T’fillin lending library for ladies

T’fillin lending library for ladies

Demarest native Alexandra Casser helps spread mitzvah

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.

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”}.

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