There is a Wall in Your Way


At the Wall, all anyone can do is look at the Wall.
From all her angles.
At the Wall all you can do is close your eyes because there’s nothing to see there.
There is a Wall in your way…

– From “Along the Wall” by Rabbi Joshua Bolton

I had the joy of joining with Women of the Wall this evening to help kick off the group’s 25th anniversary. A few of us from school were asked to songlead during the opening ceremony, and I welcomed the opportunity. Tomorrow, I will join their Rosh Chodesh service at the Kotel (from the men’s side of the mechitzah), in support of my peers, colleagues, and friends.

My visit to the Kotel tomorrow will only be my second since arriving in Israel over four months ago (the other being on Tisha b’Av). I have a tenuous relationship with the Kotel, and as of late, I do not find it spiritually conducive to my Jewish practice. As an aside – is it absurd to speak in terms of having a “relationship” with a pile of old stones?

In commemoration of the Women of the Wall’s celebrations, a group of girls from NFTY came to Israel to represent the Movement. Speaking about the history and significance of the Kotel, one particularly wise teen said to me – “but it’s just a retaining wall!” That’s a pretty concise yet accurate statement of where I’m at these days. This statement is indeed true, but there is much more to this truth. Certainly, I recognize the immense historical significance and symbolic relevance of the Kotel, and this is something that I do connect strongly with. But as a symbol of Orthodox hegemony and oppression of the rights of women and Jews, I find it to be an incredibly challenging and emotionally draining place. Which is why I don’t go much these days, even though I live and study steps from its ancient stones.

While discussing the challenges at the Kotel, a friend of mine remarked that she really values the unique roles Judaism ascribes to each gender, and finds deep meaning in what she is empowered to do as a Jewish woman. And that it is precisely for that reason that she, too, finds the Kotel to be a challenging place, since the imbroglio takes away from her ability to pray there as a woman, in a Jewish environment surrounded by women who aren’t trying to silence her.

For me, alongside my deep commitment to a fully egalitarian Judaism, I also identify strongly with the various ways that Judaism welcomes men and women to access their Judaism in different ways, at times using different language. I have no problem referring to the shekhinah any more than I do speaking of Avinu Malkeinu. To be sure – not withstanding the historical bias towards a male-oriented language that Jewish history has had – I relish the different metaphors and allegories we use to talk about God and our relationship with Her/Him.

It is for that reason that the Kotel’s hijacking by the Orthodox disturbs me the most – precisely because it is being done by my fellow Jewish men, in the name of a Judaism to which I – and the majority of both Israelis and Jews around the world – don’t ascribe. When I go to the Kotel and bask in the vastness of the men’s section, I can walk freely up to the ancient and holy stones without having to push my way through a crowd, as the women do. I don’t have raw eggs thrown at me for wearing tallit and tefillin, and I can pray the words of the Shema without fear of being arrested. For me to do these things, while other Jews cannot, requires immense cognitive dissonance; that these offenses are committed by fellow Jewish men towards women because they are not men causes me great distress.

Yet tomorrow, I will join thousands of other people in recognition of the ongoing struggle to make Israel a better place. Surely, I can’t just sit on the sidelines whenever the fight gets dirty. Often, it’s important to get a little closer to the things that make us uncomfortable, to get a better perspective, and to push ourselves to right the wrongs we see in the world. As we sang tonight, overlooking the gates of the Old City: “Open for me the gates of righteousness, I will enter and give thanks to Adonai.”

Men Can be Rabbis?

Crossposted at and the NFTY blog

“Who’s that guy?” I asked my mom.

“He’s the rabbi,” she answered. I stared up at my mom, with a blank gaze on my face.

When I was eight years old, my family joined a synagogue for the first time.

Even before then, we always had a fairly strong sense of Jewish identify in our home – celebrating Shabbat every week at my grandparents’ house and observing Rosh Hashanah, Pesach and Chanukah together. From an early age, I was taught how to express the guttural ‘ch’ sound that permeates our people’s speech, and I have fond memories of helping my bubby place all of the items on the seder plate at Pesach, as I checked them off one-by-one in my own coloring book haggadah. The fact that my zaidy had given me The Big Book of Jewish Humor at a young age probably helped, too (or just made matters worse, according to my mother)

So I don’t recall struggling with any heavy questions about Judaism when my parents announced to my sister and I that we’d be joining a shul. They explained all about services, the rabbi, Hebrew school, and the like, and it all seemed fairly straightforward to me.

