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I am expecting to have my child start to wear a kippah regularly when he turns three, which is coming up, but now I am nervous. I am wondering if I am making my child a target by having him wear a kippah on the street. Do I need to think about kippot that are less conspicuous, or will people care less because he is little? (I also realize he might throw it off or whatever, but we will try.)
Kiddo with a Kippah
Mazel tov on your son’s upcoming birthday! And I’m terribly sorry that this is something you need to think about. This should be a happy milestone, and the fact that it’s tinged with this fear is just another reminder of the very difficult times we’re living in.
As you approach this decision, I want to recommend that you talk to other kippah-wearing people in your life. Their experiences could help you understand the range of reactions they receive and how those reactions may have changed since October 7. Though of course antisemitism can happen anywhere, it’s especially important to talk to people where you live to get a sense of the geographic specifics of how people react. These people also may be parents of kippah-wearing kids and could offer advice on both your main question of whether to fear antisemitism related to outwardly identifiable Jewish symbols as well as your secondary question of how to get your son to keep something on his head.
I want to tell you not to change your plans for your son’s kippah-wearing. Create an enjoyable experience for him of picking out a few kippot that he likes and seems like he might wear. Let him try out and model them in preparation for his birthday. Try large ones that are more likely to stay on and smaller ones with sturdy clips to attach to his hair. And at the same time, pick out a couple of baseball caps or other hats that could be worn over a kippah or on its own. A hat is both less conspicuous than a kippah but also can keep a kippah on his head or serve as a substitute head covering.
Then try it out. See what happens. Have supportive people on call to talk things through with you if you get comments or looks that make you uncomfortable. Prepare yourself with age-appropriate responses for when your son may notice someone asking questions about his kippah. Build him up with excitement and pride about his Jewish identity so that he’ll be confident to answer questions and to represent who he is. Understand that most questions will probably come from curiosity or ignorance rather than hatred or bigotry. But also recognize that in this time of heightened – and legitimate – fears, you may have a lower tolerance for even innocent questions than you would have a few months ago. Follow what feels right to you, and as your son gets older, be prepared to follow his lead about what feels right to him.