Rabbinical School student Rachel Putterman’s desire to empower Jews of all genders with the knowledge of how to put on tefillin, a sacred practice that has traditionally been solely within the purview of cis-gender men.
“As a relatively late-in-life rabbinical school student, I really wanted to learn how to put on tefillin… When I asked a friend my age how she learned, she said by watching YouTube videos. When I went on YouTube, I was shocked to discover that all the videos portray only men,” said Putterman, creator and director of All Genders Wrap.
Putterman recruited fellow rabbinical student Gita Karasov to help her produce the videos. Gita was the perfect partner because she has a regular tefillin practice and experience teaching others how to wrap. Together they assembled a cast of Rabbinical School students, alumni and faculty, hired a professional film crew, and launched a successful crowdfunding campaign. After a full day of filming in the spring, Putterman, Karasov and the film editor spent the summer putting together a series of three videos showing a diverse group of Jews of all genders (including cis-gender women, transgender and non-binary) demonstrating how to put on tefillin. The videos went live on YouTube earlier this month.
According to Putterman, the videos serve multiple purposes. First, they make a visual statement regarding gender inclusivity within the realm of Jewish practice. Second, they provide cis-gender female, non-binary, and trans role models for those seeking to learn how to put on tefillin. Third, they offer easy-to-follow detailed instructions regarding how to wrap tefillin in an aesthetically pleasing format.
“Within the first 24 hours after the videos went live, they were viewed more than 1,500 times, and we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback,” said Putterman. “People are impressed with the diversity represented in the videos, as well as their beauty and clarity, and are telling us how valuable they will be to the communities they serve. It’s incredibly satisfying to have the videos out in the world where they can inspire and teach people how to engage in this holy practice.”
Learn more about the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.