pious than the four-slice ones? Is that agreed upon by everyone or is it just the people who wear six-slice ones that see them as more pious?

Dreadnought really wants to answer this, but it's Shabbos and he had previously decided to obstain from Metafilter on Shabbos (not that anyone else should, totally a personal thing, I live with him and I'm posting).

that said, in true legalistic tradition, he'll dictate to me. Geometrically, a modern European-style kippah is a spherical cap, made of a section of a sphere. But when you make a sphere from a flat thing (like woven cloth), you have a similar (but opposite) problem to the trouble we have representing the globe on a flat surface. The sections are flat; they are only approximating the shape of a sphere.

If you have small and shallow kippah, the distortion is minimal. Most small kippot are made with four panels. But if you make a larger kippah, the bowl is deeper, and the distortion/squareness will become more obvious. It will look blocky if you only have four sections; more sections will better approximate the sphere shape.

Why not more than six sections? Because six is enough to look round, and more sections would be more work. The math for the pattern is also easier with an even number of panels.

Baseball caps also use six sections for the same reason - and they are fully hemispheric caps.

As for why more frum: more traditional Orthodox wear larger kippot than modern Orthodox, and lots of people think traditional=pious/frum.

Out of Orthodoxy, this goes completely out the window. We've attended liberal synagogues where either all or the majority of men and women wear head coverings - and they all fit their own style. Some tiny leather, some huge and crocheted covering most of the head, some literally a piece of round jewelry worn in a woman's hair. And at least one with the Red Sox logo for an ardent Bostonite.
posted by jb at 7:53 AM on February 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the answers!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:52 AM on February 7, 2015


greatgefilte, is there a rationale for why wearing on top of the head indicates openness to the world vs back of the head? Like the idea of needing two layers sounds like it has a specific doctrinal basis for some people; is there a similar thing for back of head/top of head?

With all of these things, like suede vs velvet vs crochet, or satin rim vs no rim, hair clips vs no hair clips, wearing a different fabric for bed at night, etc -- I'm so curious whether these conventions feel (to the people who operate with them) like fashion/signalling/"our group" kind of preferences (i.e. wearing one of a certain material "just isn't done" in the sense that it would be "tacky" for someone in our group) or if there are doctrinal/religious rationales for the differences.

Similarly, in the wig-wearing article and video linked from that page, she describes how among her group (people who grew up in Kiryas Joel?), a major sign of family compatibility is whether the mothers have compatible specific practices around wig-wearing. But the video doesn't really make clear what those divisions might be - I mean, assuming you have two families where the women do cover their hair with wigs, it sounds like she's implying there are a lot of further subtleties going on and oh am I curious what those are. And whether they're fine-grained religious/doctrinal differences, or just cultural/class/tackiness/preference type things.

(Obviously nobody's obliged to answer these, I'm stating them as questions because it's interesting and I'm curious, but certainly don't mean to be interrogating anyone. And sorry about asking with such bad timing, jb and Dreadnought.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2015


Ah, I missed that the wig/sheitel article has multiple pages after the video, which answer my questions on that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:27 PM on February 7, 2015


I can answer you anyway, from my perspective and my wife's if you like, LM.
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on February 7, 2015


Very pleased if you'd like to answer, yes! Just not meaning to sound like I'm badgering anybody for replies.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:32 PM on February 7, 2015


Why are the six-slice ones regarded as more pious than the four-slice ones? Is that agreed upon by everyone or is it just the people who wear six-slice ones that see them as more pious?

Honestly, it's fashion and conformity, just like the social pressure on men to wear a suit or khakis or shorts, depending on where they live and/or work. The same thing goes for all these different styles of yarmulkes: individuals copy the people around them because they want to fit in and/or send a message.

