Alexandra Casser began putting on t’fillin daily as a sophomore in Rutgers.

“T’fillin make davening Shacharis [morning service] more immediately relevant, since you are able to see that your actions respond to an explicit command in the text,” says the Demarest native. “There’s great satisfaction in being able to see that you are fulfilling a mitzvah described in the central text of Judaism.”

Now, Casser wants to make it easier for other women who want to try observing the mitzvah of t’fillin.

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Alexandra Casser

She has taken over responsibility for the Women’s Tefillin Gemach, which has made sets of t’fillin available for women since 2007. A gemach is a Jewish loan society, and while there are t’fillin libraries in the Orthodox community, they do not generally serve women. “Since t’fillin are traditionally a men’s mitzvah, many people are willing to lend kosher t’fillin to men, but not many are willing to lend to women,” she says.

Casser grew up attending Temple Emanu-El of Closter, a Conservative congregation. After graduating Rutgers, she studied for a year at Mechon Hadar, a non-denominational egalitarian yeshivah in Manhattan. That year, she took a course in the practice and laws of writing Torah scrolls, t’fillin, and mezuzot with the founder of the Gemach, Jen Taylor Friedman, a full-time scribe.

Casser took to the practice – although as an avocation. She has plans to attend graduate school and hopes for a career as an academic.

“I like being able to help communities maintain the kashrut” of their ritual objects, she says. “It’s nice to know that I’m enabling a community to daven or read Torah.”

A typical loan of a set of t’fillin lasts for six months. If the borrower remains committed to the mitzvah, “they can buy the t’fillin from the Gemach, or they can return them and buy a new pair for themselves.”

At the core of the library are donated t’fillin. “A lot were really old. They had been locked away in a closet for years. I expected when I started checking them that they would be in bad repair, but most of their parchments are in pretty good shape. What’s wrong with them is mostly cosmetic: They just need a little paint and they’re ready to go.”

For more information about borrowing or donating t’fillin, contact Casser at {encode=”womenstefillingemach@gmail.com” title=”womenstefillingemach@gmail.com”}.