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.

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