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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776

See also "Tallit and T'fillin."
The below postings include discussions about:
  • Congregational Policies on Clergy Wearing Kippot
  • Congregational Policies on Congregants Wearing Kippot
  • Availability of Kippot
  • Women Wearing Kippot 

  1. We have no policy on kippot. Each congregant (male or female) does what he pleases about wearing a kippah. There are some in a box in the foyer for those who want to wear them. A very small percentage of our congregation chooses to wear them as most of our regular attendees have Classical Reform leanings.

  2. Our congregation is over 150 years old so it has a long history of Classical Reform customs. For many decades, the wearing of a kippah was actively discouraged. About 35 years ago, the (then new) senior rabbi began wearing a kippah during services, and a discreet box was placed in the temple office where ushers could get a kippah for a visitor who requested one.

    About 10 years ago, we had an explosive discussion about moving the box to a more conspicuous location. Most of the controversy was over what the sign on the box should say, since most members of the Ritual Committee were opposed to anything that would suggest that it was required. Our current policy is that the wearing of any ritual garments (tallit, kippah, t?fillin [very rare]) is completely at the discretion of the worshiper. Kipah on the bimah is optional (most, but not all, of our clergy do). Kippah in the sanctuary is optional. There are no different policies for men and women

    1700 member families

  3. At our synagogue people are free to either wear or not wear a kippah. We have a lovely rack in the back of the sanctuary where people can find kippot and tallitot. Our rabbi wears a kippah and our cantor doesn't. The wearing of a kippah is not required in order to come up to the bimah for honors.
    800+ families

  4. We have a pretty relaxed attitude towards kippot. People on the bimah are very mildly encouraged to wear them, but there's no pressure at all. I'd say half (maybe a little less) of the people on the bimah on a given Shabbat will be wearing a kippah. Kippot are available at the entrance to the sanctuary for people who want them. It's entirely up to the individual. Wearing kippot in the congregation is neither encouraged nor discouraged. Numerically, significantly less than half choose to wear them. However, I've noticed that younger members have their own kippot, which they do wear at services. No distinction is made between men & women.
    460 families

  5. At our temple the wearing of a kippah is strictly up to the individual. Male or female, Friday night or Saturday morning, on the bimah or not. We always read Torah on Friday nights and a few of us wear tallit. If there is a bar/bat mitzvah on Saturday a few more will wear tallit. Again it is strictly up to the individual.
    485 family units

  6. At our temple kippot are always available in plain sight, but never required. Anyone invited onto the bimah for an honor receives a letter mentioning appropriate dress and the wearing of kippah and tallit "if you wear one". Our clergy wear them on the bimah. Most congregants that are male wear a kippah on the bimah, but not all. A small percentage of the women do. Most of our male congregants wear kippot when sitting with the congregation. The same small percent of females who wear them on the bimah also wear them in the congregation. Many congregants wear tallitot on Saturday and they are always available in clear sight to those who did not bring their own.

  7. Our congregation of 2000 family units is approaching its 150th year and has a proud history of Classical Reform. The wearing of tallitot by all the clergy, even when not robed, is a recent introduction by our new senior rabbi. Only five or so years ago the wearing of tallitot and kippot by the shofar blower on Yom Kippur caused a storm of protest by the old establishment, but was welcomed by many of the more recent members. From a policy of asking worshippers to remove kippot a generation ago, a box of kippot is now available - though not conspicuously displayed. There is a legitimate concern on the part of the establishment minority that a prominent display would suggest that the wearing of kippot is preferable to a bare head. We are careful to preserve the legitimacy of worship without kippah in our congregation. Tallitot are not provided and only a small percentage of men and women customarily wear them. We have moved fairly rapidly towards tolerance of kippot. Most of us welcome the change.
    2000 family units

  8. Within the last three years, our congregation removed the restriction placed on rabbis regarding wearing a tallit and kippah on the bimah. Currently, three of our four rabbis wear tallitot, two wear kippot, and one wears neither. We've been members of our congregation for twenty years and congregants and visitors have been wearing tallitot and kippot if they so chose. During this period of time (until our momentous change), only rabbis and cantors were restricted from wearing the particular prayer garb in question.

