76ºF

These Jewish brothers are making face masks out of yarmulkes to protect Houston’s homeless

Matthew and Jeremy Jason plan to turn the hundreds of kippahs that were dropped off at Congregation Brith Shalom into face masks.
Matthew and Jeremy Jason plan to turn the hundreds of kippahs that were dropped off at Congregation Brith Shalom into face masks. (CNN)

HOUSTON – With masks in short supply, a pair of Houston teenagers found a way to use yarmulkes to help protect some of their city's most vulnerable people -- the homeless.

With the help of their family, Matthew and Jeremy Jason have given away over 300 face masks made from yarmulkes to Houston's homeless.

Kippahs to the Rescue

The project is called Kippahs to the Rescue. A kippah (Hebrew) or yarmulke (Yiddish) is a traditional Jewish head covering. The brothers came up with their idea over a family Shabbat dinner, which is typically a time to reflect and be grateful.

"The community has given us a lot, and my family wants to be a part of that," 15-year-old Matthew Jason told CNN. "We want to be able to help others."

The Jasons were discussing the recent CDC recommendations for Americans to wear face masks in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"We realized that the kippah fits the shape of a mask."

The Jason brothers have been spending their Fridays volunteering with Food Not Bombs, a Houston nonprofit that feeds the hungry. During that time, they realized how difficult it could be for those experiencing homelessness to deal with the coronavirus threat.

"They don't have a lot of money or access to masks," Matthew explained. "So we're like, 'Hmm, that'd actually be kind of cool to see what we could do with it.'"

The teens rounded up at least 60 kippahs from around their house that they'd brought home from bar mitzvahs and other events.

"We knew there was a mask shortage, so we used those kippahs to start production," he said. "From there, the idea took off."

Others have also found kippahs as a good option for a face mask. The magazine Jewish Currents tweeted a photo of a man with a purple kippah over his face.

A family and community invested in giving

Kippahs to the Rescue has turned into a family project, with parents Veronica and Mark and 23-year-old brother Danny chipping in to sew elastic strips to the yarmulkes.

Besides his family, Matthew has enlisted the family's synagogue, Congregation Brith Shalom, which set up a drop box to collect donated kippahs. So far, they have gathered nearly 700.

This wasn't Matthew's first time helping out those experiencing homeless. For his bar mitzvah service project two years ago, he launched Street Birthday Parties. Each month the teen hosts a birthday party with cake and candles for the area's homeless.

The high school sophomore hopes others will grab onto the idea of making this sort of DIY mask in their own communities. Steps to making the mask are pretty simple. Sew a 6-inch elastic strip to both sides to anchor the kippah around the ears.

“There’s a lot of people out there that really need help,” he said, “and anything can help even in the smallest way.”