Some in Jewish community say yarmulkes double as COVID-19 face masks

Andrew Kramer
April 08, 2020 - 7:23 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Why is this night different from all other nights?

Well, where do we start?

Many Jewish families across the globe are celebrating the beginning of Passover Wednesday night with small, inmate seders, or virtual ones as we endure the coronavirus pandemic.

For the everyday yarmulke-wearer, it’s business as usual. But for those who don the headpiece only for special occasions, some Jews are seeing this crisis as an opportunity to multi-purpose.

In these uncertain times, some people realized yarmulkes also happen to be the perfect size and shape for a makeshift face mask.

“Using a yarmulke as a face mask is actually a wonderful use for a yarmulke,” said Rabbi Eric Woodward of Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell. 

Related: Sign up for KYW Newsradio's daily newsletter for the latest on the coronavirus pandemic across the Philadelphia region.

But is that … offensive? Jewish men — sometimes women, too — wear yarmulkes on their heads to show that God is always above them. Woodward couldn’t speak for every single person, of course, but he believes just about everyone in the Jewish community would be OK with this secondary use.

“In Judaism, a yarmulke isn’t a commandment. It’s more of a long-standing custom, so it’s much easier to do things like repurpose it for other things,” he explained.

Plus, a Jewish principle is to help others.

“One of the things we believe as Jews is the best way to honor God is to honor other people by protecting them, by valuing human dignity and taking care of ourselves and each other,” he said. “‘Pikuach nefesh,’ which is a Hebrew term for saving a life takes precedence over every other commandment, and this is a way of doing that.”

In fact, he said this is as good a time as any to make yarmulke face masks.

“Passover is really the holiday about freedom and liberation, and right now, I think we’re all hoping to be liberated from this plague, from this virus,” said Woodward.

He even suggested making masks for others in need or health care workers.

Do you happen to have a box of leftover yarmulkes lying around from a bar or bat mitzvah or wedding? Utilize them now.

“Anything a Jew or non-Jew can do to help them is a mitzvah — a good deed,” Woodward added.

Remember: You’re supposed to wash your cloth or fabric face masks after each use. Yarmulkes are no exception.