    Our rabbi during a sermon on a Friday night began with a factual presentation of the commandments and customs surrounding the wearing of prayer garb. He talked about our responsibilities as Reform Jews to make choices concerning our practices and to respect others for their choices. It was a wonderful demonstration of how to introduce a change in practice without implying that it must be. This allows all our members, regardless of the choice they make regarding prayer garb, to consider themselves observant. It has been this approach from our rabbi that has enabled our congregation to move in new directions while continuing to validate and show respect for our roots.


  9. The wearing of tallitot and kippot are entirely optional for both men and women in our temple. This year we started to encourage the wearing of a kippah for both boys and girls in our Hebrew and religious school. We sent home a letter to the parents informing them of this. Teachers were given materials about the wearing of a kippah and asked to encourage students who brought them to school to wear them. Students were also given the opportunity to make their own.

  10. Most of the men in my congregation do not wear kippah, one or two woman do. There are always comments at the sight of women doing so. I have wanted to do so for some time but waited until I was no longer the president of the congregation out of respect. I feel strongly that I wish to show respect for God by covering my head. I have taken great pride and joy in crocheting my own. The Jewish Catalogue, first edition, has directions.
    200+ families

  11. I [am a woman and] have been covering my head for a while, initially people in my Classical Reform congregation said "we don't do that here." Now, they seem less likely to speak to me about it, but no more likely to follow suit. I wear hats mostly, in the beginning I wore kippot of varying types. I do love hats, so that helps. I also feel it is a mark of respect to cover my head, Reform or not.

  12. For the woman who worried about whether or not wearing a kippah in her synagogue was "kosher," I?d like to refer her (and others) to the excellent article in the current Lillith magazine (Summer 2000) entitled "How I Became a Kippah Crusader." This article says it all and is empowering for those who may wish to incorporate kippot into their own spiritual practice. I guess the operant word here is "practice." Ritual is one of those things which "feels funny" the first few times. However, I've learned that it's important to "hang in there," whenever one tries on something new in this area, as ritual practice which is new can make the worshiper feel more than a bit self-conscious. But this feeling is fleeting, and it's amazing how something, which once felt forced, becomes an important, integral part of one's worship life.
    880 Households

  13. We are a temple in the south, whose membership comes from many places and many different branches of Judaism. Along with that comes as many practices as there are members. Every few years we wrestle with the question of requiring or making optional the wearing of tallit and kippah either during services or for alyiot. We do provide both in the foyer for those that wish to use them, and many do. I would be interested in hearing from other temples about policies they have established. Especially those where the population is not primarily born and raised in the same area, but those congregations, like mine, that is a second home, retirement , or career transplant destination. It would seem to me that a policy everyone is comfortable with is always best, and that would be to make the use optional. My personal feeling is that it should be optional, because that's what I am used to, having come from a temple (about to celebrate its 100th anniversary) where tallit and kippah were and still are not worn, except by a very few.
    275 units

  14. We provide both kippot and tallitot for those who wish to avail themselves. Many members have their own and wear them. We have no policy or guidelines regarding the wearing of K & T at any time or for any reason. The members of the congregation are quite mixed in levels of observance and practice.
    400+ member units

  15. As a boy growing up in Brooklyn, I attended an old line Reform congregation. If you wore a hat or kippah, the shamous came up to you, tapped you on the head, and asked you to take your hat off.

    At [my current congregation], the wearing of kippah and tallit is completely optional. This seems also to be the practice of several other area congregations.

    Though I choose to wear both myself, I would not wish to impose my own choices on others.


  16. We are a very small congregation...with 33 members. Half of the congregants were raised in [the congregation's city] and half are transplants. Some of us wear kippot (I do), and many of us do not. Some pray with a tallit (I do), and many do not. We have many levels of observance and no formal policies. This is probably a situation familiar to many small Reform congregations. It has worked for our temple for many years.

  17. In our large old congregation...,when I was growing up kippah was not worn, and the rabbi's contract specified he was not to wear one on the bimah. Tallitot were worn only by the rabbi and the bar mitzvah (skinny Reform tallitot folded over four times and then tacked to keep it from opening).

