Billboard Judaism: Week 1: A (too brief) Review

I’ve had the kippah on for a week. And in that week, some interesting things have happened. Here are two. More to follow.

– A taxi driver in New York launched into a ten-minute, mostly one-sided conversation with me about how his rabbi wanted him to drive him to tashlich, how he loved old Jewish music, and how he wanted to wear a kippah also because he thought it would make him more moral and a better person, but wasn’t sure how to start. I smiled and told him you can really just start, but that it’s not a magic talisman. Or maybe it is.

– At a pub last night, a burly guy in overalls and a tank-top – clearly drunk – sauntered up to me and yelled above the music “Shana Tovah, eh!” This guy would have terrified me normally. I would have avoided him on the street. But now, I was able to smile and say thanks. He yelled “What are you doing here?” I replied, “It my buddy’s birthday!” His response? “OH! Well tell him yom huledet sameach, eh?” He walked off. A brief interaction, but something that would never have happened if it weren’t for the billboard on my head.

To summarize: Wow.

With the kippah, I have attracted attention. And I like it. I feel a little more communal. A little more a part of a whole. What intrigues me – really what delights me – is that the attention I’ve received comes from people who I wouldn’t otherwise have known were Jewish. We’ve had brief connections, been able to smile in something shared that was previously hidden. I’ll unpack this more next week after Yom Kippur.

In keeping with the theme of yom kippur, I will briefly confess that I’m hesitant when walking around some streets of New York, extremely self-conscious about what friends and others think, curious about what goes through peoples’ minds at work, and worried that I’ll be judged any random group of people – Jews or otherwise – walking around.

I still like it. It keeps me on my toes. Keeps me thinking about what being Jewish should mean on a daily basis. And that’s the whole point, eh?

If it’s your thing, have a meaningful fast. G’mar Chatima Tova.