Browsing our website, you see many images of younger children wearing what look to be green peakless baseball caps, decorated in whimsical colours. You also see students of all genders wearing other kinds of kissuyyim rosh (literally, “head coverings”). If you are a current parent at the school, you are familiar with kissuyyim, but prospective families browsing the Heschel Hive may be wondering what these are all about.

Wearing a head-covering is a traditional Jewish custom which is a sign of reverence for God. Some Jews wear one all day long. Others wear one when praying or learning Torah. As a multi-denominational Jewish school community which respects that our school families may practise Judaism differently from one another at home, your children may come from a family where kippot aren’t worn day-to-day. At our school, which considers all learning Kadosh (sanctified), faculty and students wear a kissuyyi rosh all day long at school and on school outings. We are an egalitarian school, so faculty and staff of all genders wear a kissuyyi. The kissuyyi rosh is part of our dress code for respectful learning.

There are three different phases of head coverings worn at the school. From kindergarten through Grade 3, the children are provided with a green kissuyyi rosh, which they decorate to their liking as part of their Judaics curriculum. A small difference in the head covering (e.g. a band or ribbon) differentiates these kissuyyim by gender. This is important, because we are also a pluralistic school that respects the principle of “beged ish” (gender differentiated clothing), which is observed by some of our families.

In Grades 4 and 5, students are provided with a Bukharian kissuyyi to be used for the duration of Grades 4 and 5. In the North American context, the Bukharian kissuyyi is generally regarded to be a gender-neutral head covering.

As students prepare to become b’nai mitzvah they have choices about what kind of kissuyyi rosh to wear. From Grades 6 to 8, all students may continue to wear their gender-neutral Bukharian kissuyyi. Alternatively, students who identify as male may choose to wear a school-issued kissuyyi that resembles a traditional kippah, while those who identify as female may choose a crocheted kissuyyi that looks different from the one worn by males.

This offering of choice allows students and families to select a kissuyyi that most comfortably aligns with their haskafah (Jewish perspective). Everyone wears a kissuyyi out of respect for the school’s egalitarian principles; b’nai mitzvah age students choose different head coverings that best align with their gender identity, respecting the principle of beged ish and preserving our commitment to inclusivity and pluralism.

Hopefully, you now have a new appreciation for the green painted caps!

Click here to read Moreh Greg’s dvar linking kissuyyim to Parashat Noach.