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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Second Orthodox NY High School Allowing Girls to Don Tefillin

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Girls wear tefillin at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin

Girls wear tefillin at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Ramahwisconsintyepad.com

A second Modern Orthodox high school in New York has announced it will permit girls to wear tefillin during prayer.

The Ramaz School in Manhattan said it will allow girls to wear tefillin during coed worship, going one step further than SAR High School, which drew a flurry of media coverage earlier this week for allowing girls to use the phylacteries during women’s prayer services.

Ramaz, one of the oldest and most prestigious Modern Orthodox day schools in the United States, sent its parents, students and board members an email Tuesday afternoon announcing that it “would be happy to allow any female student who wants to observe the mitzvah of tefillin to do so.”

The email, from head of school Paul Shaviv, noted, “Women should be taught that they do not need to wear tefillin in order to lead Jewishly-religiously meaningful lives, at least equal to men. But they have the right to make their own decisions.”

In an interview with JTA, Shaviv said “a small number of girls” have donned tefillin at the school’s prayer services in past years “without anyone making a fuss,” although none have asked to do so in the past three years.

Shaviv said the school decided for the first time on Tuesday to “formalize” its policy and “clarify our position” because journalists were calling to inquire about it.

“The parental response has been completely positive,” he said.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, longtime principal of the Upper East Side school and spiritual leader of Kehilath Jeshurun, told JTA that no female student has requested to wear tefillin recently, but that if one did “we would honor that request.”

“We’re not encouraging this; we’re accommodating this,” he added.

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33 Responses to “Second Orthodox NY High School Allowing Girls to Don Tefillin”

  1. Joe Postove says:

    Lord ‘a mercy, Sarah! Girl wearing Tefillin?? What’s next; women sitting next us men and interfering with our prayers? YIKES!

  2. Women are not obligated, they have other mitzvot to keep.

  3. I truly believe in equality but some things are just never meant to be going against the Torah and g-ds law is wrong and you will get punished for it

  4. Karl Kurtz says:

    But why are they not obligated

  5. Not OBLIGATED or not allowed?

  6. Jack Kramer says:

    Hard to adjust to but the world turns, and why not.

  7. THATS SICK. WE WOMEN HAVE BEAUTIFUL MITZVOTH TO DO, WE DONT NEED TO BE A MAN! GET A LIFE GIRLS!

  8. Judy Zfaz says:

    Joe, why do girls interrupt your prayers?

  9. Judy Zfaz says:

    You must let them interrupt your prayers.

  10. The Talmud is clear that women are not obligated to wear Tefillin, but they may do so if they choose, like other mitzvoth they are not obligated in, such as Sukkah, Lulav, Shofar, Tzitzith, etc. The reason why it is strongly discouraged is twofold. The Targum Yonathan mentions Tallith and Tefillin as men's clothing, which are forbidden for women to wear. It seems that this is not the accepted psak, however. When it comes to Tallith, it is forbidden for a woman to don a man's tallith, however if it is designed for a woman, it would be permitted for her to attach tzitzith to it. The only reason it is not generally done is because the Magen Avraham stated that it is arrogant to do so, because it is not generally done.
    Tefillin has a separate problem. Tefillin requires a clean body. A man who needs to use the lavatory, or who did not properly cleanse his body after using the lavatory, is not permitted to don Tefillin. A man is also not allowed to pas gas while wearing tefillin. This is why it is forbidden to don tefillin at night, because one may fall asleep and involuntarily pass gas. It is also forbidden to sleep, even briefly, during the day with Tefillin on, for the same reason. These laws apply equally to men and women. Since men are obligated to wear Tefillin, they only wear them relatively briefly during prayer, as opposed to wearing them all day long, as was the original practice, because we do not want to accidentally violae the laws of cleanliness. A woman wearing Tefillin briefly is similar to a man wearing Tefillin all day long. Just as these laws apply to bodily functions that apply to both men and women, it also applies to functions that are specific to men, such as male emissions, and those which are specific to women, such as menstruation. Since menstruation is involuntary, women are generally discouraged from donning Tefillin. However, if they are certain that they will not menstruate while donning Tefillin, it would be permitted to wear Tefillin, however not obligatory. It should be noted, this has nothing to do with being in a state of Niddah, because the only issue with Tefillin is cleanliness (nekiuth), not purity (taharah). A woman during her "shivah neki'im" or a single girl who never goes to the mikvah, even though she is a Niddah, as long as she is not experiencing a discharge at the time. This introduces a new problem, because if she dons Tefillin in public daily, she will need to avoid wearing them on certain days, which may be embarrassing. While it is best to discourage wearing Tefillin all together, due to tradition, if a girl insists on doing so, she should do so privately, unless she is not worried about the embarrassment of letting her peers know her private cycles.