When I was a kid I never saw those large knitted yarmulkes the author describes as "Breslov". I think if I saw them in illustrations, they were associated with Jews from places like Yemen. They didn't have any writing on them, Breslov or not. I never saw Bukharian ones either, although I'm sure Bukharians wore them - there just weren't any around where I lived. There were no "Meshichist" ones at all: those started after the Lubavitcher Rebbe died. I don't think suede ones were around until the 70s, maybe? Rabbis tended to wear large black cotton (maybe raw silk?) yarmulkes; most adults wore smaller versions, but people that went to strongly Zionist synagogues often wore smaller crocheted ones because they were popular in Israel. Some people just wore hats or caps, even indoors. Kids often wore velvet ones, with or without colored braid or other decorations. I think the modern craze for painting on them started in the 80s.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:07 PM on February 7, 2015


LobsterMitten: please don't apologise! I just think it's hilarious that Dreadnought decided to not read Metafilter as part of his Shabbat observance, and then listens to me read the thread and dictates a response. Eyes on technicalities - so classically Jewish.

Can you post the wig link? I don't see it from the original post, but I'm also usually on a mobile.
posted by jb at 5:13 PM on February 7, 2015


Here's the wig link, and its followup.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:26 PM on February 7, 2015


This is what's hip among the (under-8) kid set in my neighborhood right now. No clue why.

Also it mentions that Bukharian kippot are popular among kids, but that's not really true so much as parents like them (I know I do) because when you've got a let's jump upside down off the bookshelves sort of kid, they're the only kind that actually stay on.
posted by Mchelly at 9:40 PM on February 7, 2015


LM, I grew up wearing satin kippahs to synagogue in various colors. We wore them to synagogue and also at home when prayers were being said, such as at the beginning of the Sabbath, a holiday, or during the Passover Seder. When I grew older, I wore also wore one if I was visiting a cemetery. (Some Jewish families, mine included, don't let their young children enter a cemetery, and try to keep them from rituals that involve death. )

My family was American reform, then conservative. During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my father and I wore either white satin or knit kippahs. At the time (70's and 80's), suede kippot were considered something that only the Orthodox wore. I was taught that a kippah is worn to show respect and deference to G-d. Later, I was taught that it is a reminder that G-d is watching over each of us.

I've moved to wearing four slice suede kippot as an adult, mostly because they're more comfortable and I tend to forget I'm wearing them. Also because they now seem to have supplanted satin kippot in popularity amongst Conservative Jews. Usually I wear black, but on occasion I'll wear one with a pattern or color(s). Black is less obtrusive against my dark brown hair. Which is also curly, so I use clips to keep the yarmulke on my head. Clips rather than bobby pins because the pins hurt and the clips don't. Today when I went to synagogue for Shabbat services, I couldn't find a kippah clip (I'm constantly losing them) so I grabbed a couple of my daughter's hair clips. Same thing, really. Only hers are usually in colors like red, pink and blue.

I do not enter a synagogue without putting on a kippah. Nor a Jewish cemetery, shiva house or Jewish wedding. I don't say prayers without one on. Even if wearing one isn't mandatory, I put one on. I do it for the same reason I stand, remove my hat (if I'm wearing one) and place my hand over my heart when I say the American national anthem: I think it's respectful. Especially if I'm saying prayers in someone's house. Not because I think something bad might happen if I don't. It's just what I know I'm supposed to do. But I don't wear one at any other time. And I don't wear one to display to the world that I'm Jewish.

My wife wears one of these, sometimes. Not all the time. She's not required to cover her head when saying prayers. There is no pressure amongst the women about wearing or not wearing a head covering in our synagogue. It's a beaded kippah with a small comb underneath to attach to her hair. If asked, she'll say that a suede or satin kippah is "for boys" and would rather wear nothing at all if she didn't have one of her own with her. She doesn't like the way the others feel or look. My daughter asked for and was given a beaded kippah like her mom's, but rarely wears it.

Most conservative synagogues leave a bin of inexpensive rayon kippahs for visitors, or anyone who forgets to bring one. They also supply a stack of "doily" head coverings for women. (This is how it's normally worn.) Reform synagogues usually don't bother. Orthodox synagogues may have a kippah bin, but not the doilies. Orthodox women typically cover their head/hair to a greater degree than the doily.

When a person is bar or bat mitzvah'd or gets married, they often create custom made kippot for the occasion to be given to guests. The kippah may or may not have a pattern on the outside. It will usually have an imprint on the inside that says something like, "Wedding of Solomon and Miriam Israel. February 6, 2008." These kippot are often left in a basket on a table outside the synagogue sanctuary for attendees to take. It's considered respectful to wear one in the sanctuary during the service.

