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Is there an issue with wearing a cap and gown? I am thinking perhaps this could be an issue of chukas goyim (dressing like the other nations). Further, is there an issue if the college for which you are wearing it is a religious (not Jewish) college?

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    Do pictures of YU graduation ceremonies with caps and gowns answer your question, or are you looking for something in writing?
    – magicker72
    Mar 1, 2022 at 15:45
  • I figured at least that maybe YU is not a raya because those are made specifically for Jewish men and women.
    – user
    Mar 1, 2022 at 15:46
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    I don't understand. If it's forbidden to wear a cap and gown because of chukas goyim, why would it matter who made them and for whom? BTW if any of this is relevant information/background for your question, please include it in the body of your post.
    – magicker72
    Mar 1, 2022 at 15:50

2 Answers 2

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According to Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, see Halacha2go, a graduation gown or cap is considered as something you wear for a specific purpose and therefore not considered as chukos hagoyim:

Medical apparel, graduation gowns or other types of uniforms are worn for a specific purpose, and are therefore not considered chukos hagoyim. On the other hand, ripped jeans or other fashions that essentially have neither taam nor toeles can be categorized as chukos hagoyim. Flashy fads that push the limits of modesty and involve derech pritzus, such as certain popular hairstyles, are also a halachic issue. With regard to all modes of dress, the rules of reasonable and useful fashion apply.

Similary, Rav Aviner writes in "On the Air: Q&A from Rav Shlomo Aviner’s radio call-in show" (p. 115):

Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein also has a responsum on this issue in "Igrot Moshe" (Yoreh Deah 1:81). He was asked if there is a requirement to wear the clothing which Jews wore in Poland, since in America both Jews and non-like dress alike. Ha-Rav Moshe answered that it is permissible to wear the clothing like the non-Jews since there is no unique type of Jewish clothing, and even G-d–fearing Jews wear the clothing like the non-Jews.

See also: Jeans as Hukot HaGoyim

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  • Would the answer change if one accepted the theory that gowns were originally clerical clothing for the (church based) professors and students copied that?
    – rosends
    Mar 2, 2022 at 1:16
  • @rosends that's in fact Rabbi Meiselman's approach for prohibiting, if I'm not mistaken -- early European colleges were church-based. Le-aniyas daati, once the Maharik allowed whatever sort of cape that identified you as part of a guild in Italy 500 years ago, it's hard to say that a cap and gown are more "non-Jewish" than what the Maharik allowed.
    – Shalom
    Mar 2, 2022 at 1:22
  • The paragraph from R' Aviner isn't directly relevant. He was talking about jeans, not about a graduation uniform that derives from the ceremonial garb of priests. In the other answer, R' Moshe is cited as addressing this specific issue, and he said it is indeed a problem.
    – Fred
    May 28, 2023 at 18:14
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Rav Moshe Feinstein (quoted in Mesoras Moshe vol. 2 pg. 196) says it is forbidden to wear a cap and gown because the custom of wearing them to a graduation started with priests in their colleges. He says it is abizrayhu of avodah zara and was surprised that Yeshiva University graduates wear a cap and gown to graduation.

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  • Welcome to MiYodeya Akiva and thanks for this first answer. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Jul 7, 2022 at 3:05
  • I also remember hearing that Rav Dovid Lifshitz from RIETS was opposed to the caps and gowns at the YU graduations. Additionally at high school graduations for Mesivta Ohr Torah (Manhattan Hebrew High School) in the mid 1970s until at least the early 1980s, suits/ties were the dress code for graduations and not caps & gowns. Not sure whether it was due to a specific halachic prohibition or due to a policy decision re: proper attire for a yeshiva graduation.
    – EraserX
    Jul 7, 2022 at 14:18

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