A few weeks later at the age of eight, I was shipped off to Hebrew school for the first time.

I was that rare breed of kid who actually enjoyed Hebrew school. Maybe it was partly because I was a dork, but I ascribe much of my thirst for Jewish knowledge to the inspirational education I received at the hands of my very first rabbi – Rabbi Nancy Wechsler (now Rabbi Wechsler-Azen of Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael, CA).

She was a product of our URJ camps, played guitar and sang with a beautiful voice, and led worship and classes with warmth and inspiration.

She had that rare ability to make eachof her young congregants truly feel that their connection with Judaism and with God was personally meaningful, important, and unique. She saw in each of us a holy spark to be nurtured as we travelled along on our Jewish journeys. On a weekly basis, she made us feel that being Jewish and coming to shul wasn’t a boring and burdensome task, but an exciting and meaningful part of our lives.

So when I looked up at my mom and asked her “Who’s that guy?” you can forgive me for not being even more confused.

I asked my mother that question at the age of nine while sitting in the pews of a synagogue that wasn’t our own. We were attending a friend’s Bar Mitzvah, and their congregation’s rabbi had just ascended the bimah.

He… was a ‘he.’

Men can be rabbis?!” I exclaimed.

I don’t recall my mother’s response, but she assures me that it was a mixture of hilarity, amusement, mild embarrassment, and pride.

I had only known from Rabbi Wechsler, and assumed that all rabbis were women. I wouldn’t understand until years later that my then nine-year-old self had just wandered into one of the great issues of modern Judaism– women in the rabbinate and the role of women in Jewish life.

With the sudden realization that an entire new world was open to me as a male, I started pondering the possibility of a career as a professional Jew. At least that’s the version of events I tell myself today. I’m sure that nine-year-old Jesse just wanted the service to end as quickly as possible so we could get to the oneg.

But there is little doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have stayed connected to my Judaism through high school, university and beyond, and wouldn’t today be a Jewish Professional if it wasn’t for the foundation Rabbi Wechlser-Azen laid two decades ago.

So while I learned that day that men can indeed be rabbis, I’m pretty thankful that women can be, too.

Steven Harper could learn a lot at Yeshiva

To those who, in the upcoming election, might be compelled to base their vote on their religious affiliation:  If you are intent again to use a theo-political issue to trump your vote. (certainly, the Tories have done and are doing everything they can to convince you that this is a good idea), perhaps, first study some Midrash:

“Moses said: ‘I know that the Israelites are malcontents. Therefore, I will audit the entire construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)’. He began making an accounting: ‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ and he began reporting everything, the gold, silver and bronze, and the silver of the public census… He continued reckoning each item in the Mishkan in order, but forgot 1575 shekels from which the hooks on the pillars were fashioned, but which were not generally visible. He stood bewildered and said: ‘Now they will lay their hands on me, saying that I took it’, and he went back to recalculate. Immediately, God opened Moses’ eyes and showed him that the silver was used in the hooks on the pillars. He began to reply to them, saying: ‘and 1575 were fashioned into pillar hooks’ and the Israelites were immediately appeased. What enabled this? The fact that he sat and made an accounting…

…But why did he make an accounting?… It is only because he heard the cynics talking behind his back, as it says ‘And when Moshe left…they looked back at Moshe’. What did they say? R. Yitzhak said that people spoke positively. Then others would chime in: ‘Imbecile! He’s the one who controlled the entire enterprise of the Mishkan… gold and silver that were not counted, weighed, or numbered! Wouldn’t you expect that he be rich?’ When Moshe heard this, he said: ‘My word! When the Mishkan is completed, I will make an accounting’, as it says ‘These are the records of the Mishkan.’”

-Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 7

What’s going on here?

In short, the Midrash is teaching us that the fiscal cost of the Tabernacle – as a public project funded by the taxes of the Israelites – must be entirely accounted for in an open, transparent, and accessible way.

It’s also teaching us that Moses – as leader of the people – is answerable to the people. Even Moses, who speaks to God face-to-face in a way that no others do, must still face the people.

In a broader sense, it speaks about the virtue of transparency among leaders and the need to be open and answerable to the public.

Stephen Harper could learn a lot from Moses.

