Nothing says Jew Like a Yarmlke

Shalom everybody. Jim the Honorary Jew here. I am now writing for a decidedly smaller audience after my thoughtful and reasoned essay on the state of American politics. Can you believe some people thought my words were that of a spoiled little nine year old girl? Go figure. I’m now waiting for the contract offer for my expert political analysis from CNN.
Okay, now I can get back to the business of reporting on the heritage of my grandchildren. The other cool thing that happened since I last was allowed to use the computer was that my good friends Chuck Cole and Danna Cole visited the Holy Land and they brought me back a present. They didn’t bring back a present for anyone else, so that just proves my writings are having an impact on all 11 of my remaining Facebook friends. I am now the very proud owner of my very own yarmulke! How cool is that?
There is nothing that says Jew like wearing a yarmulke (which is pronounced yamaka) or yamaka, or Yamika, or Kippa, or Kippah, or Kippot, or Yarmulkah, or Jarmulka, or skullcap. All things Jewish seem to have multiple names or spellings (there are 16 ways to spell Hanukkah, or Chanukah, or…. [Oh, by the way, most things Jewish have at least two common names due to the prevalence of both the Yiddish and Hebrew translations, but I digress]). If you see a guy walking down the street with a Yarmulke it’s a pretty good chance he is Jewish (actually, if you see a guy walking down the street wearing a Yarmulke in my hometown there’s a pretty good chance he is lost and wandered into town by mistake). It is a statement of both religion and heritage. “Hey, look at me. I’m a really Jewy Jew.” That’s not exactly what it means, but it can be perceived that way by folks not familiar with the traditions and customs of the Tribe.
Wearing a head covering isn’t a Jewish law, it is a custom. It was first mentioned in Exodus (not the book by Leon Uris or the movie starring Charlton Heston [that Charlton Heston; he was the Mark Wahlberg of his era]). In Exodus, high priests wore head coverings to remind them that God exists and monitors our behaviors. That’s why Yarmulkes are worn in Synagogue. When you think about God you should be wearing a yarmulke. One rule of thumb offered by a famous Rabbi is you shouldn’t walk more than four cubits (I now know that a cubit is about six feet) from your home without one, so you have the opportunity to think about God (I’ve got mine on now. I may want to think about God within four cubits of the TV because the Cowboys are now playing and they may need some help).
So Jews put on a hat to cover their heads when they want to show reverence. Almost all other religions and cultural customs require one to remove head coverings to show respect. It certainly sets us apart from the mainstream, causes some ridicule, and can lead to other, more nefarious concerns. The head covering thing really wasn’t a thing outside of Synagogue until the middle ages in middle Europe when it became a local Jewish custom to wear a pointy hat as a way to show others their adherence to their faith. The Christian-dominated governments actually liked that idea so much they made specific laws requiring Jews wear distinctive head coverings so they could more easily identified and discriminated against. We all know where that led.
Wearing a yarmulke is a way to show respect for God, display your pride in your Jewishness and it can help you in your actions. It’s worth is similar to a wedding ring. The ring shows the world you are married and reminds you you are married and shouldn’t do unmarried things. A yarmulke is a reminder to the world and you that you are Jewish and should not do ungodly things because God is aware of your actions. Of course that leads to parables. Like that of the little Jewish boy who had a tendency to take things that weren’t his. He was instructed to wear his yarmulke as a reminder that God was watching. He did well with his mild OCD behaviors while he wore the skullcap, but had bad thoughts that he couldn’t control and led to a little more kleptomania when a gust of wind took it away.
As mentioned before, wearing a yarmulke is not a law, but a custom. It also isn’t against Jewish laws for a woman to wear one, but it’s usually not the custom. In the past 20 -30 years women have begun to wear them to make a statement about their religion and their rights as equals. In fact women have been traditionally exempt from wearing them. Remember, wearing one helps you think deep thoughts about God. According to tradition, women are already closer to God for two reasons; 1. They can have children (damn, can’t argue that one), 2. Women are naturally more intuitive about Godly things and don’t need the constant reminder (really?).
Yarmulke size, fabric and styles are not a function of theology as much as culture. There are representations of different sects, regions, and movements displayed by the yarmulke you choose. There are some rules of thumb, though. The bigger and blacker the cap, the more conservatively religious you likely are. Knitted, crocheted and leather skullcaps usually denote conservative or orthodox views. And conversely, the smaller and more colorful ones usually denote reformed and more liberal sects. There are no steadfast rules, other than it can’t be offensive (except for Heredis; they are like the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Judaism). My yarmulke is white with aqua stitching and a Star of David on top. It is really cool looking and I look Jewishly intelligent when I have it on.
Yarmulkes are relatively cheap. You can buy one for a couple of dollars. In fact, the most expensive one I could find only cost $28. But as I was searching I found some that I thought were odd. You can buy a yarmulke, the the symbol of your closeness to God and your practice in humility, with a Cubs logo on it. No kidding!! I’ll show you. I have pictures.
So ends another chapter of the ongoing saga of honoring my grandchildren’s heritage. Each time I pick a subject I learn more than I think I will, and I always end up with more respect for the religion of my sons’-in-law and their families.

