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Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz

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The author wearing a tallit and tefillin

That picture – a 40-year-old blonde female rabbi – is what Jewish looks like.

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.

Like many Jews who have invested in a davening (...

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