Should a non-Jew wear a Yarmulke?

Back in the days when I began the musical element of my life, I was bemused to see the primarily non-Jewish bands, such as the Los Latinos or Volares respectfully wearing brightly coloured silk yarmulkes. In those days, the façade of the נכרי singing יבריכך ה’ מציון wasn’t complete unless the cap fit and he wore it. Most likely, the haute couture generated supplementary mirth at an already happy and refreshed שמחה. The boldy-coloured yarmulkes, perched precariously on thick, black, amply lubricated and coiffured Italian scalps were not solely the respectful masquerade of a musician. The non-Jewish videographer or photographer,  (if Mr Cylich or Herbert Leder weren’t available) also donned the Jewish millinery uniform.

Schnapps’ keyboard player, Peter, is one of the חסידי אומות העולם. A respectful and sensitive man,  Peter initially asked whether he was required to wear a Kippa. I quickly responded in the negative, and ensured that the other band members knew there was no expectation whatsoever that they do so. In the words of my percussionist, also named Peter, “We are just a pack of goyim anyway”.

Back then, in my young and lest restless years, I felt it was critical not to encourage the portrayal of a misleading repose. I didn’t want to be responsible for a single person being misled by an exterior גניבת דעת. That was then. Today, regrettably, many Jews choose not to wear one even when these are provided by בעלי שמחה as part of a theme or memento.

I fondly recall my old friend Mr Yisrael Tuvia Blass ז’ל posing the question (in Yiddish) “Why is Yom HaKipurim considered like Purim?” His answer was “on Purim, Yidden masquerade as goyim (e.g. Haman) and on Yom Hakipurim, “goyim” masquerade as Yidden. (It sounds even better in Mame Loshen).

Should non-Jewish teachers be required to wear them at Jewish Schools? This question arose several years ago in the USA and was posed to three leading Rabbis of their generation: the Rav ז’ל, R’ Moshe Feinstein ז’ל and R’ Aaron Kotler ז’ל. The Rav responded with a simple “no” (the Rav had a policy of not providing the reasons for a Psak). R’ Moshe answered that “he should do as everyone does”. In other words, the non-Jewish teacher should wear a yarmulke. R’ Aaron Kotler answered that the non-Jew should not wear a Yarmulke. Explaining his Psak, R’ Aaron opined that the idea of והבדלתם, that a Jew should be separate, extends to the notion that a non-Jew should not be encouraged to adopt Jewish customs and, therefore, בדווקא, the teacher should not don a Yarmulke.

I read this on שבת in R’ Hershel Schachter’s דברי הרב, and it rang true to me, justifying the position I took with Schnapps, so many years ago.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

5 thoughts on “Should a non-Jew wear a Yarmulke?”

  1. In a small way this impinges (in a non-halachic way) on the fracas recently caused at an IDF ceremony where certain religious (though one hastens to add non-chareidi) soldiers deliberately walked out of the presentation when a female troupe of IDF soldiers got up to sing.
    Subsequently, various rulings came out from a spectrum of rabbinic opinions to either support or offer alternatives that could have been followed and still adhere to the halacha.

    I believe that he whole issue has or had already been politicised by the current climate of mistrust on both sides of the Jewish religious/secular divide. Secular influence in the State of Israel today is so pervasive as to make ‘normative’ Jewish response to an event appear perverse and unacceptable. The few soldiers chose to quietly leave the auditorium during the performance, they didn’t make a fuss, no protest or scene was made. This only occurred later when several refused to apologise to the singers, as suggested (ordered by their commanding officer). On the other side we have the increased political clout the chareidi and religious right have in certain quarters and choose to exercise. These ceremonies are not new, they have been observed for many(???) years already, yet this is the first time such an response has come to light – why? In the past, those in the IDF who were mindful of the halacha, felt more pressure to conform to the ‘norm’ and not complain, this time they felt it was time to take a stand albeit quietly and one has to say as respectfully as they could, having not given prior warning, which one could suggest would have been a sounder approach.

    Nevertheless, it was the vast majority of the population whose distance from their heritage has grown so large as to perceive this behaviour as strange, perverse and unacceptable. Were the shoe on the other foot and soldiers were ‘forced’ to attend some religious ceremony what action would be taken for secular soldiers absenting themselves. Would the same slight and hurt against the sentiments of the religious participants be expressed, portrayed in the media and have a follow up within the IDF command?

    Perception certainly creates reality and we have to be constantly mindful of such and act accordingly with consideration and sensitivity for the other, but where certain principles are concerned the opinions and feelings of the majority don’t necessarily count. – ‘Acherei rabbim lehatos’ does not mean to follow the public majority, but an informed panel of experts, in most cases a beis din.

    In the case of a non-Jew wearing a yamulke, whether playing at a Jewish simcha or working in a Jewish school. The halacha is surely irrelevant, it is the message or image that this conveys to the (Jewish) guests/students, especially if many are not religious. If a non-Jew is prepared to don a kippah, then surely a Jew should when participating at a Jewish/religious simcha. They would have no objection in observing the appropriate protocol at an equivalent non-Jewish ceremony, so why do so here?

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    1. You aren’t suggesting that non-Jews wear them so as to encourage Jews to wear them as a sign of respect, are you? Jews have already shown that they are smart enough to discern that the non-Jew wears one “out of respect”, and if they choose not to do so at a שמחה it’s because “they know better”?

      I’m not sure why you think that “the halacha is surely irrelevant”. One thing I can say is that if it was not a matter of הלכה the Rav would have said “this is my personal opinion”. He was very careful not to ever force a non halachic opinion on anyone. This, to me, was one of his greatest assets. If only Poskim or Roshei Yeshivos would also express themselves this way when a matter was “advice” as opposed to Psak. Daas Torah, even according to todays neo-chassidic interpretation, does not extend to non halachic considerations.

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  2. many years ago all students (including Arabs) of Bar ilan university had to wear kipot. And there result was that many Jewish girls married Arabs.

    It is interesting to see how things change. while in the USA they thought that a non Jewish teacher should wear a kipa in in Jewish schools, they thought in Germany that the students shouldn’t wear a kipa in a class of Limudei Chol if their teacher is a non jew.

    “… הנה בק”ק יראים דפפד”מ בבית החינוך שנתיסד מהגאון ר’ שמשון רפאל הירש זצ”ל (שאני היית מורה שם ב’ שנים וחצי) יושבים התלמידים בשעת לימוד שאר המדעים בפריעת ראש, ורק בשעת לימוד תורה מכסים ראשם (וכן הוא המנהג בבית הספר בהאמבורג) וזה נעשה שם עפ”י תקנת הרה”ג מו”ה ש”ר הירש זצ”ל. ובפעם ראשון שבאתי לביתו של הרה”ג ש”ר הירש בכובע על ראשי, אמר לי שכאן הוא דרך ארץ להסיר הכובע מעל הראש כשבאין אל אדם חשוב, ואולי יראה מורה אחר (יש בבית החינוך שם גם הרבה מורים א”י) שאני איני מסיר הכובע מעל הראש לפני ראש בית החינוך (דירעקטאר) היה מחשב זה כאילו אני מבזה אותו”.
    הרב ד.צ. הופמן, שו”ת מלמד להועיל חלק ב (יורה דעה) סימן נו.

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  3. I believe that non-Jews can wear a kippah if their real intention is to show respect. But non-Jews should not wear a kippah if they just want the people to vote for them. And yes, I am referring to the politicians. It’s obvious what their intentions are.

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