Question of the Month:

“How does a kippah stay on?”

Our current special exhibition “The Whole Truth… everything you always wanted to know about Jews” is based on 30 questions posed to the Jewish Museum Berlin or its staff over the past few years. In the exhibition, visitors have their own opportunity to ask questions or to leave comments on post-it notes. Some of these questions will be answered here in our blog. This month’s question is: “How does a kippah stay on?”

Post-it note in pink: "Wie hält die Kippa auf dem Kopf? - mit einer Haarspange" (How does a kippah stay on? - with a hair clip))

“How does a kippah stay on?”
© photo: Anina Falasca, Jewish Museum Berlin

If a non-Jew tries on a kippah, it usually falls off. This isn’t fair, but let’s examine the circumstances more closely. When tourists visit the Jewish cemetery in Prague, all men are asked to wear a kippah. Those who travel kippah-free are requested to don a blue, sharply-creased, circular piece of paper. The precarious kippah is inevitably subjected to the winds off the Vltava and flutters away. Comparably, a non-Jewish man attending a synagogue ceremony such as a marriage or Bar Mitzvah, will usually be requested to wear a kippah. Here, a stiff yet slippery synthetic satin kippah is ubiquitous. No guest stands a chance.

What then is the secret to making a kippah stay on? It is disappointingly simple. Jews who frequently wear a kippah know where to put it on their head (the crown) and tend to own kippot which have been tried, tested and are a good fit. Should they opt for one of the smaller kippah sizes (as opposed to the head-encompassing “soup bowl” style) a hair clip may be used to fasten the fabric to any available hair. This solution is not universally accepted, however, and the hair clip is rejected by staunch traditionalists. If the wearer chooses a suede kippah, bald heads happily have the advantage of a high coefficient of friction.

Should all else fail, the ultimate kippah secret is double-sided fashion tape or a dot of one-sided velcro. Please note: stick the velcro to the kippah, not to your head.

Michal Friedlander, Curator for Judaica and Applied Arts

Comment by Richard Becker on 8. April 2013 at 10:18

All any Jew in the world need do is don a hat of any kind. Covering the head symbolizes respect for the universality of God.

You might consider not having too terribly flippant a list of ways to hold on to one’s hat.

Respect the larger meaning of a symbol. Human’s have little else for expressions of genuine humility in the face of our knowledge of death. Of life. Of slavery. Of freedom.

Comment by Josh on 24. June 2014 at 23:55

There is also an option called Kippah Klipz. They are little hidden clips that go under the kippah and secure it to a persons hair. I have some and they are great

Comment by Faylinn on 18. August 2016 at 15:00

My cousins are Jewish and I have always wondered about how they keep a kippah on. One of them uses the hair clip and the other two don’t. However, why exactly would a staunch traditionalist see it as a bad thing to wear it with a clip?

Comment by Michal Friedlander on 23. August 2016 at 14:53

There is no Jewish law that forbids the use of hair clips to secure a kippah. The word “tradition” implies doing things in a manner that has been customary in a particular community for generations. The use of these types of hair clips for kippot are a recent phenomenon – if grandpa and his grandpa wore head coverings out of religious conviction and apparently managed without clips, why start now?

Comment by Anonymous on 29. April 2018 at 18:16

Why do you people think it’s ok to call them Jews? They are Jewish..I’m not a cath..your not a Christ..never met a morm…cmon people

Comment by Anonymous on 13. January 2019 at 00:16

Well, Anonymous, here’s the thing. It sounds pretty goofy to say, He’s a Jewish or she’s a Jewish.

Comment by Neely on 26. March 2019 at 05:58

I actually had a dear Jewish friend, when I called him a Jew he respectfully asked me to refer to him as Jewish. I didn’t know it was offensive, but now I do. I was so young at the time. He’s passed away now but I agree, they’re Jewish and I love Jewish people and their communities. R.I.P. DR Steve.

Comment by logic on 2. February 2020 at 17:20

RE: COMMENT BY Anonymous ON 29. April 2018 at 18:16
Why do you people think it’s ok to call them Jews? They are Jewish..I’m not a cath..your not a Christ..never met a morm…cmon people

Your premise is faulty. “Jew” is a noun. “Jewish” is an adjective. The words Catholic, Christian, and Mormon are nouns. Basic grammar. Basic logic.

You could use the same faulty logic to say, “why do you people think it’s ok to call them Americans? They are Americanish..I’m not a Scottian..your [sic] not a Englandian..never met a Irelandian…cmon people”

If you have a problem with using the word “Jew” as a noun, which it is, you’ll need to come up with a better premise that actually makes sense and also come up with a word to replace the current noun form. Before taking those steps, however, you’ll need to look at the plank in your eye and stop attacking people with “why do you people think it’s ok to call them Jews.” Well, duh. Read a dictionary, dude. Most Jews, my family included, call themselves “Jews” so you’ll need a solid reason for trying to force everyone to change how they identify themselves just to please you, a “cath” as you say.

Also, your misuse of words (ahem, your vs you’re) and incorrect punctuation and capitalization mark you as someone not to be trusted when it comes to issues of language. If you’re offended, you need an actual reason, not a false language-based argument based on ignorance of how language works, and then you’ll need to explain it in a way that makes sense to people — including the vast majority of Jews who identify themselves as “Jew” — or your novel idea of being offended by the noun form of a basic word will never catch on.

Not saying you’re morally wrong to be offended. Just saying most people will never understand why you’re offended if you keep giving these illogical non-reasons. It sounds like YOU don’t know yourself why you’re offended. Something for you to think about, huh?

Comment by spargle on 2. March 2020 at 12:34

Re: Anonymous and asking why “you people call them Jews” –

This is the Jewish Museum of Berlin. The writer of the article is Jewish. He can call himself whatever the hell he wants. You – a non-Jew – don’t get to dictate what he calls himself.

Stay in your lane.

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