    Today our practice is, as so many have said, personal option. Kippah and tallit are available for those who wish and don't bring their own. Some to many do bring and wear tallit and/or kippah, and today several women have chosen to wear one or both. I really like that we are open to permit worship as it feels right for the congregant at the time. I would be very unhappy with any Reform congregation that made strict rules in this current day, on this subject.

    My personal practice is to wrap myself in a large tallit and wear a kippah. At home I wear a kippah for prayers and make them available, but I would never ask that someone wear one.


  18. As I understand it, one of the basic principles of Reform Judaism is informed choice. I'm a member of a very small congregation, and we have a variety of levels of observance. Unless there's a controversy among the membership, why make a rule about kippot or tallitot?

    I would note that if a significant number of people wear tallitot, it might be nice to put hooks outside the restrooms since it is customary to avoid taking the tallit into the restroom. Whenever I visit a congregation in a strange town, I usually check to see if there are tallit hooks outside the ladies' room--that's the sign of a truly egalitarian synagogue!

    (38 families)

  19. Wearing or not wearing kippot or tallitot doesn't complicate more ritually observant Jews' lives, as, for instance, not keeping kashrut in a temple kitchen might.

    Man men and women, especially in the older demographic, grew up in Reform synagogues where it was forbidden to wear kippot. Why make them miserable?

    I respect and support Reform Judaism's stance, for decades now, in keeping the observance of ritual mitzvot in the hands of the individual. Sometimes it leads to laziness, but if it's about informed choice, it leads to closer communion with God and community.

    600 families or so

  20. Dec 2004 Digest #1121

                …I was recently at a discussion about the origins of ritual garb. As choice through knowledge is an important part of the Reform Movement, I thought that I'd impart what I learned before giving my opinion.

    Kippah: It's completely minhag (custom) to wear a head-covering.

    Tallit: There's a commandment to see the t'cheilet (blue strand) on the tzitzit (fringes), which are to be put on four-cornered garments. The commandment is found at the beginning of the third paragraph of the full Sh'ma (which starts "Vay'dabeir Adonai" and continues with “L'ma-an  tizk'ru”), and in Talmud it is explained that we remember the exodus from Egypt when we wear tzitzit. Remembering the exodus is a commandment, and putting tzitzit on four-cornered garments is commanded, however, there is no requirement to make a four-cornered garment on which to put tzitzit.  However, it's easy enough to fulfill the commandment by making such a garment to wear. To sum it up, wearing a tallit (i.e. a four-cornered garment specially made for tzitzit) at any time is minhag.

    T'fillin: It's commanded that we bind them (i.e. all of God's commandments) on our hands/arms and that they be "totafot" between our eyes.  We read that in the first paragraph of Sh'ma.  Now, what this means is up for debate, but it is the custom to put a few specific paragraphs of Torah into compartmentalized leather boxes and wear one on the head and one on the arm. When one wears t'fillin one is supposed to focus only on holy topics, which only the holiest of holy people are capable of doing for the entire day.  So everyone else wears them for the morning prayers (when focusing is easier), and these extra holy people wear them all day.  That way, the commandment is fulfilled without defiling the purpose.

    As for requiring or forbidding people from wearing this ritual garb, it seems to be completely against the current Reform idea of "choice through knowledge."  Why expect or, at least encourage, the practice of choosing what to do after obtaining knowledge on the topic if it results in specific synagogues forcing you to do something that you're not comfortable doing? As someone said earlier, the ritual garb one individual chooses to wear is not something that affects the entire congregation, whereas the standard of kashrut in the synagogue kitchen is.  Reform synagogues should not be controlling individual choices like the wearing of ritual garb.

  21. Dec 2004 Digest #1121

                That's the bottom line, isn't it? If Reform Judaism asks us to make conscious decisions, shouldn't we be permitted to follow through on our choices? Is it appropriate for a Reform congregation to forbid (or conversely, demand) it?

  22. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-1

    …what is or is not appropriate is for a given congregation to determine. That is what minhag is all about. A congregation can forbid the serving of pork products on their premises. Is this appropriate? I would think so…

    What I think is the true issue is what smacks of traditional observances. Anything that seems like a backslide towards Orthodoxy is suspect.  ……[It] is within the purview of a congregation to draw their lines in the sand where they wish.


