The first kippah I ever bought for myself was blue. It came in the mail with the mezuzah for my new apartment, and I held the skullcap in my hands, turning it over and over. It was silk, with a border of embroidered date palms. The blue was even prettier in person, rich and deep with a hint of green, like a Mediterranean sea. It was perfect. And I was petrified.
I had asked the rabbi at my new Reform synagogue in Akron, Ohio: Do women wear kippot to shul here? How socially acceptable would it be for me to try wearing one? Kindly, he told me that it wasn’t unusual in progressive Judaism for women to wear them, and that if it would bring more meaning to my prayer, then I was welcome to wear one. I tried it out, wearing a black satin kippah from the basket by the door to the sanctuary, overly conscious of it while I davened, my bowing growing hesitant out of fear that it would fall off. I spun a worst-case scenario in my head in which my kippah would fall off during the Aleinu, causing everyone around me to turn and laugh. But it didn’t happen. Even when it did fall off once, no one said anything when I picked it up and put it back on. I started keeping hair clips in my pocket anyway, just in case.
Wearing a kippah from the basket slowly became a little less nerve-wracking, and I began to enjoy incorporating it into my practice. But I spent less time at this synagogue in Akron than I did at the Hillel at my university 20 minutes away, and there, I was still hesitant even to borrow one for a service. I had decided that if I was going to wear a kippah at Hillel among my peers, I wanted it to be my kippah. But to me, owning my own kippah instead of just borrowing one felt like a huge leap—by buying one for myself, I was committing to wear it all the time in services. It was a commitment that I was willing to make, but it was also a decision I didn’t make lightly....
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