It says in Divrei HaRav (by R. Hershel Schachter, p143) that when they asked R. Aharon Kotler whether a non-Jewish secular studies teacher in a yeshiva should be asked to wear a yarmulke, he said he should be told specifically not to wear a yarmulke, because this is a case of והבדלתם in which Jews should wear yarmulkes in order to appear different from non-Jews.

Would this apply in a synagogue setting also, that non-Jewish guests should not wear a yarmulke? Or perhaps not, because the pedagogical motive is not present. Are there sources that discuss this?

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    Is this question asking about the opinion of R. Aharon Kotler, or asking it as a question of general practice? i.e. do you want to know if R. Aharon Kotler or his students would say about a non-jew wearing a kippah in shul, or do you not care if the answer even agrees with R. Aharaon Kotler's initial savrah?
    – avi
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 18:48
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    Just general -- R. Kotler's comment was just the motivation for the question
    – Curiouser
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 1:58
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    I see that R. Elayshiv holds that: "One should try to convince a worker who is a yid but is not frum to wear a yarmulka while he is working in shul" (thehalacha.com/attach/Volume3/Issue17.pdf) which would seem to imply that a non-Jewish worker does not need to put on a yarmulke
    – Curiouser
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 7:50
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    That is a worker, not an attendee :)
    – avi
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 10:14
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    I remember hearing a few years ago, some Catholic cardinals, in full robes, came to YU. I wonder if the Rav would have asked them to take their "yarmulkes" off so they could be distinguished as non-Jews. ;-) Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 17:19

4 Answers 4


In this shiur by Rabbi Yonason Roodyn (17:26) he quotes the Rif that can be taken to mean that there is an obligation for gentiles to cover their heads in a synagogue.

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    Does he mention where one can find this Rif?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 13:39
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    The halacha is quoted in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 91:3 as a "yesh omrim". The B'eir haGola cites the Kol Bo in the name of the Rif.
    – Curiouser
    Commented Mar 18, 2012 at 18:19
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    Although Yabia Omer OH 6:15 cites the halacha in the name of Rabbeinu Peretz: ורבינו פרץ כתב, שיש למחות שלא להכנס לבהכ"נ בגילוי הראש
    – Curiouser
    Commented Mar 18, 2012 at 19:01
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    But is there any evidence that this din applies to non-Jews?
    – Curiouser
    Commented Mar 18, 2012 at 19:35

There is no actual halakhic obligation for even a Jew to wear a kipa. The brakha in the morning (which is to be recited upon doing the action) "`oter Yisrael batifara" is recited upon wrapping a turban. See Mishne Torah hilkhoth tefilla pereq zen. Over time in Ashkenazi galut, various customs changed and wearing a kipa became the accepted practice. This is good and fine, and proper. In fact, in tefilla, one should have one's head covered.

The idea of not walking 4 amot without one's head covered was meant as an act of hasidut of conversing with HaShem basically constantly. It was meant as having the head covered with a talith, as being in tefilla, rather than just walking about period.

There is no halakhic obligation to have one's head covered, besides for in tefilla. I know this response will not be popular, but it is indeed the correct understanding of the gemara and the actual halakhic requirement, contrary to popular understanding.

Our Arab cousins often share the same original style of dress as us in our originality, but it is distinguished other than through headcovering. Kipot and some other Ashkenazi dress sometimes originated from Christian sources. So I think the whole question stands on some misunderstanding to begin with.

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    Hello Aman and welcome to Judaism.SE! Thanks for your informative contribution. Could you provide a source for kipa-wearing as a Christian practice?
    – WAF
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 14:11
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    I don't disagree with your analysis, but I don't think this answers the question.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 14:12
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    The analysis is interesting, but I'd like to see some sources, as well, and not just for @WAF's question.
    – Seth J
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 20:28
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    WAF, thanks for the welcome. I think just the fact that the Pope and other Catholic clergy sometimes wear a cap that mostly or completely resembles a kipa. There is also the white-shirt, black coat classic Catholic attire; sometimes I have seen it combined also with a black hat resembling a super.
    – Aman
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 11:37
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    @Aman, anything and everything you have claimed?
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 14:54

The general practice I have seen in both in practice and in writing is that a non-Jew should wear a head covering in the Beis Kenesses:

"The rule about a head covering in the synagogue should also be observed by non-Jews. The male visitor who does not have a head covering of his own, should take a skullcap provided by the synagogue. the skullcap itself, as I have mentioned, has no intrinsic religious sanctity, but putting in on conforms to the Jewish way of showing respect in a religious setting." (Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, To Pray as a Jew, page 60).

I do not believe that this is, strictly speaking, a halachic issue since it would be difficult to say that the non-Jew has an obligation to wear a head covering, but it is a matter of etiquette and respect. Indeed Rabbi Donin's quote comes for the section he titled "What to tell non-Jews visiting the Synagogue."

This situation is not similar to the issue of non-Jewish teachers. In such a situation there is prolonged personal contact with a person who serves in a mentoring capacity. It is natural for students to turn to these adults as role models and as such a need to emphasize that the rebbeim are to serve as the primary role models. A visitor is a visitor, if they would like to visit they need to respect the holiness of the Synagogue.


If a Sefer Torah is present in the room, everyone must cover their heads, jews or goys, man and women. No exceptions. A kippah may be a sign of jewishness in some comunities, but not in others. In the Arabias both jews and muslims go around all the time with their head covered usually with the same kind of covering, not a kippah, some other tight hat with no brim. There you notice the jews for their sidelocks. Nowadays in Europe almost nobody uses sidelocks.

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