  11. Eva Feld says:

    Pray tell why women cannot put on teffilin? Is it Rabbinic or the law from Sinai. If it is from Sinai, quote chapter and verse. If it is Rabbnic;, time for the Rabbis let go of their stranglehold of the beautiful religion.

  12. Yonatan Uziel says:

    I’m ambivalent – but the above picture doesn’t strengthen the case. If you’re going to put on tefilin, show that you are serious about it and at least wear them respectfully and properly (yes, there are indeed laws specifically how to wear tefilin.)

  13. Eva, there is no prohibition. The Talmudh speaks of a woman who wore t:phillin and wasn’t bothered by the sages.
    “דתניא מיכל בת כושי היתה מנחת תפילין ולא מיחו בה חכמים” (`erubhin 96a).
    Any post-Talmudic suggestions for women to not wear t:phillin have just been suggestions, that do not need to be followed.

  14. Why did you write, “she should do so privately unless she is not worried…” instead of “she should do so publically unless she is worried…”? Why do you make subservience the default?

  15. Doris Jaffe says:

    Rashi's daughters donned tefillin. Women are not obligated to do so but can if they so desire. Davening with kavanah is of the utmost importance whether or not a woman chooses to don tefillin.

  16. Yitzy says:

    JUST LOOKAT THE PHOTO AND THERE ARE OBLVIOUS PROBLEMS LIKE THEY AREN’T WEARING THEM CORRECTLY. No further commentary is necessary.

  17. Baruch Stone says:

    Doris, while I firmly agree that women are permitted to wrap tefillin, I have yet to find an actual source for Rashi's daughters having done so. The Talmud is clear that Michal bat Shaul wore tefillin and the Rabbanim did not object, but I have yet to find a reliable source for Rashi's daughters. I would be indebted if you know of one.

  18. Charlie Hall says:

    The Jewish Press is promoting a non-Orthodox organization, and sloppy non-Orthodox practice, by including with this article a photograph of girls from a Conservative movement cap who clearly do not know how to put on tefillin correctly. I'm sure that SAR and Ramaz would have been happy to have had a Jewish Press photographer join them for tefillah some morning and to take some photographs afterwards.

  19. both people in the picture are wearing them wrongly

  20. both people in the picture are wearing them wrongly

  21. The whole story is about non-orthodox girls at a non-orthodox school putting on tefillin. Why does it matter if the picture is from camp or not?

  22. In political science this is known as a "race to the bottom"

  23. Seri says:

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski – are elderly men who have issues with incontinence allowed to wear tefella? If yes how do they get around the issue of cleanliness given that they can’t predict whether a sneeze might cause an accidental leak? By the cleanliness rational older men should not wear tafillah.

  24. Seri says:

    *i meant tafillan. Not sure how I got autocorrected.

  25. Karina Liat says:

    Are elderly men also strongly discouraged from wearing taffilin? I would think that using the 'cleanliness' rational above, the practice should be highly discouraged because of incontinence.

  26. Karina, interesting point.
    The Talmudh when citing examples of violations of a clean body does state that farting (and sleeping) while wearing t:phillin is forbidden
    "אביי אמר שלא יפיח בהן רבא אמר שלא יישן בהן" (Shabbath 49a), but it makes no mention of menstruating. If fear of impending clean-body-violation warranted not wearing t:phillin, then no one should wear them, since everybody farts. Rather, since we do not discourage gassy men from wearing t:phillin, there's no reason to discourage women from wearing t:phillin.

  27. Charlie Hall says:

    Jennifer Kowloop The two schools discussed in the article, SAR and Ramaz, are correctly described as Orthodox by the article.

  28. They aren't even dressed tsinus

  29. Michael Wadler says:

    but if their desire is to deepen their religious commitment, why should anyone complain?

  30. I complain cause as gemora Sanhedrin shows in tractate 97 galut is so dark and ridiculous we have no gedolim left now we have clown rabbis and modern open orthodox Jews killing the Torah and everything the mesora we have had for ever why don't they just become reform or conservative jews

  31. but michael you wrote something completely different where you agreed with me above are you flip flopping hahaha

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