Yeshayahu Leibowitz Wears a Kippah: A Story of 1967

The philosopher in black turtleneck, black trousers, black shoes, and black yarmulke pacing the stage with a microphone skinning the Jews alive.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz at age 91 in February 1994. RICKY ROSEN/AFP via Getty Images.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz at age 91 in February 1994. RICKY ROSEN/AFP via Getty Images.

Observation
Sept. 10 2021
About the author

Edward Grossman’s journalism and fiction have been published in English, Hebrew, Arabic, French, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.

It was July of 1967 and the clean-shaven Yeshayahu Leibowitz of the Hebrew University wore a kippah. Yes, a kippah adorning the head of a biochemist, talmudist, philosopher, and medical doctor, a Riga-born Jew keeping the Sabbath, the dietary laws, etcetera, a Zionist by way of Berlin, Heidelberg, and German-speaking Switzerland. His lantern jaw was familiar in the small town Jerusalem was then, especially in the Rehavia neighborhood where the yekkes at the university—the German-speaking Jewish refugees—made their homes. Leibowitz was not a yekke himself but an Ostjude, from the East. Still, you couldn’t ignore the Berlin and Basel degrees, or his wife Greta, herself a PhD in mathematics, a yekkit from North Rhine-Westphalia. Not an unimpressive couple.

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