“Hey man, I like your Yarmulka!”
-Jason, the black tour guide from the Motown Museum.
I don’t always wear my Kippa, I try to wear it relatively often, in order to maintain some sort of connection to the tradition/culture that I grew up with, but it carries a lot of pressures with it, and thats both ways, when I’m wearing it and also when I’m not. When I’m with my religious friends, and doing religious things, I usually wear it, but then I get pressured into Benching, or going to Mincha, or even worse, I have to feel guilty about not going! Then theres the other extreme, when I’m out with my nonreligious friends, and somebody pulls out the old ham and cheese sandwich. Now, as much of a Kofer as I might be, I’m not going near a Ham and cheese sandwich. But then I have to explain myself as a barrage of questioning rains down on me, But Max, you don’t wear a Kippa… Why would you break Shabbat, but you wont eat pork? Make up your mind, are you religious or not??? But I don’t want to pick!! I think a big part of what I find so difficult is that people here demand you to be either religious or not religious, and they don’t like you to be in the gray area in between. That being said, I can’t really blame them, I mean, I do it too… Shomer Negiya?! Am I allowed to hug a girl? Is a handshake ok, but a hug is too much? Or, do I have to stand 3 feet away while we talk? Thats way too much thinking for the first 2 seconds of meeting someone. Anyway, I have come to understand that theres no escaping the inevitable pressures/expectations of wearing/ not wearing a Kippa in Israel.
When I used to live in America, I would usually try to hide my Kippa when going out somewhere that wasn’t particularly Jewish. So at a baseball game, I would always wear a baseball cap. If I went to Chipotle after school with some friends to grab a savory delicious vegetarian burrito that no Kosher meat place could even compare to, I would slide my Kippa into my right pocket as we walked in the door. It had to be my right pocket, because I keep my wallet in my left, and God forbid I should risk exposing it even for a split second when I pull my wallet out to pay.
However, over the past couple weeks during my visit in Detroit, I decided that I would wear my Kippa whenever I was out regardless where I went. In addition to the handful of compliments that I got from total and absolute Goyim, I also realized something interesting about wearing a Kippa in America, versus wearing one in Israel. In Israel, where the majority of people are Jewish, wearing a Kippa signals to people that you are religious, and since there is such a stark divide between religious people and non religious people, that carries with it heavier pressures to identify with one group or the other. In America though, it simply signals that you are Jewish, and I think thats awesome. Now, I may not be the most observant Jew out there, but my heritage is definitely something that I am proud of, and being unique for it again in America gave me a whole new level of appreciation for it.
Thanks for reading,