Sunday, December 01, 2002

On entering the Silver Diner, Dan told me to remove my kippah. I refused--I wanted to wear my kippah at that time, but more importantly, I wanted to choose myself when I was going to wear a kippah. A rather intense conversation between Johnny, Avi, Dan and I ensued. For much of the first part of it, I felt pretty directly affronted and attacked, so much so that I became disheartened from defending my stance. But after I explained this, Avi and Dan changed their tones significantly, and, feeling a little less vulnerable in front of my friends, I was able to explain myself better. Apologies and explanations made, hugs shared, and Johnny ate his first desert in months.
I understood their points--we had all read the same Talmudic passages dealing with the kippah as a public display of Jewish identity, and the significance kippah wearers bear as representatives of their religion. Non-Jews, the reasoning goes, may form their conception of Jewish laws, customs, and moral character based on the actions of those who appear outwardly Jewish. Therefore, those who choose to display their Judaism in this way take on the responsibility of representing their community to those who do not interact with it directly.
I understand and accept the dilemma this poses, and embrace the tension between personal and communal spiritual identity. I made the choice to wear my kippah into the Silver Diner and not to purchase anything, and perhaps I may have taken my kippah off had I chosen to order a milkshake. However, I consider that wholly my decision. What made me most uncomfortable, I think, was the feeling that my right to wear the kippah was being threatened, that I no longer had autonomy over that decision. By the time Johnny was done with his pie, I had clarified a little my thoughts on the topic, and was glad to have friends who were close enough to challenge me.