Seven years after beginning to wear a tallit during prayer, I decided to stop. It was not easy to begin to take on the mitzvah wearing a tallit. Neither has it been easy in the nearly two years since I stopped.
When I wore a tallit, it was an outward manifestation of my inner conviction that women and men are made in God’s image, equal, and equally obligated to the mitzvot. As I selected and wore each of my beautiful tallitot, I felt nestled in these powerful convictions. I also felt nimble as I’d twist and braid the tzitziot on my own tallit as I had my grandfathers’ and my dad’s as a child. Hoping that my son and daughters would someday feel connected to Judaism and mitzvot, too. I first began wearing tallit the year of my eldest children’s b’nai mitzvah.
When I chose to refrain from wearing the tallit, it was the result of the creeping realization of my own naivete: My personal convictions notwithstanding, men and women are not treated equally, are not equally safe in synagogues or the world-at-large. Wearing tallitot conspicuously marked me, exposing the vulnerability of my most deeply held beliefs while living through reactionary times where minority beliefs are so readily misconstrued, denigrated, and marginalized.