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Donning the Yamaka

The belief that is held by a religion is its foundation, and the customs are the pillars that support the structure. In Christian culture, it is customary to uncover the head, remove all caps, hats and the like, while in Islam and Judaism, one needs to cover their heads. Even in Hinduism it is preferred that the head is covered while entering the prayer area, while in Sikhism, it is compulsory. Each custom springs from their own well of faith and that is why yamaka is an integral part of the Jewish culture.

Thanks to globalisation, you will notice a unity in appearance all across the urban, contemporary society. When you are in a truly contemporary, often corporate group, at first glance, you will not be able to figure out who comes from which culture and believes in which religion. The stark distinctions that were there is dressing, speech and behaviour have greatly merged resulting in a generic, global stereotype personality. Still, there are some parts of our heritage that we cannot forget. Wearing a Jewish hat or a kippah, may not be as common as it once was but it has not disappeared altogether.

Yamaka with Menorahs

Every Jewish boy dons the yamaka at least once in his lifetime, during his Bar Mitzvah. It is believed that when a boy becomes 13, he automatically becomes a Bar Mitzvah, meaning, he would then be considered as full-grown man, who is ethically and morally responsible for his actions. The Jewish custom does not state that a ceremony or celebration is required to solidify the event; however, most people celebrate this coming of age with a ceremony and party. How it is celebrated depends largely on the different Jewish movements and their individual beliefs, but mostly the boy is asked to recite specific prayers and often lead a service during Shabbat wearing his auspicious kippah.

IDF Yamaka
IDF Yamaka

For those who are not aware of the intricacies of the Jewish culture may not be aware that there are several sections of the Jews. They have their own ways of interpreting the religious scriptures and their own variations of customs. Even when it comes to donning the Jewish hat, each sect has their own variation of the yamaka. Here are some types of caps with the corresponding movements.

Crocheted: Religious Zionism, Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism,  Modern Orthodox
Black velvet: Yeshivish, Modern Orthodox, Chasidic, Haredi
Suede: Conservative Judaism, Modern Orthodox, Reform Judaism
Satin: Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism

Jewish laws does not enforce that the kippah be worn all the time, just during services. However, certain orthodox Jews prefer to wear the kippah as a proud badge of their faith.