Tallit Stories

Barbara Swartz

I don’t have a story per se. The attached photos are obviously from my father’s youth based on the size. This was most likely the tallit he wore when he became a Bar Mitvah. He kept it his entire life. He was born in 1921 in 2009.

Donna Wolffe

My Most Vivid Tallit Memory

On the Shabbat of October 5, 2018, our services at Temple Beth Sholom featured the wonderful Anat Hoffman, then-Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) in Jerusalem. She and Rabbi Noa Sattath spoke eloquently and fervently about the future of pluralism and progressive Judaism in Israel. The evening program was sponsored by my dear friend Bernie Horwitz z”l. At the Oneg, I chose a beautiful embroidered tallit from among the tallitot on display from the IRAC collection. Alas, by the end of the evening, all of the springtime floral pattern tallitot had been sold and picked up. Not to worry. Anat promised that mine would be waiting the next time I came to Israel!

Serendipity happened right then, and my tallit memory grew to extend from our congregation to Jerusalem. Just a month later, in November 2018, I was so lucky to be part of the Orange County Federation’s mission to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the nation of Israel. That whole experience was indelible in our memories, but one of my personal highlights was the Shabbat morning when Rabbi Noa personally delivered my beautiful tallit to our hotel in Jerusalem and we schmoozed over coffee and pastries.

I always feel very grateful for my five decades of memories at Temple Beth Sholom and for Bernie’s generous vision of Reform Judaism, IRAC and Israel—most especially when I’m wearing my “IRAC tallit,” as in this photo taken on January 17, 2023.

Lori Griffin

Growing up in a Conservative temple in the 1970’s, it was not customary for girls to wear tallitot. As such, I would watch my father and grandfather’s wear theirs and even fondly played with their tzitzit while in services. As an adult, my husband and I were wrapped in his bar mitzvah tallit at our wedding. For our first born’s Bat Mitzvah, she proudly picked out her own tallit which my husband and I presented to her. When she, two years later at the age of 15, took a teen trip to Israel, she surprised me with my very first tallit of my own. When I opened it, I cried with so much emotion that it surprised both my daughter and myself. What a gift for a daughter, who was raised in the reform movement, to give her mother, who was raised in the conservative movement, to make her feel valued, loved and worthy. This is what my tallit represented to me. Two years later when our son became Bar Mitzvah, he also picked out his own tallit with the same pride our daughter did. When my husband and I presented our son with his tallit, I was able to wear my tallit with pride.

Iris Toubine

I signed up for a B’nai Mitzvah classes from 2011-2012. Cantor David Reinwald our new Cantor was to teach the class. At that time, getting at Tallit was the furthest thing from my mind. All I was concerned with was to be able to keep up and get thru the class to become a Bat Mitzvah.

Towards the end of the 2nd year, preparing for my B’nai Mitzvah, my dear friend Janet, from North Carolina called and said she wanted to buy an Iris Tallit (sounds perfect, doesn’t it?). I told her I needed to think about that idea.

I went to The Golden Dreidel to see it in person. When I got there and actually saw the Iris Tallit, I was taken back. To me it looked very thin; of course it was thin because it was made of silk..

I guess my idea about tallit was one with more substance. I asked her if I could pick out a different one which began my search for what I had in my mind.

After looking at many tallit online, at The Golden Dreidel, as well as some other stores in L.A., I found one that felt very pure and special to me. It is heavier than a silk one: this one is a cotton/poly blend. It’s a white with light pink doves and pink fringes. This became my new Tallit. I took the pink fringes off at first, then decided that it was better with the fringes on it. I was happy with my pick for my Tallit and it was presented to me at my

B’nai Mitzvah service.

It was a while later when I thought Iris should have an Iris Tallit. I went back to The Golden Dreidel and bought myself that beautiful silk Iris Tallit.

Now I own two Tallitot. I wear the Iris Tallit during the year and my white with light pink doves on the High Holy Days. Now I want to get new Tallit clips from Israel with my name in Hebrew on both sides. One side will say Chaya Fagee (in Hebrew), the other side will say bat Yehuda v’Sara. My new search shall begin.

