An Open Letter to My American Orthodox Brothers

[Please note: This post does NOT express my true opinion about this subject, but is an illustration of my point made in my previous post – namely, that sometimes those who are not intimately aware of a specific situation can err when giving mussar (advice), as logical and well-meaning as this advice may seem to be.]

I have followed the news about anti-Semitic incidents in America in the past few years with growing dismay.

The attack on the subway in Brooklyn and the vicious beating of a Rabbi in Lakewood have filled me with horror. I can’t imagine the pain felt by the victims themselves and the anguish felt by their relatives and friends, and my heart goes out to them.

As sad as these events are, I can’t help thinking that they could have been avoided.

I am sure that many people believe that expressing your Judaism is perfectly reasonable, and even laudable – even in places where Jews are a tiny minority, such as in America.

But it isn’t – not if it puts you in danger.

Orthodox men do not have the obligation to wear a head covering in public. The halacha (Jewish law) of wearing a yarmulka (skullcap) originates in a minhag (custom) and therefore there are many authorities who have ruled that it is obligatory just when eating and praying, and not at all times.

This halacha seems to have been lost on the many Orthodox Jewish men who wear head coverings at all times – even in public. This practice clearly identifies them as Jews and opens them up to attack – even in areas like Brooklyn and Lakewood where anti-Semitic attacks have occurred!

When will the Orthodox Rabbis put a stop to this dangerous habit? When will they stipulate that yarmulka wearing is only acceptable in areas where there is a consensus that it is safe – in the private domain and in the synagogue?

When will my American Orthodox brothers stop wearing yamulkas or hats or shtreimels on the street? What has this accomplished? How does Klal Yisrael benefit from them putting themselves at risk?


A Concerned Israeli Jew


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. satiricohen
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 17:13:04

    Ha Ha! I loved it. Next thing you know you’ll be writing satire full time…

  2. Yehudi
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 05:27:27

    Maybe I look at things a little differently. I loathe those cowards, and I dare them
    to assault me. I’m not beating a war drum, but after 6 yrs as an Airborne Ranger, I’m not afraid to wear my kippa everywhere.

    The Jewish community in Portland, Oregon is relatively small but I have had so many compliments from non-Jews…an Asian man wished me Shabbat Shalom last week! I will never allow anyone to force me to amend my observance-level. It starts here and ends with a yellow star on your clothes. Not me. Not ever.

    I would like to think that my willingness to wear my kippa and tzitziot all the time might embolden another Jew to take his level of commitment and observance to another level…and if he gets beat-up for it…
    then he should take some karate lessons. But don’t take off the kippa.

  3. westbankmama
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 09:38:53

    satiricohen – thanks, but satire is for you “professionals”. I just dabble once in a blue moon.

    Yehudi – Kol HaKavod to you!

  4. Friar Yid
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 21:17:58

    It would be funnier if it wasn’t already halacha in France. Sigh…

  5. Ryan
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 12:33:08

    That is ridiculous thinking, sure you think it may help out the safety of a few people, however, it will just hurt the Judaism in the future. This is comparable to the German Jews of post Napoleonic era who preached reform. Preached to change the shabbath to sunday. Preach to run sermons in English instead of Hebrew or Yiddish. This led to radicals preaching for Jews to convert so that they could assimilate. The response? “Nothing is more disgusting than a Jew who discusses German politics while walking and eating pork on the sabbath”
    I do not even keep kosher let alone pray and i know that this is a bad bad bad idea that will do nothing but hurt the legitimacy of the Religion of Judaism.

  6. tnspr569
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 01:53:13

    Umm Ryan, I think you might have missed the sarcastic tone of the post…it was used to illustrate a point about another blogger’s post that angered this blog’s author.

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