Two Houston teenagers are winning praise after turning yarmulkes into face masks and distributing the protective coverings to the city's most vulnerable amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has infected a little over 25,000 people throughout Texas, with an additional 76,000 cases in the United States at large.
According to CNN, brothers Matthew and Jeremy Jason were motivated to figure out new ways to help, especially as face masks have become harder to purchase. The shortage has not been helped by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recent recommendations to wear the face coverings in public.
While discussing the matter over Shabbat, a Jewish meal centered on gratitude and reflection, the two brothers realized that yarmulkes could potentially be repurposed to create the protective coverings. Yarmulkes -- also known as kippahs or skullcaps -- are a type of head covering traditionally worn by men in a number of Jewish communities.
"We realized that the kippah fits the shape of a mask," the brothers explained of their lightbulb moment.
Fortunately, the family had a number of spare yarmulkes around the house from various Jewish celebrations, such as bar and bat mitvahs, and Matthew and Jeremy ended up finding 60 kippahs in total. They then put their idea into action.
"We knew there was a mask shortage, so we used those kippahs to start production," 15-year-old Matthew said. "From there, idea took off."With the help of their family, the Jason brothers ended up making over 300 face masks in total, distributing them free of charge to disenfranchised communities -- with a particular focus on the homeless.
"They don't have a lot of money or access to masks," Matthew added. "So we're like, 'Hmm, that'd actually be kind of cool to see what we could do with it.'"
The brothers have since turned their idea into an official project called Kippahs to the Rescue, and have enlisted their parents and 23-year-old brother to help make more of the protective coverings. In addition, their synagogue, Congregation Brith Shalom, has set up a drop box for kippahs and has currently collected around 700 coverings.
Despite public praise, Matthew and Jeremy have remained humble about their community service.
"The community has given us a lot, and my family wants to be a part of that," Matthew claimed. "We want to be able to help others."
A number of states throughout the country have begun requiring people to wear face masks when going to public places. Many health experts are commending the new mandates, especially in light of new research that has claimed the nose is the "viral entry point" that COVID-19 uses to infect the body.