Students in New York's New Paltz school district are not allowed to wear hats to school. However, in 2003 the district temporarily lifted the ban on hats before winter break to allow students to wear red Santa hats. Dan Torres, a Jewish student at New Paltz High School, decided that this would be a great opportunity to raise awareness of other holidays and religions practiced by his school's diverse student body. So, instead of donning a Santa hat, he encouraged his friends and classmates of all races and religions to wear kippot to school on the last day before winter break.
The result of Dan's efforts, World Yarmulke Day, is now a yearly event in Dan's school-and other schools around the world-that spreads a message of religious tolerance, respect, and peace. "Yarmulke Day is my way of celebrating who I am, while hopefully encouraging others to learn more about each other," says Dan.
In 2006, Dan set up a web site to spread the word about World Yarmulke Day and to encourage others to join his efforts to increase peace and tolerance of diversity around the world. Meanwhile, back at home, Dan clearly sees the positive impact Yarmulke Day has had at his own school. "A yarmulke in the Jewish faith is a sign of respect to a higher law," says Dan, "so on Yarmulke Day people have respect for not only that but [also for] each other."