What Happened When my 3-Year-Old Wore his Kippah in Germany
Following his first haircut a year ago, Yaakov wore his kippah every single day to gan and pretty much everywhere. He was a big boy, like his Abba and his older brother, and he was proud.
But this summer, during our visits with non-religious and non-Jewish family members in the US and Canada, Yaakov pretty much forgot about kippahs. In Baltimore he insisted on wearing his new Mickey Mouse baseball cap instead (sometimes with a kippah underneath, sometimes without), but by the time we reached Canada, Yaakov just walked around the cottage and lake and woods bareheaded.
And then, a funny thing happened on our flight back to Israel. For various reasons, we Weisbergs returned to Israel on 4 different flights, and I was travelling alone with baby Yonatan, Yaakov, and 11-year-old Moriah.
During our stopover in Frankfurt, I was poking through my purse when I noticed Yaakov’s forgotten kippah in a side pocket. I thought of placing it on his head, but considering the news reports about antisemitic incidents throughout Europe, instead of placing it on his head, I pushed it deeper inside my purse instead.
And then, mysteriously, for the first time since we left Israel, Yaakov said, “Eema, I want to wear my kippah!”
I hesitated for a moment. Should I try to talk him out of it? Then again, this is Germany, not France. We are inside the airport, everyone there had passed through security. A kippah at Frankfurt airport is unusual, but not dangerous, I reasoned.
So I took out the kippah, and placed it on Yaakov’s clueless head.
Over the next few hours, people representing a multitude of religions and nationalities walked by us, and every single one, I realized, looked at Yaakov and thought, “That is a Jewish child.”
Some of them thought “That is a Jewish child” with fondness.
Some of them thought “That is a Jewish child” with hatred.
Some of them thought “That is a Jewish child” with joy, that 70 years after the Shoah there is a Jewish child wearing a kippah in Germany.
Some of them thought “That is a Jewish child” with disgust, that 70 years ago Hitler didn’t finish the job.
But each person who saw Yaakov, I realized, saw he was a Jew. And that meant something to them.
What a heavy burden on the shoulders (or, in this case, the head) of my three-year-old boy, completely unaware that his kippah carries within it 3 millenia of history and heroism, peoplehood and Divine connection. 3 millenia, as well, of stereotypes and pain, persecution and attempted genocide. And through it all, supernatural tenacity and belief.
I once read about a Rebbe who wondered during the Holocaust if even a single Jew would survive the flames of Europe.
And walking with Yaakov through the Frankfurt airport, I felt so proud, so intensely proud, to be the mother of this single Jew. My Yaakov.