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The skull-cap worn so as not to pray or study the Torah with bare head. The etymology of this Yiddish word is unknown. The suggestion that it is derived from yarey malka, ‘he fears the king’ (by having his head covered) has nothing to commend it. In some communities the yarmulka is called a cappel (small cap) and in Hebrew a kipah with the same meaning. The modern Orthodox in Israel wear a small knitted yarmulka known as the kipah serugah (‘knitted’). The ultra-Orthodox, with their large black yarmulkas covering the whole head, scoff at those poor folk who only cover a very small part with the kipah serugah. Orthodox Jews wear the yarmulka at all times, not only for prayer and study. In recent years the wearing of the yarmulka has been taken up by many Reform Jews as well. In the Orthodox tradition only men wear a yarmulka but, nowadays, in Reform and some Conservative circles women wear it too, and women Rabbis generally officiate in the synagogue wearing a yarmulka. The yarmulka is, however, simply a convenient head-covering and has no significance as a religious object in itself.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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