An egregious lack of transparency and accountability related to the purchase of military aircraft is exactly what led the Conservatives to be censured for Contempt of Parliament this past week. Of course, anyone with their finger on the pulse of Canadian politics knows that this specific issue is part and parcel of a greater patten of behaviour on part of the Tories; one that paved the way to the landmark ruling by (famed non-partisan) Speaker of the House Peter Milliken.

Certainly if we Jews acknowledge that Moses was expected to be held accountable to the people and to act transparently, we should bestow the same criteria upon Mr. Harper. Certainly if our Midrash teaches us the virtues of un-opaque leadership, we should value that in our national leader as well.

It is challenging for me to view how Harper and the Conservatives can be painted as an honest, transparent, accountable, and open government. Sure, there have been individual instances when they acted reasonable on these grounds. But the story of the Tories – as any learned political observer will tell you – is one of secrecy, opacity, avoidance of responsibility, centralized power, and tight-lipped relations with the Canadian people.

So to the Jews who will likely vote for the Conservatives on the grounds of their supposed dominance of the “support for Israel” (whatever that means) issue: if you value our rabbinic instructions as much as you value the Conservative’s platform (which, remember, didn’t exist when you voted last time…), perhaps you should reconsider the value of your vote.

P.S.: Not convinced that the Tories have a national Jewish-vote buying strategy in place? It isn’t just happening in Thornhill, it’s also taking place down the 401 in Montreal’s Mount-Royal riding.

But daddy, why can’t we have a Chanukah bush?!

My dad was in town on business this week, fortunately timed so that he could join me for the first night of Chanukah. He happened to be here with one of his colleagues (who happened to not be Jewish), and asked if he could join us as we lit the Chanukah candles before going to dinner. Of course, I said yes, and so on the first night of Chanukah, there was a nice informal interfaith thingy in my apartment.

At dinner, my dad pressed his associate to tell me about what his son was learning at school. This being the “holiday season” (insert groan), turns out his young son had learned about the “miracle of the oil,” had also learned all about dreidles, and had in fact been playing with one non-stop at home. I happen to think this is fantastic; learning independently about others’ religious and cultural practices is great, fosters tolerance, and doesn’t succumb to the lame and possibly dangerous tendency to combine different religions into some hybrid mishmash.

See here for my earlier thoughts from a few years ago on how dumb people can get at this time of year when it comes to interfaith interactions.

Later during dinner, my dad’s coworker stepped out to take a phone call from his family. When he returned, he told us that he shared with his son that he had joined us for our Chanukah celebrations, to which his son proclaimed “AWH! Lucky you, dad!”

I still can’t get over how awesome this was to hear. For Jews who most often live in the shadow (the big, beautifully lit and great smelling shadow) of the Christmas Tree, it’s nice to know that it’s possible to foster a mutual respect and appreciate of each others’ traditions.

The Schizophrenic Jewish Hierarchy

I just read that at the JFNA General Assembly, Kadima MP Tzipi Livni addressed the crowd with a message of Jewish unity, calling for “dialog between the Jews of the Diaspora and of Israel to ensure that we would forever remain one people. That is how I see you when I stand here today… not as Reform Jews or Orthodox or Conservative.

Setting aside the cookie-cutter content of her speech, am I the only one that thinks when someone mentions the three major Movements of North American Judaism in the same breath, there’s an inherent resistance that takes place, our of fear of establishing a hierarchy?

I can imagine Livni’s speech-writers spending hours formulating that one sentence:

– Who do we put first? Reform? If we say Reform first, then we have to say Orthodox second, otherwise it will look like we’re going bottom up along the religious scale.

– There’s a religious scale?

– Of course there is, everyone knows there’s an identity problem in North American Judaism.

– Nu? Maybe we shouldn’t put Reform first, it makes it look like we’re starting at the bottom.

– Ok, so let’s start with Orthodox.

– No, then it looks like we’re starting at the top and working our way down.

– What is wrong with North American Jews?! Why can’t they just be like us Israelis and have one, state-sponsored religious stream. Things would be so much easier that way…

– Yes. Yes, they would.

– Ok, so what about Conservative Judaism… why don’t we start with them?

– If we put Conservative first, then it will be too obvious that we’re trying to avoid establishing a hierarchy.

– Ok, so let’s start with Orthodox, but then go straight to Reform so it looks like we understand religious pluralism.

– Then we’re leaving Conservative for last; people will think we’re making a comment about the dying state of their movement.

