Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka gets a job and passes the bar exam


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Yarmulka Dilemma

This issue has been brewing for a long time.

I'm a second year law school student, it's the middle of February and I don't have a job for the summer yet. No big deal, I'm not really worried, there's plenty of time.

I just managed to get an interview with a mid-sized firm that I really, really want to work for. But then my thoughts drift to the round circle of felt that is on the top of my head. It's so difficult to a good job, do I really want to lessen my chances by wearing my yarmulka?

The funny thing is, this has never before been an issue for me. Before law school I always wore my yarmulka on job interview- from the DA's office one summer to a plumbing supply company I once worked for. I'm not self-conscious of my yarmulka at all. Last year I got accepted to every summer job I interviewed for except for one- a frum judge in Manhattan who doesn't wear a yarmulka.

But now the stakes are different. I really want this job. And yet I also want to be able to wear a yarmulka at work, but I think it's wrong to not wear one on the interview but then show up to work wearing one.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to hide that I'm an Orthodox Jew on the interview, my resume clearly says that I spent a year in yeshiva in Israel. I don't think that law firms don't want to hire Orthodox Jews. But for some reason, many law firms don't like hiring Orthodox Jews who wear yarmulkas- it's too in your face, too much "look at me, I'm an Orthodox Jew!" I'm guessing that many firms wouldn't be too thrilled if someone showed up wearing a six inch cross around their neck or a turban on their head.

I had an idea though- Since elementary school I have always worn a velvet yarmulka. Now I'm thinking that for the interview I should switch to a suede one. Yeah I know that hardly anyone outside the Orthdox world knows the difference between styles of yarmulkas but I just think that suede looks more professional and less in-your-face.

Would I then switch back to velvet once I got the job? I'm not sure.


I can't believe that I actually read a blog, but I would like to comment on your post since I can relate. I was in your position as well and I certainly hear where you are coming from. I would say this. First, if you have a Rav or someone to ask a shaila to, that should be your first option. There may very well be a stigma out there, conscience or not, regarding the yarmulka. I would not say that one "lacks bitachon" by not wearing one, but it's a tricky situation. Second, I happen to know of someone who did not wear his yarmulka on his interview but then wore one once he received the job. Like you, I would feel a bit uncomfortable doing this, so this may also be something that should be addressed with a Rav, since there are halachic issues in this regard. I think the suede yarmulka may not be a crazy idea. It is just as "kosher" and does not seem as "in your face." Additionally, there is no issue with making the switch back to velet once you receive the job since it's not at all like where you interviewed without a yarmulka. Finally, I like the idea of the yarmulka since it is more likely to keep you out of trouble. I have personally witnessed how conscience the yarmulka can make you, and I mean that in a positive way. I don't care who you are, once you get out there, it's a tricky world, and I have seen people say or do things that they should not have, and probably would not have had their yarmulka been displayed. In any event, I need to get back to work (yes, it's past midnight), I just needed a breather. Good luck. Everything will work out I'YH. I hate to sound corny, but don't forget tefillah - not just for the job, but for guidance. It helped for me.
Tricky tricky. I like to think I'd always wear mine, but accounting is generally far more "Jew-friendly" than any other field. I also wear a black srugi, so it seems to be 'less in their faces' than others... I dunno, but best of luck.
I always do, and I don't exactly live in the most Jewish-friendly area. I guess for me (outside of the halachic reasons) it is a sense of pride and connection with the our global community. It's kind of like screaming, "I'm a Jewish ambassador".

I don't know, that's just my thoughts.
I say wear it, but perhaps trade in the one on your icon for a nice black srugie ;)
Quick answer:

Outside of NY, definitely NOT.


I used to think a lot like you do. I went to every interview wearing a yarmulke. Lots of warm and fuzzies during the interviews. Few call-backs.

People who were very positive over the phone were suddenly giving me the cold shoulder.

Now, this was in the Midwest, where I was definitely a fish out of water.

I think if I had to do things over, I would have interviewed without the Kippa.

My 2 cents.
I know what your'e going through as I have been on the chase for most of my adult life. Here in the NY area I am faced with the chance of one of my orthodox co-religionist seeing me without. Than sometimes WITH. Than there's the mall WITH meeting people who know me without. What to do? Baseball cap is helpful and so is pull over wool hat. In community there are adult males of a certain genre who think nothing of going bareheaded in public. My dad once caught me WTIHOUT and he was very hurt. I really don't know what to make of all the crap
In all seriousness though...

I think its accepted to do either one. And both sides can find support, be it the acceptance of religion in general or the minhag of a yarmulka for all day every day being only a couple of hundred years old.

Let us know what you do

I was in your shoes, and came to the conclusion that I wouldn't wear one. I got my dream job at a huge NY law firm, landed two clerkships, and then a job at a prestigious DC law firm.

Would it have hurt my chances at a big NY firm? At the end of the day, probably not. One of my classmates was Chabad, and got a job at the firm with a huge beard and a yarmulke much larger than I wear.

Years later (and I do mean years) I made partner at a smaller DC firm. I decided that I had nothing to hide any more, and was finally comfortable wearing one at work and uncomfortable not wearing one.

I'd say, tone down the yarmulke and go with either a plain black srugah or suede. I think the srugot stick out less than the suede, but it doesn't matter much either way.

I don't think you can go bare at the interview and then show up with one the first day of work. That will just tick people off and start you off on the wrong foot.

My recommendation, as someone who went through something similar, is to wear it. It most likely won't make any difference.

I always find that the wearing of a Kippa usually appears better after the fact then during a particular situation.
I agree with CWY that most firms in NY don't mind hiring orthos, but are a little wary about those wearing a kippa. In my experiece the kippa issue comes down pedegree. If you go to Columbia or NYU you can get a job wearing a kippa, at Fordham if you're in the top of the class you can get a good job wearing a kippa, while at Brooklyn, Cardozo, NYLaw, etc. a kippa will hurt you. It all come down to a balance on the part of the employer ("we'll hire kippas but only from top schools"). I'm not saying students at what are considered lesser schools will never get jobs wearing a kippa, but the odds are against them.

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