Otto Dube created a kippah mask
Otto Dube created this kippah mask.

Funeral director Otto Dube develops innovative way to keep families safe.

When Otto Dube, managing funeral director of Hebrew Memorial Chapel in Oak Park, wanted to buy protective masks for his staff and the families they serve, he found it would take weeks to get them. Dube meets with families at stressful moments, now made even more stressful by the coronavirus.

Waiting weeks wouldn’t do, so it got him thinking.

“I’ve always thought of Judaism as a study of human nature that provides practical answers to life’s problems,” Dube said. “I asked myself: ‘What can Judaism do to help out here?’”

Dube wears a kippah and found himself reaching up to adjust it, which gave him an idea. He had seen videos of how to turn a paper towel into a mask, which didn’t impress him, but now he was thinking about how to turn a kippah into a mask.

Around the country, people are sewing homemade cloth masks for friends and healthcare workers. There’s even a project online to make 3D-printed masks.

Hebrew Memorial buys the ubiquitous simple black kippot by the case. So Dube began to fiddle with one folded in half in an oval shape and, by simply stapling rubber bands at each end of the kippah, he came up with a mask that neatly covered the mouth and nose.

Because these kippot are made of synthetic nylon, if worn correctly, saliva or droplets shouldn’t be able to get through to possibly infect another person, Dube says.

After Dube made a few, he was meeting with a family about a funeral; one of them was a doctor. Dube showed him the kippah mask and the doctor said he was impressed. “He put [a photo of it] on Facebook to share with friends,” Dube said.

After checking with rabbis to be sure the mask was “kosher” to use this way, he made a video with the help of his son, Ami, 22. They uploaded it to YouTube (“Homemade Kippah Masks” had 11,328 views as of March 31) and posted it on Facebook. Similarly, a man in the Netherlands posted a YouTube video March 9 showing multiple uses for a kippah, including as a mask against the coronavirus.

After posting, Dube sent a message and a link to local Jewish clergy who might also want to repurpose some of their classic black yarmulkes.

If you have this type of yarmulke on hand, you can make your own mask. If you need a kippah mask, call Hebrew Memorial at (248) 543-1623 for pick-up or to make other arrangements.

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