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Ramaz Would Permit Girls To Wear Tefillin

SAR High School is allowing girls to wear phylacteries during morning minyan, and Ramaz would do the same, if asked.

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Following news that the Modern Orthodox SAR High School is now allowing girls to wear tefillin during morning prayer, the principal of Ramaz, a similar institution, said he’d be happy to do the same — should anyone ask.

This is the first time that the Upper East Side Modern Orthodox school has given the OK for girls to wear tefillin during the school’s co-ed morning prayers, but it’s not the first time that girls have been allowed to wear tefillin at the school.

In 2002, two female students were given permission to wear tefillin, also called phylacteries, during a weekly women’s prayer session. But they weren’t allowed to do it during the school-wide daily minyan, said Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Ramaz’s principal, correcting his earlier remark to The Jewsh Week that such a request hadn’t been made for two decades.

The two decades, he said, referred to the first time Rabbi Lookstein remembers a female student asking to wear tefillin, back in the early 1990s. At that time the school said no, allowing her to instead do wear tefillin at morning prayers at nearby synagogue Kehilath Jeshurun, where Rabbi Lookstein is the rabbi. 

Today, things would be different, Rabbi Lookstein told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“If we were asked the question today — it’s 20 years later — we are in agreement that if a young woman wanted to put on tefillin and tallit, she could daven with us in our school minyan.”

It’s not that Rabbi Lookstein doesn’t want to encourage a widespread adoption of the practice. But his experience with the female student two decades ago made him realize that if a girl is truly sincere, letting her wear tefillin in public could be a good thing.

“She would come from Westchester every morning at 7:30, instead of coming to Ramaz at 8 — she really put herself out,” he said.

“She had tremendous kavanah,” he added. “As soon as I saw this young woman davening, I thought: this kid is so sincere, she could actually serve as a role model.’”

Last Update:

01/26/2014 - 06:41
Modern Orthodox, phylacteries, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Ramaz, SAR High School, tefillin
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Rabbi Lookstein's position on women wearing Tefillin , is identical to the Conservative position! So-called Modern-Orthodoxy & Conservative Judaism are identical!
His views demonstrate a lack of respect for Mesorah.

Who will come over to help her place the shel yad in the right place if it was misplaced? What about the lack of tzniut in being the only girl wearing tefillin in the whole minyan?
If she wears tefillin she needs to wear Rabbenu Tam too....why go half way??
Fast forward 100 years....imagine all the girls/women wearing tefellin daily and its nothing sofrim will rejoice...time will tell as it always does

not sure how placing tefillin violates tzniut.. Tur does deal with women putting on tefillin and clearly expresses discomfort but at the same time does not invalidate it halachicly and suggests it is best such a sincere woman should don tefillin in private (home, etc). for the Tur's time that was a maverick statement. In areas that are halachicly permissible, I applaud SAR and Ramaz for being willing to offer a makom for girls desiring to don tefillin and tallit to do so. I also would not be surprised if these schools would consider two minyanim as there may be girls - and boys - uncomfortable with this change. Balancing Jewish Law and sociology is challenging and emotional. As long as it is not a violation of Law, we should be open to experimenting and seeing whether this is a fad or becomes a trend, whether it strengthens our yirat shomayim or undercuts it. yasher koach to the schools and the JWeek for covering it.

while women and girls can put on Tefillin most days, the Halachah is clear that certain days it is forbidden to do so, because Tefillin require a clean body. This is why most observant women refrain from doing so, since it is not a requirement for women to don tefilin, and they probably don't want everyone to know their private cycles, by donning tefillin on some days, but not on others. This should be taught, as it is totally forbidden to don tefillin without a clean body, both for men and women. Boys also need to be taught the connection between hygiene and tefillin, as it applies as well (for example, if one needs to use the lavatory, it is forbidden to don tefillin - also flatulence is forbidden when donning tefillin, etc.)

Unlike previous centuries, it is possible to keep one's body clean during menstruation.

A girl as role model? Really? Actually? Say it isn't so.