Joe's right. The modern craze for patterned and painted kippot began during the 80's.

At synagogue and Hebrew school, my son wears a Bukharian-style kippah which fits over the head like a hat. The big selling point: no clips or bobby pins required. None of his friends wears one like it. He doesn't care; all that matters is it's comfortable. I only care that he's not losing the darn thing the way he used to lose the four slice style suede ones.

I seem to have rambled on for a while and am not sure if I actually answered your questions, LM. Will re-read this in the AM and fill in if necessary.
posted by zarq at 10:21 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Most conservative synagogues leave a bin of inexpensive rayon kippahs for visitors, or anyone who forgets to bring one. They also supply a stack of "doily" head coverings for women. (This is how it's normally worn.) Reform synagogues usually don't bother.

I think many Canadian Reform congregations are more conservative than American. I was surprised, but even a Temple known as being very classically Reform has a basket of kippot at the back of the (nonetheless western facing because used-to-be super-Reform) sanctuary.

Our synagogue, though feminist and affiliated with Reform, can be quite traditional in practice/form - they require all men and boys, including visitors, to wear head coverings (and have the basket, just in case). They only require women to cover their heads on the bimah. I think this is a compromise between a set of women who actively want to wear kippot, and other women who feel weird doing so.
posted by jb at 5:38 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Our synagogue, though feminist and affiliated with Reform, can be quite traditional in practice/form - they require all men and boys, including visitors, to wear head coverings (and have the basket, just in case).

Wait, there are Reform synagogues that don't require head coverings for men and boys? Even the Reconstructionist services I've been to required them. I'm kind of scandalized.
posted by asterix at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2015


This is neat! I'm a non-Jew with a Modern Orthodox boyfriend, and he's attempted to explain the distinctions between the different kippah styles to me before, but this was way more comprehensive. His personal kippot stash (which he wears for shul and prayers but not everyday use) is mostly colorful patterned kippot srugot (which I am partial to), with a few suede ones thrown in. He also seems to prefer hair clips to bobby pins. I hadn't thought about the fact that they're actually crocheted, not knitted - he uses the term "knit kippah" to refer to both the style of hat itself and the general demographic that wears it, so I think it's a thing that goes beyond one writer's indifference to the distinction between knitting and crocheting.
posted by naoko at 2:25 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, there are Reform synagogues that don't require head coverings for men and boys?

This comes from the history of Reform, in the early 19th century, moving to downplay or eliminate anything that set them apart from their Christian neighbors. In the early years, some proto-Reform congregations even experimented with having Shabbat on Sunday. Unsurprisingly, that didn't stick. When the Reform Movement in the US set up its own rabbinical seminary, Hebrew Union College, their first graduating class (1883) famously celebrated with a shellfish dinner. The so-called 'Tref Banquet' caused a mass walkout of the more halchically-minded students, who went and set up their own rabbinical school... which is where the Conservative Movement comes from.

As a result of these forces, there is a long tradition of Reform congregations who ran very... I guess you could say 'modernist' services, similar in general outline to the way that Christians from more Evangelical, or post-Vatican II Catholic, traditions try to shape their services around vernacular understanding, modern popular culture, and the emphasis on practical matters over mystery. Some of this stuff has become widely adopted in the rest of the Jewish world. For example, in the mid-late 19th century, Reform leaders started commissioning liturgical music from major secular composers such as Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Schubert. One of these leaders was Salomon Sulzer, who was a major composer in his own right. Among other things he wrote the famous tunes to Ki mi-Tziyon and, most notably, the Sh'ma... yeah, the one you're probably thinking of. All those super-orthodox guys are daily reciting a tune by a 19th century, very worldly, liberal composer.

There are still a (I'm afraid to say dwindling) number of adherents to this approach, which is known as Classical Reform. These days, the movement generally on a different trajectory, often called 'resacralization'. In this context, that term doesn't have the quality of resisting secularism, but rather the revival of traditional ritual, sometimes mysticism, liturgical Hebrew, and so-on. Many congregations that conducted all their services in the vernacular, that often banned the wearing of kippot or tallitot, are starting to encourage the revival of traditional practices.

