“It’s a Courageous Thing to Do” | Facing History & Ourselves

“It’s a Courageous Thing to Do”

A student reflects on why it takes courage to wear a yarmulke or kippah.


  • History
  • Social Studies


English — US


A student reflects on why it takes courage to wear a yarmulke or kippah:

When I was in high school one of my friends was wearing a yarmulke, and he was in the gym locker room and someone just grabbed it off his head and ran. In high school, teenagers are immature, ignorant, whatever.

I admire people who wear yarmulkes publicly. It’s a courageous thing to do. Wearing it is a way for someone to say, “I’m a Jew.” It’s the biggest symbol. People who wear yarmulkes are generally more observant. For some kids who grow up in observant households, since day one they wear a kippah. But for a small minority out there, it’s something they do as a way of showing Jewish pride. I have friends who used to not wear them, and in their teenage years they said, “This is something I want to do.” It’s tough for someone to make that jump.

I have a friend who used to go around wearing a baseball cap. You can wear a baseball cap—that counts as a yarmulke. Then he said, “You know what? I’m Jewish. I’m proud to be Jewish.” So now he wears a kippah.

Especially if you’re in a public forum, wearing a kippah requires a lot of courage, and you have to have a lot of pride in your religion. Some people in the business or professional worlds won’t wear a kippah, because, unfortunately, a bit of anti-Semitism and prejudice exist there. . . . For some people in the professional world, it changes the way that people think of them, and perceptions are important. 

Every once in a while, I think, “Maybe I should do it.” I think I’ve ultimately never had the courage. The reason it’s difficult, at least for myself in a tolerant community like this one, is that there’s the fear—you don’t want to stick out. But also, I’m satisfied with the level of my observance right now. Wearing a kippah is not the only way of making a statement of Jewish pride. 1

Connection Questions

  1. Why does the speaker regard the decision to wear a kippah as “courageous”?
  2. Why is he reluctant to make that decision?
  3. Do you ever worry about walking down the street and being recognizably Jewish?
  4. What particular challenges does an American with a strong Jewish identity face?
  5. What struggles do you have with being an American with a Jewish identity in the context of antisemitic events such as happened this weekend?
  6. As an American Jew, what can you do to fight this type of hatred and bigotry?


  • 1“It Takes a Lot of Courage to Wear a Kippah,” in Pearl Gaskins, I Believe In…: Christian, Jewish and Muslim Young People Speak About Their Faith (Chicago: Cricket Books, 2004), 12–13.

How to Cite This Reading

Facing History & Ourselves, ““It’s a Courageous Thing to Do” ”, last updated January 17, 2022.

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