22 July, 2010


"Respect, find out what it means to me; r-e-s-p-e-c-t"
Seven little letters, so much power. What this world could look like if that is the word we had on the forefront of our minds.
Not quite a month have I been living in Jerusalem. This month has been one of exploration, introspection, observation, conviction; it is only the beginning.

Ten days ago I went to pray with the Women of the Wall. Honestly, that experience was more than I can put into words, especially in this forum. I will say that it made an impact on me. And I will be going back next month. Perhaps then I'll feel ok writing on it.

For a long while now, over 2 years, I have contemplated wearing a kipa (yarmukle for the yiddish people). I have thought about how to wear it, when to wear it, why to wear it. I have thought about the different types, the colors, the patterns, the message. I have thought about the practical (how will I wear my hair) to the impractical (will it clash with my outfits). After being admitted to rabbinical school this year, I vowed to myself that I would try it. I also said that I would try it when I was ready. Working as a chemist was not very conducive to wearing one, plus it didn't feel right. I needed a separation from the life before to the life now.

The week I arrived in Israel I went on my hunt to find the perfect kipa. It couldn't be too big, too small, too square or too round. Too dark or too light. It had to be just right. Guess what? It's going to take a long time to find the perfect one. Fine, I'll just buy one that I like. I walked into a store on Ben Yehuda (a very tourist-y street in the city center Jerusalem), I tried a couple of them on, and tried to purchase them. The operative word being tried. I was turned away because the store owner wouldn't sell a kipa to a women that he knew was for her. Lying by saying that it was for someone else was not going to work for me. I left, a little bothered, a little confused, a little in shock. As I wandered around the square, I looked in at shops to see if there were any other kippot which looked good. I found myself in a repeat of the situation just described. It was like de ja vu, but much worse. Repeat the same story twice more, this time in the shuk (usually where they don't care who they sell it to, as long as they are making money; I didn't even try to haggle the prices). I was quite disheartened.
I asked a friend to go with me (male) and we fortuitously stopped into a bookstore and I saw a few that I liked and I didn't hesitate to buy them. I was now the proud owner of 5 kippot! That evening, as I was dressing for shabbat, I included it in my outfit, and it felt like the finishing touch I'd been missing. Every day since then, I've put it on when I wake up and take it off to sleep.
Here's the thing: I've been in public, in Jerusalem, wearing a kipa, as a woman. This is unusual. Not as much so as compared to years past, however, it is not a common or accepted activity. Comments fly, at me, to me, about me; few are friendly, some are inquisitive, many are mean. I hold my head high, not in the face of defiance, but rather in the confidence that I comfortable with my choice. I have felt connected to G-d, to the Jewish people, to the reform tradition, to myself in whole new ways because of a little piece of fabric on my head. While it comes naturally, I love how it feels when I run my fingers through my hair, and find it there. It is a reminder, a very physical reminder, of what I stand for.
And there are days, like today, when I am pleasant surprised. I was already loaded up with groceries when I really wanted an ice cream, so I walked into the corner store on my way home. Went I looked down to get my money, the clerk (middle-aged male) noticed that I had it on. He smiled in happy questioning. He asked why and I said because I'm reform. Two words came from his mouth and landed softly on my ears: aze yofie, it's beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. Awww!! YAY for you! tears came in response to aze yofi!