Updated May 30
Being a Philly sports fan takes faith. That’s conventional wisdom — but it applies doubly for Uri Monson. The CFO for the Philadelphia school district is among the most loyal sports enthusiasts in town. A Philly native, he’s also an observant Jew, and he’s figured out a way to honor his religion and show hometown pride at the same time:
He maintains an extensive collection of Philly sports yarmulkes.
When men of Jewish faith don the headwear, it’s to show respect and acknowledge that the divine presence is always overhead, Monson explained. But if he’s gonna be wearing them every day, he decided, he might as well have fun with it.
He’s got two kippot that rep the Eagles, two for the Phillies, one for the Flyers and another for the Sixers.
Monson has been collecting the sports-themed skullcaps since 2011, but they’ve never gotten as much attention as they did this year at the Super Bowl victory parade. Monson’s celebratory outfit included his first Eagles yarmulke, which he had snagged online from a place in Los Angeles, and it drew tons of praise. People complimented it profusely, and several asked where they could get one just like it.
But that Eagles yarmulke isn’t even Monson’s favorite — he prefers the ones from the Middle East.
The domestic versions don’t come close, he said, to the handmade knit caps he finds on Ben Yehudah Street, a touristy spot in Jerusalem that sells local merch. (The street’s namesake, Ben Yehudah, is famous for bringing Hebrew back from a dead language in the late 1800s…לסמוך על התהליך?)
Monson lived in Jerusalem for half a year when he was in the 11th grade. Back then, he’d visit Ben Yehudah Street every so often, always disappointed by the selection of yarmulkes. Merchants sold ones that repped the Yankees, the Red Sox, even some California teams — but never Philly sports.
Until they did.
In 2011, he returned to Ben Yehudah Street for a three-day business conference. To his surprise, Monson happened upon a Phillies yarmulke.
“As soon as I saw them, it wasn’t even a discussion,” Monson said. “I was like, I want that, that and that.”
Monson returned to Jerusalem for Passover a few months ago, on the heels of the Super Bowl win, and picked up three more, one each for the Eagles, Sixers and Flyers.
Each one cost him about $40, a sum he feels is well worth it: “These are definitely my pride and joy.”
He wears them when the time is right — at home games, and when the teams are doing particularly well. When the Sixers and the Flyers were both in the playoffs a few months ago, he swapped back and forth between the teams every day.
“It’s just another way to show loyalty, and that they’re always on your mind,” he said.
His collection of decorative headwear isn’t limited to sports. When he was the Montgomery County CFO, he had one custom-made with the Montco seal.
Next, he wants to get one displaying the seal of the School District of Philadelphia. That one he doesn’t expect to find in Jerusalem — he’ll have to do another custom order.
Until then, his Philly pride will be on display via the sports yarmulkes.
“It’s kind of a neat way to bridge my Jewish world and my local community,” Monson said. “What could be seen as something that sets you apart is actually something that can unite.”