It's really quite sad when even the relatively enlightened ones sound like they are living in the Stone Age.
Don't be so hard on Rabbi Lookstein...what I think he was saying is that this woman could serve as a role model for both young men and women on davening with kavanah...and that we shouldn't be focusing on her phyllacteries. He wasn't suggesting that it's an unusual for a woman to be a role model.

> Role model

This is false argument.

Would you ask the person who already got 100% on their test to take it again? Imagine the reaction of that person, when seeing people who need to get retested, "But hey, how come you're letting them retake the test? That's 'not fair'!" Why would they need to retake the test, or why would they have that reaction?

It means they don't understand themselves or the purpose of the test. Women already have a level of spirituality that doesn't need to be monitored, regulated, spurred and prodded with reminders.


Would you ask your accountant to the job of your HR person? Would you ask your lawyer to do the job of your IT person? No, each person has the role they are attuned to and most ready to do.

A woman doing this is not maximizing and optimizing her spiritual time.

It should be the men asking, "how come they already got 100% on their spiritual test, and we have to keep taking ours over and over???"

well said Alex

the true test will come when the administration at central hs (a Yan all-girls YU subsidiary) is presented with the request of wearing t'philin in their prayer services.

Are these girls also going to cover their hair or they are only interested in doing what the men do?

what happened to tzniut, feminism in the guise of judaism is avodah zarah!

Slippery Slope!


It doesn't surprise me that this would happen at these two schools If every local institution can make up its own rules Judaism is done for. So highschool girls have become poskim!

In the preamble to the Ramaz mission statement, Ramaz is categorized as a "...Modern Orthodox Day School."
As the school adheres to Torah values and an Orthodox interpretation of halacha, shouldn't students be bound by these principles as well? When a family decides to send a child to an Orthodox school, the family is in essence agreeing that while in school, their son or daughter will be in an environment which is true to its credo. I wonder if Solomon Schecter would permit a student who felt uncomfortable in an egalitarian minyan, daven elsewhere.
Alexander Rabinowitz, Ramaz, Class of 2014

Alexander, Shkoyach on standing up to the Torah even though you go to the Ramaz school. Ramaz would be a better place if they had more people in there like you standing up for true torah values against Apikorsus.

I'd say "Apikoros" is taking it too far. The Torah doesn't forbid women from laying tefillin. And anyways, it's the Rabbis who have formulated the law, and plenty of Modern Orthodox authorities permit women to wear tefillin, namely the Shulchan Aruch. Even Rashi's daugter was claimed to have worn tefillin as did the wife of the Or Ha-Chayim. So no, women aren't REQUIRED to wear tefillin, but are certainly ALLOWED to, and have the ability to receive full credit for the mitzvah.

This announcement by the Ramaz administration has generated a great deal of controversy amongst the students and the community. But the controversy is not an issue of legality or religious practice, (you'd be surprised to hear that many Ramaz students don't even follow some of the basic tenants of Modern Orthodox Judaism (i.e. kashrut, Shabbat)). Rather, this controversy is more about the fear of new experiences and different perspectives. If Modern Orthodoxy permits women to lay tefillin...then why can't they?

Ramaz is a great place. But it would be better if students and community members were more open-minded on these sort of issues (not if they stood up to "Apikoros"). Right now there's just a fear of change in practice amongst the students. Very few students have presented Halachik arguments against this announcement--many are just "weirded out" by the thought of girls wearing tefillin--even though it's completely legal under Jewish law.

Except that women laying tefillin IS halachically permissible.

Yasher Koach to Rabbi Lookstein. Encouraging both boys and girls to do more mitzvot is a great thing.

A girl as role model? Really? Actually? Say it isn't so.

It's really quite sad when even the relatively enlightened ones sound like they are living in the Stone Age. Wake up, people.

As one who has known R' Lookstein for my entire life, I assure you that you misunderstood his intent by using the word "actually." R' Lookstein has been a leader in expanding the role of women in synagogue leadership roles, and does not live in the "Stone Age" in this, nor in any other issue of import. You are seeing WAY too much into a complimentary remark. The intent was not, "Wow, a *woman* can actually be a role model for others," but rather, "Wow, a *student can actually be a role model for fellow students."

Be well. -AAL

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