The Satin Kippah

Recently at a gas station I saw a kippah on the security camera. It struck me as odd and exciting to see not only a kippah but a woman with a kippah at a Berkeley, CA gas station. It took a moment to register the black dress, the pink belt, and a wave of fear arrived when I realized the woman in the security camera was me.

I took a job at a Masorti Conservative congregation’s Hebrew School earlier this year. Part of the job description included a clause that I was to wear a kippah while teaching Torah, while in the synagogue sanctuary, or while eating. The expectation was welcome after a year in a Modern Orthodox community where my sporadic use of a kippah never failed to garner laughter and shock, and sometimes a feminist nod.

On the contrary, at this Masorti synagogue I am obliged to wear one and fit in just fine.  But when I exit the building, almost immediately, I make a point to remove the kippah.  The only outside of synagogue kippah wearing occurs when I help the students cross the street to the park. And for even just that there is always a self-conscious awareness. I imagine the thoughts of the on looking cars and park dwellers like I did helping my wheelchair-bound friend cross the street in high school. Their imagined thoughts, like “look at the Jewess and her flock,” or “wow, poor guy, look at this woman helping him,” both bothered and affirmed me.

3 comments on “The Satin Kippah

  1. Jolene on

    Thank you for this article. I, myself, have recently taken on the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit. And, so I can relate to much of what you’ve experienced. I’ve had many non-Jews ask me about my “beautiful, macrame belt,” and gotten quizzical looks from others. Much like a kippah, the tzitzit are a very visible symbol that can instantly convey information about you to another person – and I constantly worry about that. Being female, I wonder how the Orthodox in my town will perceive me. Being a Reform Jew, I wonder how my congregation will perceive me. Simply walking down the street on my way to synagogue, I wonder how non-Jews will perceive me. The most surprising emotion I have experienced is fear. I live in a town with a very large Jewish population, and I can’t say that I would normally even think to worry about anti-semitism. But, as I walk down the street, with tzitzit hanging out, I admit that I do actually worry about being a victim of violence, simply because I am now recognizable as a Jew. And, I wonder if it will always feel this way, or if I will eventually be able to let my guard down enough to just concentrate on the mitzvah itself, and not worry about how it makes me look to others.

  2. Camille Watts-Zagha on

    Thank you for making a story about our joyful Simhat Torah night and for telling me about it. It makes the night even more memorable and reminds me that our family is not alone in navigating the intersection of our Jewish and nonJewish worlds.

  3. Lisa @ on

    I admire you for being so proud of your beliefs. Yes, other people say things they should not say about us, but don’t let it bother us for we know in our hearts that what we do is for God and not for others.

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