Why aren’t there more Jewish emojis?

All that stands in the way of an emoji with a kippa is to prove to the emoji committee that there is a demand for the icon.

July 23, 2017 21:52
2 minute read.
The new hijab emoji.

The new hijab emoji.. (photo credit: APPLE)


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Could there be more Jewish emoji on the way? The answer, as it turns out, is up to you.

Last week, Apple announced a new slate of emoji – the icon images used in messaging and on social media – coming to its users later this year. Those include a woman breastfeeding, a bearded man, a zombie, a sandwich and a woman wearing a hijab.

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The “Woman with a Headscarf” emoji was developed in part by 16-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi, a Saudi-German teenager who petitioned the Unicode Consortium to create an emoji that reflected her lifestyle.

Could there be a kippa-clad emoji coming soon as well? What about a man in a shtreimel? Or maybe just some matza for Passover?

The answer lies in the method in which an emoji becomes a reality. Representatives for both Apple and the Unicode Consortium – which creates and standardizes the images – didn’t rule out more Jewish-themed emoji, but said nothing was currently in the works.

Rob Saunders, a spokesman for Apple, told The Jerusalem Post that the company selects its emoji from the Unicode Consortium, of which it is a member alongside the other tech giants. The consortium announced the approval of the hijab emoji – as well as 55 other new icons – in November. Android has not yet announced the new hijab emoji, but it is likely to follow suit by the end of the year. The headscarf emoji was already added to Twitter and Facebook back in May.

There are a handful of Jewish emoji already available across most platforms, including two versions of the Jewish star, a hanukkia and a synagogue. Christian symbols include a church, rosary beads, a cross, Santa and Mrs. Claus and two Christmas trees. When it comes to Islam, emoji users can pick from a mosque, the Kaaba in Mecca and a crescent moon.

Rick McGowan, technical vice president of the non-profit Unicode Consortium, told the Post that decisions about new emojis are made by the emoji subcommittee.

McGowan added that the headscarf emoji “can represent someone with hijab or other head covering, as worn in many cultures.” It is true that many Jewish women cover their heads, but the emoji denotes a style more in line with Islamic tradition, namely covering the ears and neck as well.

The subcommittee – which is currently chaired by representatives of Google and Apple and holds weekly video/phone meetings for members – only considers emoji proposals that are submitted by the public, said McGowan.

Alhumedhi submitted the hijab emoji last year, and British nurse Rachel Lee proposed the breastfeeding icon. “As of this date,” McGowan added, “no proposal has been received for kippa/yarmulke.”

It turns out all that is standing in the way of a kippa-clad emoji is an eager programmer who can prove to the emoji committee members that there is demand for such an icon. The submission guidelines listed by the Unicode Consortium note that the most important factors considered are compatibility with other systems, expected usage level, image distinctiveness and frequency of requests.

Kippa-wearing emoji enthusiasts: The floor is yours.

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