That's interesting. At KAJ-NY, the only times that the living men (other than the rabbis, the dayyon, and one distinguished poisek who lives in the community) are allowed to cover their heads with talleisim are RH and YK.
Didn't Y.Y.Stahl (interesting personality, ask me about him) write an article about Dead People in Shul in the first volume of Yerushatenu? (I haven't read it.)
Mar Gavriel- R' Schachter?
Nachum -- yes, but shhhhhhh. :-)
Does this account for the Oberlander (and perhaps Yekke) minhag to wear a hat by shachris instead of covering the head with a talis?Also, this seems vaguely similar to a story I read as to why Belzer Chassidim do not (IIUC) wear kittels on Yom Kippur.
It's a yekke minhag too, and good question.All I can say about that is that if you look at various paintings and etchings of Jews in shul in Western Europe from 300, 200 years ago, they all seem to wear a hat and a tallis *over* the hat; whether in Germany, Holland or England (Sephardim too).
The different customs regarding covering the head with tallit during prayer has been at times tried to be shown that it can be traced back to that prevailing between the Jews of Palestine and those in Babylonia. The Sephardic corresponding to Palestine and Ashkenazic to Babylonia.See for example, Zimmels, Ashkenazim and Sephardim page 102, Margulies, החילוקים שבין אנשי מזרח ובני ארץ ישראל (Hebrew) page 164... and he even attempts there to go further and say that the custom of the Palestinian Jews not to cover their head came from their neighboring gentiles which also did not cover their heads. The custom of covering during prayer thus came from the general cultural opionion that an uncovered head was disrespectful.
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This is the German minhag as was practiced in Frankfurt a.M. before the Shoah.