Jewish actors and yarmulkes

Please keep in mind that IANAJ so my understanding is limited. Also I don’t know if this would be considered theater/movie related or General Questions, so mods please do as you need.

I understand that Orthodox Jews are required to keep their heads covered with a yarmulke. I also believe that some of Kabbalists wear a hat in addition to the yarmulke. I am wondering, though, about whether or not an actor can put something over the yarmulke to cover it up so it will not be visible as he portrays his part. Can he wear a wig or baseball cap and not be going against his faith?

IANAJ but I had an orthodox student in my class a few years back. What matters is the head covering. He would keep his yarmulke on under his baseball cap or hard hat just in case the hat fell off.

As I understood it from him (and other orthodox friends) it’s not about the yarmulke being seen, it’s about the head being covered.

As long as your head is covered, you’re covered.

Cool. Thanks for the info.

As long as your head is covered with anything, it’s fine.

It should also be pointed out that many, if not most, Jewish actors are not Orthodox and wouldn’t feel bound to keep their head covered at all times.

When I saw David “Dudu” Fisherplay Valjean in Broadway’s Les Miz, he was wearing a yarmulka.

I have wondered this same thing ever since I heard that Steven Hill of Law & Order fame was orthodox, because he never wore a yarmulke.

I have a good friend who’s a not-incredibly-extreme-but-still-observant orthodox jew. He wears a yarmulke or baseball cap (without a yarmulke underneath) all the time in his personal life, but goes bareheaded to work because he didn’t think it was appropriate for his job. Perhaps some orthodox actors feel the same way?

Very interesting - did this affect your appreciation of the musical, by making it seem less realistic?

The hat isn’t particularly a kabbalist thing-- it’s just a head-covering societally associated with a more religious crowd. (That’s why the phrase “black hat” is sometimes used as a way of identifying such Jews, ie “She’s Modern Orthodox, but he’s more black hat.”

I do know someone who, for a time, didn’t want to wear a yarmulke at work. He had a small hairpiece made and wore that instead so he could have something additional on his head.

Nope. You really had to look for it under the bright lights. And once he starts singing, I wouldn’t care if he is wearing jeans and a T-shirt! What a voice

Am I just not noticing Joe Liberman’s yarmulke, or does he not wear one in ordinary life?

Just to expand and clarify. Wearing a yarmulke is not an obligation. Covering your head is. Yarmulkes serve two purposes. First, for wearing by itself as a head covering. Second, as security to be worn under a hat, etc., so that your head will remain covered even if your hat is blown off by the wind, gets knocked off on the subway, etc.



He probably doesn’t wear one at public functions that aren’t specifically Jewish. Covering one’s head is just a tradition, not Halacha (Jewish law), and there is some degree of permission to not be so rigid about traditions if they might cause a serious hindrance in one’s life (e.g., making one a target for anti-Semitism).

(And actor might well be subject to such permission, I was only answering earlier on the assumption that the OP is speaking of one who does not wish to compromise his tradition in that way.)

Though considering how openly Joe Lieberman identifies an Orthodox Jew, I’d be surprised to find that a Yarmulke could make any meaningful difference against him - usually the reason not to wear one is to not be identifiable as an Orthodox Jew.

You’re right. I was thinking how difficult it would be for an Orthodox Jew who wanted to perform certain roles but was limited because he couldn’t cover up his yarmulke. He would be restricted to Fiddler on the Roof or stage productions of Yentl.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Men Without Hats gets hit with a multi-million dollar lawsuit when they hold their next auditions.

Just to clarify, an Orthodox Jewish actor could simply wear a wig (with or without a yarmulke underneath), and be “covered”? If so, I wonder if it’s more common than most people think.


He could do that and be covered as far as the tradition goes. But I doubt it’s common at all. Orthodox Jewish men, who won’t touch women other than their wives, would probably have limited career paths in Hollywood when the big money goes to romantic leads or action leads in which the hero usually romances a girl.

He wore a wig! :stuck_out_tongue: