I started wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) and laying tefillin (phylacteries) 15 years ago. It has taken me years to get over my internalized judgment as a woman wearing these items that are “traditionally” worn only by men. Even on the best of days, tefillin are a strange and uncomfortable feature of Jewish practice. I’ve had to consciously push myself beyond my own discomfort to own this mitzvah (commandment) that has come to mean so much to me.
I am a newcomer to this beautiful country, an immigrant, a Jewish leader in a time of rising anti-Semitism and a white woman who is yearning to learn about the African American experience as well as reckon with the legacy of her own skin color. We who walk with both a sense of vulnerability as well as our own privilege are called to embrace our complexities and contradictions.