  23. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-2

    I was interested in the recent discussion on tallit.  Virtually all men wear a tallit and kippah whether as part of the congregation on Shabbat morning or on the bimah, as do some women. Some of the girls who celebrated their bat mitzvah wore a tallit during the service and have occasionally worn one since. We recently held a mini-course on the relevance of tallit and each participant made their own tallit. Since there is no reason why women cannot wear a tallit, it is a case of women feeling comfortable wearing it. Although I made one, I have not worn it yet but am thinking about it.

    Our rabbi has also started explaining the relevance of tallit to the bar mitzvah family (and congregation) when the parents come onto the bimah at the start of the Shabbat service and place the child's tallit round him/her. We felt that if a child is going to wear a tallit, they should know why they are doing so and, therefore, make their own choice. No child has not worn one following their bar mitzvah and, in fact, they do so with pride as they feel totally part of the community.


    720 families
  24. Dec 2006 Digest 185

                …To this day I find it uncomfortable to wear one in "my" synagogue, although I do not feel this discomfort in other situations. I feel there is too much peer pressure to adopt more traditional rituals by the Reform Movement. I feel myself in the ironic position of resisting innovation on the grounds of modernism…


    700 units
  25. Dec 2006 Digest 186

                [Re wearing or not wearing kippah]…Try to learn enough about whatever it is that you can feel secure in your decisions. When you do explore a practice, try it several times before giving up--it's bound to feel a little strange and uncomfortable in the beginning. Learn enough about Jewish history to see that orthodoxy (little "o") is largely a myth--that it's almost always been about reform (little "r"). An interesting read is Rabbi Rifat Soncino's Finding God. He describes Judaism from the points of view of over a dozen of our greatest thinkers, and the result is that they seem to range 180 degrees--yet they're all respected as authentic.

                One of my favorites is Franz Rosenzweig who lived about 100 years ago. Despite being a thoroughgoing rationalist, when asked whether he observed the mitzvah of tefillin, responded "not yet." Would that we could all remain so open!

  26. June 2007 Digest 119

                In our congregation, no one is required to wear a kippah or a tallit on the bimah at any time. They are welcome to do so, but that is a matter of their personal choice. We believe that it is contrary to the fundamental ideology of Reform Judaism to impose a personal ritual practice such as the wearing of a kippah or a tallit upon any of our members. There was a time in the history of our movement when people were actually forbidden from wearing them in Reform synagogues. That was wrong. It is equally wrong to require it of them now. When Reform Judaism abandons the principle of personal autonomy it no longer can claim to be Reform Judaism but rather has become just a liberal wing of Conservative Judaism.

  27. June 2007 Digest 119

                We require all men to wear a yarmulke on the bimah during a service, and the Jewish men to wear a tallis. They may remove either or both once leaving the bimah.

                We require the young male students to wear a yarmulke during the period they are in the sanctuary for the ending of their religious school class lesson.

                Reform Judaism has not abandoned the concept of personal autonomy. That is why [one temple] has its ruling and [another] has its ruling.

  28. June 2007 Digest 119

                We also leave the issue of tallit and kippah to the individual. During services, our former rabbi for ten years wore a robe and tallit, but never a kippah. Our previous rabbi wore a kippah, and sometimes a robe and/or tallit. Our current rabbi wears neither robe, tallit nor kippah. In general, the congregation is split on the wearing kippot and hardly anyone wears a tallit, on or off the bimah.


    165 Families
  29. June 2007 Digest 119

                One thing I've found odd (and a bit disturbing) is when a congregation will require men to wear tallit and kippot, but not women. In particular, when the religious school has a class service and the boys are always told they need to wear kippot. What about the girls? Moving personal autonomy aside for a moment (either as an individual or a congregation), when we permit and encourage women to become both cantors and rabbis do some congregations still not engage women and men in the same obligations?

