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.