The great yarmulke debate

By MatthewHarris
May 8, 2010

One thing that came up at the election count, when I spoke to Conservative friends during the interminable wait for the results, was a question of headware. I was raised as a Liberal Jew before drifting into non-affiliation, going as I do (usually only once a year, on Yom Kippur) to a Masorti shul of which I am not (yet) a member. I grew up in a world in which one only donned a yarmulke when attending a synagogue service or something else of a definitely religious nature. When I reached adulthood and started meeting people who wore a yarmulke all the time, I was (in my ignorance) genuinely surprised; I had always assumed that one only wore a yarmulke when praying or otherwise engaged in an act of religious observance. So, although I enjoy donning a yarmulke when I'm in shul or at something like a Jewish wedding reception, I wouldn't think of putting one on for a non-religious political meeting, even if the meeting's taking place in a shul hall.

I'm not commenting on anyone else choosing to wear one, simply talking about myself. Some people clearly disagree with me and I'm interested in hearing what people think about this. Should a Jewish man who doesn't normally wear a yarmulke (apart from when he's actually in shul, etc) feel the need to wear one for a totally non-religious political meeting taking place not in a synagogue itself, but in a synagogue's community hall? After all, none of the candidates wore Muslim religious dress for the event (in a mosque hall) organised by Barnet Muslim Forum. What do you think?



Sun, 05/09/2010 - 00:24

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I didn't wear one, nor did many others, at the Hendon hustings in the Samuel Levy Hall at Mill Hill Shul. But I went to a political meeting at Liberal Judaism's Montague Centre and we sat in the shul itself and no one wore a kippah. See below:


Sun, 05/09/2010 - 17:15

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Given your membership of an openly anti-Semitic political party, it isn't a yamulka that you should be wearing.


Fri, 05/14/2010 - 17:10

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Thanks, Richard, it's fascinating, isn't it, that one becomes used to whatever is traditional at one's own family shul. So while not-wearing a yarmulke was new and radical when Liberal Judaism began in 1909, it's innovations have themselves become traditions.


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