- Inside the Classroom
- Judaic Studies
By Rabbi Emily Hyatt
*Intro from Head of School/CEO, Avi Halzel:
Before school starts I want to take the opportunity to clarify the school's kippah policy for students. The policy has not changed and can be summarized as follows - Kippot are required for male students and optional for female students at Denver JDS. More information can be found in our school handbooks.
We recently completed a multi-year process, in which we reviewed this policy. Please read an insightful summary of that process below, written by Rabbi Emily Hyatt- DJDS alumnus, current parent, and Associate Rabbi at Temple Emanuel.
In 2019, in response to feedback both from ACIS, our accrediting agency, and from members of our community, the “Kippah Committee” – a small task force made up of board members and DJDS administrators – gathered for the first time to evaluate our school’s kippah policy. At that time (and still today), the policy regarding kippot (the plural of “kippah”) at DJDS stated: Male students must wear kippot whenever they are in the school building and when visiting Jewish institutions at which wearing kippot is an expectation. Male students should leave kippot on throughout the school day.
An initial conversation with DJDS stakeholders in 2019 made it clear that the question at hand - should a kippah be required, and for whom - matters to our community very much, and that our individual choices about how we live Jewishly are both deeply rooted and deeply meaningful. For almost four years (with a pause for COVID, of course), those of us on the Kippah Committee have been working our way through these complex questions of identity and community as we tried to imagine a policy that addressed faith, tradition, individualism, halacha (Jewish law), choice, gender, egalitarianism, and most of all - learning and meaning.
We have concluded that the kippah issue is actually just one small part of a much broader question: What does it mean to be a part of a diverse community like ours, and how do we want to purposefully design and define that pluralism? To answer the “kippah question” on its own would be to start in the middle; we realized that we have been trying to answer this question out of order.
Thus, after much discussion and deliberation, the Kippah Committee made the recommendation that we (temporarily) pause the Kippah conversation and reexamine our approach to pluralism as a whole. We hope to facilitate a process of creating a refined and clarified commitment to enacting pluralism in our DJDS community, at which point we will return to policies which fall under that heading of pluralism - including, but not necessarily limited to, our kippah policy. The school’s Board of Trustees subsequently discussed the recommendation and supported this approach.
We are not abandoning this issue. Rather, we hope for a renewed investment in the continued strength and evolution of this institution - one that was founded almost fifty years ago on the idea that pluralistic Jewish education matters. Our task now is to explore how the DJDS community can best live that mandate: the mandate to be a community where each student can be rooted in their own identity, can interact with an appreciation for those who are different, and can unite in shared values and purpose.
We thank all those who have offered their insights, passion, and wisdom along this journey, and we look forward to sharing the next steps with you as we continue the holy work of investing in our school, our community, and most of all, our children.
Rabbi Emily Hyatt