  30. June 2007 Digest 119

                While we don't have any strict rule--we provide both tallitot and kippot at the back of the sanctuary for whomever wishes to wear them…men and women who have been given a Torah aliyah usually wear a tallit (and some both). We consider the opening and closing of the ark, haggbah/gelilah, etc., as being aliyot but normally those doing these activities do not wear tallitot

                Our song-leader is considered part of the clergy when she participates in the service and always wears a kippah and tallit, as does the rabbi on the bimah. Our cantorial soloist who is not Jewish wears a kippah during services (never a tallit). Our part-time cantor (invested) wears kippah, tallit and sometimes robe (depending on whether or not the rabbi is wearing one).


    120 Families
  31. June 2007 Digest 119

                Why do I wear a kippah and tallit? Because I am on the bimah, and I want my congregation to not only be able to pray and learn with me aurally, with music, I want them to have a visual environment too.

                When we hear our liturgical music (whatever kind we have in our shuls,) we hope it will bring us to a place of prayer, whether or not we are in the mood. It's lucky our predecessors were smart enough to include all those introductory psalms, because many's the time I've shown up on the bimah grumpy, tired and other directed! We hear and speak, even if we don't want to, and soon, we can allow ourselves to join our community's conversation with God.

                Our visual cues are equally motivating, and as the many teachers on this list know, many students are visual learners. We see the Hebrew letters, and even those among us who cannot read Hebrew can be here now, can see the beauty of the text. We see the beautiful ark, and we all get a tiny thrill when the Sefer Torah, garbed and crowned like a Queen, is removed. When we see at least some of our neighbors, and our leaders, robed in prayer, (even when they are in no mood to pray inside,) we have an image of a Kehlliah Kedosha before us. We remember before whom we stand.

                I am sometimes not in any mood to stick that kippah on my head…or to don my tallit…After a while though, I feel the protection and embrace of my tallit, and the awesome hand of God on my head.


    90 high quality member units
  32. June 2007 Digest 119

    …[where I belong] some choose to wear kippot and put on tallitot on appropriate occasions and some do not. Complete individual choice. Relatively few persons wear tallitot on Kol Nidrei. Rabbis and Cantors wear kippot and tallitot. At [one congregation] our senior rabbi stopped wearing pulpit gown several years ago, and men have lit candles on occasion--though not very often.

  33. June 2007 Digest 119

                At the expense of sounding judgmental (al cheit shechatani), requiring any congregant to wear a tallis or yarmulke sounds un-Reform. Our movement stresses personal autonomy and, until it decides what Jewish ritual garb worshippers shall wear, no congregation should compel people to conform.

                Our rabbi (almost) always wears a tallis and a yarmulke. He stopped wearing a black robe a little more than a year ago, but still wears a white robe on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Shavuos.

                Talleisim and yarmulkes are available at the door, but wearing them is optional.


    ~500 families
  34. June 2007 Digest 119

                While personal autonomy is a key principle in Reform Judaism, each congregation has not only the opportunity but in many ways the obligation to set standards for its own community. Many congregations have already set standards for worship(ful) dress, in particular creating rules for what is and is not permitted on the bimah during (for example) a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. We set minimum standards of behaviour, we set standards for the content of the worship service itself--the previous and the new siddur offer enough flexibility for each congregation to find the worship experience that suits them. Requiring that those participating on the bimah be clad in kippah and tallit isn't really any different.

                By the way, the tallit is not specifically required in Judaism either. The tallit was created so that people would have the opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah: if one wears a four-cornered garment it must have fringes, and so people started wearing four-cornered garments. They were, and are, not really a part of the "normal" clothing. It is not a mitzvah to wear them, only to have the fringes (tzitzit) if such a garment *is* worn.

  35. June 2007 Digest 119

                …a portion of the Reform movement Responsa on head covering from


    “The most radical element of the Reform movement in the nineteenth century called for the removal of all head covering during worship as this was seen as a general sign of politeness. This was intended to distinguish Reform Jews from the rest of the Jewish community and so became a symbol for this group. This practice, however, was not followed by continental European Reform Congregations with one exception; it became standard only in the United States. There has been a trend now toward wearing a head covering in some American Reform congregations and among individuals in others as a symbol of *kelal yisrael.* This is appropriate especially as the Reform movement is well established in the United States; it does not need an obvious symbol in order to distinguish it from the remainder of the Jewish community. *The historical studies have made it clear that prayer both bareheaded and with head covering have a strong basis in Judaism so both should be permitted without argument.*”



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