Bonnie Wenneberg

Weaving the Generations Together

In our home, we have a wall filled with Judaica that brings joy and warmth and smiles to our hearts. Prominently displayed is a shadow box that contains the very fabric that weaves within the generations of our family, and from whence the ripples of faith, Judaism, and family spread out.

My father was not a very outwardly observant Jew, but was ‘very’ Jewish nonetheless. He lived the tenets, was a life-long learner, celebrated the major holidays, and when he was so moved, would wear a tallit handed down to him from his grandfather. He kept it in a tiny blue tallit bag.
One year on a family trip to Israel, Dad got a new tallit which he wore to all those ‘special’ occasions; his old tallit resting in that tiny blue tallit bag.
When Dad (z’l) passed in 2015, he was buried, wrapped in the tallit handed down by his grandfather; and as is custom, a corner of it (with tzitzit) was cut and given to his wife (my Mom) and she put this in the tiny blue tallit bag.
That tiny blue tallit bag, along with a set of tefillin (used by my Dad’s grandfather in Eastern Europe- also in a tiny blue bag), came to me as we went thru Dad’s personal items. They were put into a cabinet at our home, not noticed for several years… until we moved and they were ‘rediscovered’.
In that tiny blue tallit bag now, was also a handwritten note from my Dad – referencing the old tallit & the tefillin given to him by his grandfather – stating these were “a bit of authentic family Judaism being passed to the generations” and my Dad’s hope that they will receive the respect and honor due them.
As it happened, both our children got married in 2015- one wedding just a month before my Dad passed, and the other a few months after – (a very emotional and tumultuous year!)
During both weddings, the children and spouses symbolically brought their ancestors into the ceremony by wrapping their Grandpa’s newer tallit around themselves as they were blessed by the Rabbi – thus the ripples of Dad’s tallit. Those ripples continue to this day as our wonderful son-in-law wears this tallit as his own.
When Brad & I moved in 2019, we found Dad’s old tiny blue tallit bag, with the corner tzitzit snippet and the beautiful note inside, and the tefillin. Unbeknownst to us, our children spirited away these heirlooms. Knowing how important and emotional they were, they surprised us with all the items together displayed beautifully in a shadow box.
Today – the tallit snippet, the note from my Dad, the tefillin, and the tiny blue tallit bags – all have a special and prominent place in our home for everyone to share.
Now, our grandchildren see these and ask, “What are these? Who did they belong to?” – the rippleeffect across SIX generations – and we believe the legacy of the tallit will continue weaving through our generations with meaning, inspiration, and a love of Judaism.

Steffanie Belasco

I grew up in a home where only boys were given a Bar Mitzvah. During the High Holy Days, I would look around the sanctuary seeing men wearing prayer shawls, wondering what it would be like to have one of my own. Sometimes, when I was sitting next to my dad, he would wrap a part of his tallit around me and I remember how special and important it felt. I hadn’t yet studied Hebrew, but the rhythm of the davening drew me in. When my son and I joined Temple Beth Sholom I took advantage of the adult B’nai Mitzvah class. Colin was going to begin his Hebrew studies and I wanted to be able to help him if I could. As I got more into my studies, I did feel that having something around me would allow me to go deeper; would it be a scarf or could I wear a tallit? These are the questions that I kept asking myself. In a trip to Washington, DC to attend the Bar Mitzvah of my dear friends Sharon and Steve Kessler’s son, Daniel, I was introduced to the artist, Shirley Waxman who custom designs tallitot to reflect personal expressions. I went into her studio and we talked. She asked me what this tallit would mean to me. She asked deep probing questions. Although we sat in her studio surrounded by the beauty of the fabrics of all textures and colors, she asked me questions that helped me understand what this fabric could bring to my life as it wrapped around me. I told her about how much I missed having my parents and my brother to be a part of my adult life. I told her about moments with my grandmother Celia that keeps replaying in my mind. In the end, she helped me create a beautiful tallit that brings my family closer to me. I chose the beautiful Yeminite stitching with connecting circles that represent “L’dor’v’dor for the Atarah. The names Milton, my father, Selma, my mother, Gary, my brother, and Celia, my maternal grandmother are written on the four corners in beautiful golden silk threads. I could hardly contain the tears as I realized that I could bring them with me and around me during my spiritual journey.