And on, and on, and on, and on…

Law & Linguistics (which even though it sounds so, is not the title of a University course)

Progressive Jews refer to Jewish law/Halacha relatively frequently. For a quick and imminent example, check out today’s Mishnah Day email from the URJ’s Ten Minutes of Torah series.

For those playing the home game, progressive/Reform Judaism (at least institutionally) does not accept Halacha as theologically binding. As Rabbi Mark Washofsky, one of the foremost scholars on Judaism and Jewish Law notes, “we do not regard halakhah as a process which yields mandatory conclusions.

I don’t want to debate whether or not Jewish Law/Halacha has merit as an institution. I happen to think it does. But I was struck today with what I think is an odd realization…

Question: Is it contradictory – or at the very least, confusing – for progressive Jews to acknowledge that there is an institution called “Jewish Law,” while simultaneously stating that it is not mandatory?

When we call something a law, we implicitly indicate that it is mandatory. Yet Washofsky writes that Reform Jews have their own “unique approach to halakhah.” Hmmm.

I can think of no other example of a group of people that has a body of optional laws, or laws that can obeyed or not obeyed depending on the unique approach to them by individuals. If such a group exists, they certainly don’t wouldn’t call such an institution “laws”.

Of course, civil courts have laws which can be challenged, updated, appealed, repealed, and interpreted in different ways by judges so as to set legal precedent. But in any given moment, for example, Canadian Law as a body isn’t open for individual interpretation. That’s why it’s called “The Law” and not “The Suggestion”. A citizen can’t decide for themselves (without legal ramifications) that theft is justified, even if they’ve studied criminal law ad nauseum.

This is not all to say that Reform/progressive Jews should follow Jewish law in its entirety. That’s not my place to suggest. This is also not to say that Halacha – as a humanly created system – shouldn’t be open to interpretation by humans. I think it should. I also think that any humanly created legal system that is held to the immutable standards that halachah is by Orthodox Jews borders on idolatry and more often than not misses the point of having the legal system in the first place.

What I am suggesting is that there is a linguistic difficulty in calling something that is not binding “The Law”. If, as Washofsky suggest, Jewish Law is “a discourse, an ongoing conversation through which we arrive at an understanding,” then perhaps we shouldn’t be calling it “Law” (at least in English). Perhaps we need another term.

In Hebrew, “Halachah” means “The Way” or “The Path.” Even these translations imply a singular reality, and not the pluralistic approach Washofsky suggests.

If we agree that Jewish Law has a role within progressive and Reform Judaism, it’s time to give it an appropriate name that reflects its role. I’m not a legal scholar or a linguist, so I’m not sure yet sure what is the right word/phrase to use, but I am certain that the language we’re using now doesn’t reflect the praxis that exists on the ground by the majority of progressive/Reform Jews.

An additional thought – a new term may even encourage more people to study and engage with what we call Halacha. Jewish Law as a term is heavy and can be scary unless you’re open to accepting that Law = a binding system.

Israel vs. The Rest, Part Three

A review of my experiences at yesterday’s pro-peace Rally, this is Part 3 in a series of posts on rallies related to what’s going on the Mideast. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Today, as I think about yesterday’s rallies, I am certain of three things:

1. The frequency of people tagging blogs with “Gaza,” “Israel,” and “Palestine,” has shot through the roof. Needless to say, not everything is newsworthy or even cogent, but at the very least, it does indicate an increased awareness.

2. In my next post, where I focus on what a rally really is, and what it really needs to entail, I’ll argue that the vast majority of the 10,000 people at the pro-Israel “rally” don’t know much about what they are supposedly rallying for. For now, I’ll throw this out there in support of why our protest was a real rally, and the other wasn’t:

No dialogue resulted from the other “rally.” It was just a bunch of guys on a podium shouting platitudes, with a bunch of people cheering. There was no working to bring about change. It was monolithic. Everyone even looked alike, as all were given “tzeva adom” (red alert) hats to wear. The organizer informed the multitudes that these hats were “a symbol that the missiles would stop falling, and the alerts would end.” Right. Hats. Why not take the money that was spent on the hats, and donate it to assist those lives in peril in southern Israel? That’s really advocacy. That’s real activism.

At our rally, there was dialogue (albeit hostile at times), that had the express intent of bringing about a change to the status quo in the Jewish community. We may not have changed people’s point of view, but we made it undeniably clear that this is not a black and white issue. We got attention from a wide variety of media and press, including Radio-Canada, who interviewed me in French when they heard I was Canadian. They all seemed mildly surprised that there could possibly be supporters of a “middle-way.” No surprise, given that much of the media was focused on the giant stage on 42nd Street.