P.S. When I get my new CNN gig I promise to wear my cool new yarmulke during my first interview.



The 2016 Election, or; I Didn’t Know Pigs could Fly

Shalom everyone. Jim the Honorary Jew here. This little tome is a bit different from my regular JHJ soliloquies. It started as the introduction of another post dealing with Jewish laws and traditions that is almost ready for prime time. But after consulting my senior editors I have decided to let this part stand alone. After you have read it there is a 50/50 chance you will unfriend me and you won’t have to read what comes next.
You haven’t heard from me lately because I’ve been busy watching every minute of the presidential campaign on cable TV. I took it on like a science project, gathering slanted information from all three cable news outlets, consolidating responses and formulating conclusions. Oh, I had my favorites, but I must admit I watched them all. It was a lot like an addict watching porn. You know it’s going to cause long term damage, but you just can’t turn away. I was watching a slow motion wreck involving two garbage trucks, and I loved it! But then the unthinkable happened. My side lost. It was almost as bad as when the Cowboys lost the playoff game two years ago because of a bad call by the refs. Okay, it turned out to be the correct call, but they still lost and I’m still mad.
Since the results were announced at 3:00 AM on that Wednesday (of course I was watching) I have been trying to formulate a succinct argument that would demonstrate the faulty logic of the other side and lead them into the light. I have consulted individuals and experts from both sides of the political spectrum to further this quest. I then utilized my acerbic wit, logic and intelligence to craft a response befitting this conundrum while also keeping in mind the appropriate parsimony of an Occum’s razor response. I am pretty sure I’ve succinctly captured the sentiment of all eight Democrats in Victoria County with this retort, so here it is:


So there!

Enjoy the Elevator Music of your Children

Last night Gayle Kelly Foos and I went to see the Righteous Brothers in concert, or more appropriately, “The Righteous Brother and the guy who took the place of the Righteous Brother who died”. I am not a really big fan of the genre but we went because the couple with whom we are in Vegas are big fans. This type of rock and roll dates back to the early 60’s and ended with the invasion of the Beatles and the Stones. The brother act (even before Bobby Hatfield died they weren’t really brothers) broke up for awhile and then Branson was invented and poof, they are popular again. It really helped that their two biggest hits came after they broke up and then reunited and were attached to very popular movies. Unchained Melody was made more famous by the movie “Ghost” and Time of my Life was written for “Dirty Dancing”. The remaining brother, Bill Medley, is 76 years old, and let me tell you he can move, even without a walker.
The crowd could perhaps be best described as as the silver set. I swear I thought I was in God’s waiting room or the lobby of a cinema in St Petersburg. The number of walkers lined up at the door could have been mistaken for Bingo day at the “home”. They were elderly, but enthusiastic. When the Brothers sang “Time of my Life” every one of the audience was able to close his or her eyes and make that famous leap from the movie into each others’ arms. And, as much I hate to say it, I recalled every word of every song and sang along.
Their second number was their first hit, “Little Latin Lupe Lou”. All of a sudden I was transported back to early adolescence. My friends John Yeradi, Mike Ide and Randy Holiperick had just started one of the first garage bands in La Crosse, Kansas and one of the first songs they first learned was Lupe Lou. The band was named “Shades of Tomorrow” and they were certainly the toast of the town. I was so envious because I had absolutely no musical talent and people paid to see them perform at the City Auditorium. Heck, they even had a groupie, pretty Karen Steen. But I also had immense pride that I was friends with the band who were so obviously talented and were going to be hugely famous.
The concert reminded me everyone has the time of their life when they were young and the world was at our fingertips. We hold onto those thoughts and feelings forever. The music of our time foments a visceral response and brings back those feelings with intensity. And remember, as Bill Medley reminded his audience, the kick-ass rock and roll of your youth that was a symbol of independence, ambition and rebellion will definitely be the elevator the music of your children and grandchildren.
Go to a concert and enjoy yourself!

The Curse of Being the The Second Child

Happy birthday to Lindsey Foos Lebowitz, my youngest daughter. She is 34 years old today. Can you believe that? Today she is a Master’s educated married career woman mother of two beautiful boys. I’m so proud of her I almost burst with pride just typing this.
She is our second child so when she came along we were old hands at parenting. Her mother and I were better able to experience major milestones in the moment instead of wasting film. Like when Lindsey was looking through old photographs of her childhood. There were enough pictures of her older sister’s first 2 years of life that we almost needed a storage locker to keep them all, but not quite as many of her. She asked to see pictures of her 1st birthday and was somewhat miffed for some reason when we tried to pawn off pictures of her favorite cousin’s 1st birthday party as her own. To be fair, she was in the picture. She has almost forgiven us for that one.
In that tradition her mother and I have decided to wish her a very special birthday by traveling to Las Vegas instead of being a big bother and visiting her. Oh, your present didn’t quite get in the mail before we left. I promise we will take a picture of it, though. Love you always and have a very special birthday.

Mom and Dad