Torah for Today! This week… The ban on religious symbols

Torah for Today! This week… The ban on religious symbols

This week's Torah for Today discusses the view on the religious symbols ban from the previous week's news

A Star of David necklace
A Star of David necklace

Last week Juliane Kokott, the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, advised that companies have a right to ban religious clothing and symbols in the workplace.

She was speaking in reference to the dismissal of a woman from G4S, who insisted on wearing a headscarf at work.

While not legally binding, Europe’s top courts are likely to follow the advice of Kokott.

We live in a time of relative religious freedom and it has become more common than ever before for Jewish men and women to wear religious symbols in the workplace.

A change in this legislation could affect the wearing of the kippa in the workplace too.

The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) says that a person should not walk four paces with an uncovered head, in order to give honour to Hashem.

There is a discussion among the halachic authorities as to whether or not this is an outright obligation or whether it is just a pious custom.

One of the commentators states that even though the wearing of the kippa started out as a custom, it has now become an obligation, as he says that it is a fulfilment of uv’chukotahem lo telechu, an obligation to make sure that we remain distinct and proud of our Jewish faith.

The wearing of the kippa by men and Magen David by some women has become the symbol of the observant Jew in the workplace.

It carries with it the obligation to always act in the correct and proper way as advocates of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch famously speaks about the importance of the Mentsch Yisrael being proudly Jewish; Judaism is all encompassing, applying in the office and street as well as the shul and home.

Wearing a kippa reminds us of the verse: “In all places you must know him” (Mishlei 3:6).

We use the kippa to remind us that we are constantly being watched, both by others in the workplace to set an example, and by Hashem, too.

The idea of a law limiting our right to exercise our religious freedom is not one that we welcome and at the moment they are only discussing dress codes this may be applied in other scenarios, too.

In the meantime, let us exercise our right to live as proud members of the Jewish community in the UK, to set an example to others and sanctify Hashem’s name through doing this.

• Rabbi Gordon is a member of the Jewish Futures Trust

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