3. Here’s a run-down of the colourful remarks hurled – by Jews – at me and others yesterday:

“You’re leading the way back to Auschwitz!”
“You’ll bring about another 9/11”
“You’re not Jewish! Take off your kippas! You’re not a real Jew!”
“There are no innocent civilians in Gaza!”
“Shame, shame shame!” (Repeat, ad nausea…)

Deeply hurt, I didn’t take any of these slurs personally. They hurt because they’re a stewing indicator of the inability of people to see beyond their own point of view. If there is a solution to the shit, it lies in people who are able to see beyond their limited horizons and outside of their borders.

While I’m not so sure I want to remember everything, I’ll have photos and video posted soon.

Next up, Part Four: Rallying the way to Victory

…אם אין קמח

אם אין קמח אין תורה אם אין תורה אין קמח
If there is no sustenance [literally flour], there is no Torah.
If there is no Torah, there is no flour.

Pirkei Avot 3:21

Rashi comments on this perek by noting that one cannot always be studying Torah – if one does not eat, then one can’t learn. At first glance, one might assume that this means that there are times when you should take yourself away from Torah… ahh, but of course, that’s not the case. Those rabbis were tricky fellows. In short, what the rabbis are getting at is that there are multiple paths to Torah. Or for those who believe that there is a singular path of Torah living, the rabbis are noting that each person who travels it is unique. No two people walk down the same physical road at the same pace, on the same path, or with the same stride. It would be foolish to think the same of the path of Torah. Thus, the time you spend feeding yourself and taking care of your personal needs is part of paving the road of Torah. Without food, it would be a pretty bumpy ride.

To be sure, just before the above quoted line, it is written “Where there is no Torah, there will be no good conduct; where there is no good conduct, there will be no Torah.” The Hebrew for “good conduct” is derech… literally “path,” or “way.”

Now you are likely asking yourself why Jesse has suddenly delved into a drash on Pirkei Avot and Rashi. Especially after a blogging absence that Mark Swick would label “a shanda!” The answer, folks, is quite simple, and can be summed up in one word. A word which, in fact, is perhaps the single word which can be used to describe our current socio-cultural-political zeitgeist.


That’s right. Facebook. Rashi, Pirkei Avot, and Facebook are now having a party together. And I’m sure that somewhere in the Facebook universe there’s an invite that hasn’t been sent to me.

This evening, through the marvellous wonder of the mini-feed, I happened to notice that a person (who shall remain anonymous) had listed their religion as “Torah Jew.” Having long ago withdrawn the limits of what one could list their religion as, we’ve seen many things filled into that magical space on people’s profiles. From the oft pervasive secularism of the theatre crowd to my own listing as “Frum Reform,” I do believe that the customizable space is a great benefit. I’d be the last person to suggest that you can pigeon-hole something as expansive as religious beliefs into a small box on Facebook.

But this notion of Torah Jew – a phrase I’ve heard repeated many times before – suddenly troubles me. If there are Torah Jews, it naturally implies that there are Jews who don’t get to have the distinction of Torah be a part of their Jewish identity. Are some Jews more observant of the Torah’s laws? Most certainly yes. Are some Jews more involved in daily Torah study? Of course. But does answering yes to these questions make such people any less entitled to the Torah? Has the Torah withdrawn itself from them? Is the Torah entirely absent from their lives? Can it be said that there is any Jew that is devoid of Torah? I challenge you to answer yes to these questions. No human has the right to deny Torah from another. By titling oneself a Torah Jew, it intrinsically – and arrogantly so – serves to snub those who aren’t classified as such. It is yet another elitist tool of certain members of the Ortho-aristocracy. And worse, it is a silent and subversive tool.

The Torah teaches that Moses was not allowed into Eretz Yisrael because – similar to much of (but by no means all of) the current generation of Orthodox Jews – he did not speak gently to the people and tried to impose his authority via arrogance.

To quote an anonymous commentator of some ha’aretz article from while back:

This is the great failure of this generation of Orthodox Jews: instead of leading the wider Jewish people to Torah, they have decided to isolate themselves in arrogance and in judgement…

I challenge the Orthodox Jews to attract Jewish children to the Torah with the same or greater strength that they are attracted to Harry Potter. This should be their mission. Not accusing the non-Frum Jews of their failure.

