SAR principal explains decision to allow girls to wear tefillin at school minyanim

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But why? What was so important about this? As the weeks passed and I heard the various reactions and responses, my feelings on the issue became increasingly clear to me. Perhaps this is best expressed by way of a story. I daven in R. Yosef Adler's shul, Congregation Rinat Yisrael, in Teaneck. Many of you know Rabbi Adler as the principal of TABC. On that day back in December when I emailed the faculty, I met Rabbi Adler at a community event. He crossed the room and came over to me, took my hand in his two hands and said, “yasher koach, you made the right decision. In a world where there are so many things that distract our teens from focusing on mitzvot, we should support teenagers who seek to strengthen their connection to Hashem and to a life of mitzvot. If I taught girls in my school, I would make the same decision.” In fact, as he subsequently shared with me, he had made the same decision. A few years back, a woman from the community asked if she could daven at the morning minyan at Rinat - but, she said, I wear tallis and tefillin when I daven. Rabbi Adler permitted her to daven in shul. A number of men in the community came over to him and said that they refused to daven in such a minyan. That story crystallized it all for me. I told my students (and I went to each of our four grades for a community meeting to explain the decision - as well as giving two faculty shiurim for staff) that I am not committed to the idea of SAR girls putting on tefillin. I am not encouraging our girls to do so. But I am committed to having our boys and girls be able to daven in the same shul where a woman might be doing so. That when they see something different, even controversial, before deciding in which denomination it belongs, they must first take a serious look at the halakha and ask their Rabbi whether there is basis for such practice. I suspect that I would not differ much regarding normative halakha with most people in our community. But I would differ strongly with someone who thought this was cause for that person to be removed from the community - or that such practice could not be supported within the community shul. I permitted our two female students to daven with tefillin because I believe that we should not be afraid of different forms of עבודת השם when there is halakhic argument to support it. I permitted the young women to daven with tefillin because we should be proud, as a Modern Orthodox community, that we recognize the sanctity and dignity of each person and we find ways to support their spiritual growth in different ways.

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