Shlomo Buxbaum, the rabbi who wrote a letter on behalf of a Northwood High School student so he could wear an unusual-looking yarmulke to school, wrote that he wishes more young Jews would embrace their heritage.
In a column published this week for our On Faith blog, Buxbaum wonders how he can make the religion more relevant to the younger generation so that more kids will view “their Judaism as cool and wear their Jewish headgear with pride?”
Northwood High in Silver Spring serves a sizable Orthodox Jewish community, and several Jewish students contacted me to say they had never encountered any problems wearing a yarmulke to school. Principal Henry Johnson Jr. said he asked student Caleb Tanenbaum and his parents to secure the letter because he was not sure the teen was wearing it for religious purposes.
Here’s an excerpt from the column:
Caleb Tanenbaum is your typical teenager and a pretty cool kid. He likes hip-hop artists like Jay-Z and Eminem. He likes skateboarding, video games, jamming out on his guitar and chilling with his girlfriend. But there is something else that Caleb finds cool: his Judaism.
He is proud of his heritage, proud that he was born in Israel, and proud that he lives in a country where he could express himself and his Judaism. When he wore his large woolen Kippah (the Jewish head covering that is customarily worn by some Jews during prayer and others throughout the day) to Northwood High School, Caleb was expressing to his world that he is connecting with his roots and trying to discover that very important part of himself. It didn’t matter to him whether or not his friends would give him a hard time. It didn’t matter to him that the school administration challenged him and doubted whether he was in fact Jewish. Caleb understood that this is something that he has to proud of.