People often talk about this as if it's a revival of 'conservatism' (small-c), but that's not really accurate. Indeed, the resacralising congregations are often among the most socially progressive. To be honest, I think it's just that the pendulum has swung back to kids being all into antiquities again.

The last time shuls went hard-vernacular was in the sixties, when Modernism was the philosophy of youth and progress. Cool architects were building spare, unornamented boxes and everybody thought it was the hippest thing. Artists were painting abstractions, composers writing minimalist or atonal works. The Future was made of clean-lined rocket ships and IBM machines speaking English with flat Midwestern accents.

What are the cool young vanguard doing now? They're all making artisanal tweed mustaches in their cool, multilingual neighborhoods of re-purposed gothic-revival factories, which were actually built last year. The artistic sensibility of the age is swinging back to a reverence for old things: not old social mores, but the 'Art & Crafts'-esque Beautiful Old Thing that connotates quality and authenticity in a world in which the bloom has gone off the mass-manufactured rose. I think it makes total sense that Classical Reform is starting to look dated and old-fashioned.

No doubt, in forty more years, our kids will swing the pendulum back again. In the meantime, hands off my hand-made kavanah kippah!
posted by Dreadnought at 3:38 PM on February 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wait, there are Reform synagogues that don't require head coverings for men and boys? Even the Reconstructionist services I've been to required them. I'm kind of scandalized.

I was raised Reform and they weren't even an option in my parent's synagogue until maybe 10 years ago. The Reform movement, at it's start, was very intergrationist, and deliberately set out to eliminate a lot of ritual practices that were seen as alien or "Oriental."

In fact, at the graduation ceremony of the first class of the Hebrew Union College of the United States, they served shellfish, an event called the "Trefa Banquet," and the people who objected became many of the early founders of the Conservative Movement. True story.
posted by maxsparber at 4:15 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was raised Reform and dropped out of seminary at HUC-JIR.

FYI - my synagogue and all of the Reform synagogues in my area (I was in youth group and therefore traveled to synagogues all across L.A.) in the 80's at least provided kippot. Never doilies - doilies were seen primarily in Conservative shuls. The rabbi of our shul when I was young was classical Reform. He didn't wear a kippah and let me tell you, my father was SUPER annoyed about it. When I was a teenager, he retired and the new rabbi wore a kippah 24/7, even while riding his motorcycle.

When I went to HUC in Jerusalem (also in the 80's) most rabbinical and cantorial students wore kippot, both male and female - so that has changed quite a bit and there was certainly no treif served - though it wasn't strictly kosher either.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:20 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


The rabbi of our shul when I was young was classical Reform. He didn't wear a kippah and let me tell you, my father was SUPER annoyed about it. When I was a teenager, he retired and the new rabbi wore a kippah 24/7, even while riding his motorcycle.

Had lunch with a Reform rabbi at Red Lobster a few years back. He chose the restaurant and had a shrimp dish. I thought my wife's eyes were going to pop right out of her head when he ordered. :)

I find all of it fascinating.
posted by zarq at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, derail but I may never have another opening to tell this story as good as this one... A couple of years ago the elderly rebbetzin of the little quasi-chassidic-but-not-really shul on our block was describing a Satmar wedding she had been to, saying "the kallah (bride) was lovely, all in lace... the chosson (groom) was wearing a streimel, with a silk bekeshe and knee breeches... it was just like Cinderella...!"
posted by Mchelly at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't remember ever having any shellfish or pork or mixing milk and meat at any synagogue event in my childhood or growing up. We certainly didn't eat any pork or shellfish in our home just because my parents believed that, while we didn't keep kosher, Jews just don't eat pork or shellfish in their homes. A lot of the rabbinical students at HUC kept kosher, too.

I am pretty surprised that a reform Rabbi would eat shrimp out with another Jew. That seems - weird and provocative at least to me.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:29 AM on February 10, 2015


I am pretty surprised that a reform Rabbi would eat shrimp out with another Jew. That seems - weird and provocative at least to me.

It was very weird. We didn't ask him about it. Looking back, I wish we had.
posted by zarq at 9:12 AM on February 10, 2015


« Older Beautiful jewelry. Heavy use of Javascript.   |   "Come on big dude!" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments