Student Needed Letter to Wear Yarmulke

Caleb Tanenbaum and father Stephen demanding apology

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Montgomery County student and his father are seeking an apology from Northwood High School after the school's principal told the student he needed a note from his rabbi to receive permission to wear a yarmulke.

    Caleb Tanenbaum and his father Steven toldThe Washington Post that Caleb, a junior at Northwood, was asked by an administrator to remove his hat in the school's cafeteria. Caleb declined to do so on religious grounds.

    Yarmulkes, also known as kippahs, are traditionally worn by Jewish men when they pray, although some Jews wear them for an entire day. The Post described the yarmulke Caleb was asked to take off as being "a large, black hat that had been knitted by his mother and which covered his dreadlocks."

    Caleb reportedly told school officials to call his parents to confirm that his head covering was religious. Despite the fact that his parents did just that, Caleb was still asked to provide a note from his rabbi at Aish DC in Bethesda.

    Northwood's principal, Henry Johnson Jr., defended his request by telling the Post he had never seen Caleb wearing religious headgear before. 

    “This wasn’t what we traditionally see as a yarmulke or a kippah ... It looked like the head covering we see some Rastafarians wear," Johnson told Post reporter Michael Alison Chandler.

    Caleb Tanenbaum tells the paper that he is trying to re-embrace his Judaism. Steven Tanenbaum believes that Johnson overstepped his bounds by requiring a rabbi's note rather than simply accepting the word of Caleb's family.