f you’re looking to learn the intricacies of writing a Torah from Jen Taylor Friedman, the first woman in history to write a Torah and adopt the title of soferet, female Torah scribe, you might want to start now, because she’s looking to leave the country.
"If they want to come study with me, they better get a move on, I’m going back to England," she said. Her timeline for departure: less than five years. She is originally from Oxford, England, and she’s thinking it’s time to pack her bags in Riverdale and head back home. She describes it as the passion for aliyah that many children learn while going through the day school system, but hers is aimed at England.
Taylor Friedman, who describes herself as "post-denominational and halachically observant," learned under sofrim in Jerusalem and New York, mastering the calligraphy and halacha before completing her first Torah for a Reform congregation in St. Louis in 2007.
She first entered our radar in early 2007 for Tefillin Barbie, a doctored version of the provocative doll, complete with tallit and — you guessed it — tefillin. The profits from Tefillin Barbie go to acquiring and restoring tefillin to be lent to women who can’t afford their own; she’s sold 50 to date.
At that time Taylor Friedman, now 29, was working on her first Torah; two years later she’s been commissioned for her third, for a synagogue in Montreal. She’s also taught nine future soferot, and a future sofer, the ancient Judaic art form that was previously relegated only to men. Taylor Friedman is proud to be involved in teaching other female Torah scribes.
"One of the things about writing Torah is feeling like you’re part of this long chain of Jews passing Judaism le dor va’dor," she said. "A proper link in a chain has other links on both sides, so teaching Torah to other women makes me not the end of the chain but part of the chain."
Favorite food: English chocolate. Favorite passage of Torah to write: Bereishit. "You can feel how old the words are." Secret passion: "I can’t say chocolate again, can I?" Other passions include computer programming and 1920s school stories (a fiction genre centering on older pre-adolescent and adolescent school life, most commonly set in English boarding schools, revived by the Harry Potter series).
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