When a Kippah is not just a Kippah

This article popped up in my inbox today, courtesy of KOACH, the Conservative Movement’s college arm. It’s by KOACH associate at U of Florida Sherri Vishner. It’s part of a series of articles on gender in Judaism, but as I read it, I couldn’t but help have a reaction to it that had nothing to do with gender.

… while we are in fact in the ‘21st Century’, it is still not common for women to wear kippot.

Like many girls who are currently growing up in the Conservative Movement, I was given the opportunity to wear a tallit and kippah when I celebrated becoming a Bat Mitzvah. About five years ago, I made the decision to wear my kippah all the time- minus showering and sleeping of course. I made this decision because I believe I should have my head covered while praying. I didn’t want to limit my prayers to a few times a day and I didn’t want to keep taking my kippah on and off, which I had been doing for a while…

…As immediately as the first day I wore my kippah, Jews and non-Jews alike approached me asking me what I was wearing and wasn’t that something that men wore. I continue to explain that while the kippah has traditionally been worn solely by men, it need not be a ‘man’s garment’. I wear the kippah for the same reasons a man wears one- to show that God is above us and to remind them that I am a Jew. I believe that these concepts are not limited to men. I believe in God and appreciate the daily, visible reminder of my Judaism.

I know a lot of women who by other people’s standards would be considered feminists but don’t put themselves in that camp. I have a hard time putting myself there as well, especially when it comes to my wearing a kippah. I don’t wear my kippah because I want to be a man and I also don’t wear one because I think all women should- though it would be nice to have some company!

The article resonated with me in such a different manner. While I read the words, my mind was already replacing them with my own narrative. This is how it read to me:

while we are in fact in the ‘21st Century’, it is still not common for Reform Jews to wear kippot [all the time].

Like many Reform Jews who are currently growing up in the Reform Movement, I was given the opportunity to wear a tallit and kippah when I celebrated becoming a Bar Mitzvah. About five years ago, I made the decision to wear my kippah all the time- minus showering and sleeping of course. I made this decision because I believe I should have my head covered while praying. I didn’t want to limit my prayers to a few times a day and I didn’t want to keep taking my kippah on and off, which I had been doing for a while…

…As immediately as the first day I wore my kippah, Jews and non-Jews alike approached me asking me what I was wearing and wasn’t that something that Orthodox Jews wore… I wear the kippah for the same reasons an Orthodox Jew wears one- to show that God is above us and to remind them that I am a Jew. I believe that these concepts are not limited to the Orthodox. I believe in God and appreciate the daily, visible reminder of my Judaism.

I know a lot ofReform Jews who by other people’s standards would be considered “Orthodox” but don’t put themselves in that camp. I have a hard time putting myself there as well, especially when it comes to my wearing a kippah. I don’t wear my kippah because I want to be aOrthodox and I also don’t wear one because I think all Jews should- though it would be nice to have some company!

I’ve wrestled with wearing a kippah full-time in the past. After returning from my first Jewish camp experience, and then from my first trip to Israel, it felt appropriate and I donned one each morning. But then the assumptions of my orthodoxy got in the way of the connection I was trying to forge through the garment. And yet, as I wear one at all times when doing something Jewish, it still feels a little contradictory to assume that I can just walk away from parts of my Jewishness. Sure, you go to shul and pray at specific times, but it’s not like you can compartmentalize your Jewishness. The emancipation is long gone, those ideals don’t stand any longer.

Even this past Shabbat, as I had on my knit “religious zionist / modern orthodox” kippah, surrounded by others who were wearing polyester kippot (no doubt collected from many a bar mitzvah), I was asked if I wore my kippah all the time. Just the fabric and design of my head-covering was enough to elicit assumptions.

I would like to find a way to wear a kippah without having people pigeon-hole me into a category based on it. While that sounds a little like I’m being too focused on image and what other people think of me, it’s an important factor. It’s an outward display of one’s Jewry, and it needs to be considered carefully. If I’m displaying something, I don’t want to display what I’m not.

Perhaps something similar to eco-kashrut needs to arise to deal with this issue. If Reform Jews want to wear kippot all the time without automatically being assumed to be Orthodox, does something need to be done? Or is this an internal, self-defining issue?

This also all rests on the assumptions that the highly definitive nature of the Movements is something that is important and necessary. I still haven’t figured that one out yet.

Apparently neither have these people.

Or these.