My family came to my Bat Mitzvah and they were there for Colin at his in a beautiful way, standing, reclining, and embracing my shoulders.

Bonnie Robinson

My husband, Don and I met my senior year in college. He was raised Catholic but was never comfortable with Catholic ideology. I was raised with a strong Jewish identity. My family joined together for Passover seders and celebrated other Jewish holidays; however, I had limited formal religious instruction.

My future husband and I had many discussions about religion and the basic ideologies of each of our religious faiths. We found in our discussions that the ideologies of Judaism more closely matched his beliefs. Although my future husband wasn’t Jewish, we found a rabbi who would officiate at our wedding, rare in 1975. My parents warmly accepted my husband into our family and his parents were equally warm in accepting me. However, it wasn’t until after our sons were born that we began our formal learning about Judaism together. We enrolled our oldest son in the preschool at Temple Beth Sholom. We began participating in family services at TBS. I had always desired more knowledge and a better understanding of Judaism. Don and I enrolled in an Intro to Judaism Class, and we continued our journey of exploration and learning together. We began Hebrew classes. and Don formally converted to Judaism. We enrolled in B’nai Mitzvah classes and celebrated a B’nai Mitzvah with our classmates and subsequently, with the two of us in the presence of our families.

My husband experienced pure joy in the music and prayers of our services and in our lives. I finally felt comfortable in a synagogue and experienced and shared that same happiness.

Unfortunately, Don became quite ill at the age of 52 and passed away 4 years later. The last service we attended together was for Rosh Hashanah. After his passing, it was difficult for me to attend services without sobbing throughout. They were a reminder of how much I missed my husband singing beside me.

Don and I had chosen our tallitot together in preparation for our B’nai Mitzvah. At one point, after he passed, I chose to wear his tallit instead of mine. It has brought me comfort, akin to the warmth of his arms around my shoulders. I can enjoy services once again.

Mitch Cohen

I first went to Israel in 1985 on a 6-week NFTY trip. I did the Mitzvah Corps session, and my twin brother did Safari. Our trips didn’t intersect until the very end of the trip at Mt. Herzl. I was nearly out of money and my brother gave me some shekels, never asking to be repaid.

In 1991, after college, I went to Israel with an AEPi Fraternity brother. He stayed with me at Kibbutz Hatzor for one night before leaving the Ulpan and finding an apartment in Jerusalem. Through connections and a lot of hutzpah, he began teaching step aerobics at the Hyatt hotel in East Jerusalem. He even had an exercise program on TV in Israel. Meanwhile, I spent 5 months on the Kibbutz, learning Hebrew, cleaning the floor of the dining room, and loading turkeys into trucks. After Ulpan, I spent 3 months doing basic training in Marva, a program conducted by the IDF/Israel Defense Forces.

Near the end of my trip, I decided that I wanted a larger tallis than the one my grandmother bought for me on one of her many Hadassah trips to Israel. I thought I’d get one for my brother, as a way of re-paying his generosity. So, I went to a tallis shop in the Cardo in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. After selecting two tallit, I went to pay, but the Orthodox woman behind the counter wouldn’t accept my check as I didn’t have local ID. I didn’t have enough cash, wasn’t carrying travelers checks and didn’t have a credit card either. I was afraid that I would fly home empty-handed. The woman asked where I was staying and if I could get some form of payment. When I told her that I was staying with a friend on Nablus Street, outside of Herod’s Gate, she was amazed. “That’s East Jerusalem! Why are you staying there?” I explained that my friend was working in the gym at the Hyatt and was also doing some work on TV. My vocabulary was very limited, so I did some step aerobics moves and she quickly realized who my Fraternity brother was. I was surprised that an observant Jew was familiar with exercise and shocked that she “religiously” watched my friend’s show!

Anyway, she accepted my check. I’ve proudly stood under my tallis at my wedding to Kathy, it swaddled our son during his bris, and was used, along with my brother’s to form the top of a chupah for my sister’s wedding.

Steve Belasco

My Special Tallit

Rabbi Haim Asa (z’l), the former rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah of Fullerton, a holocaust survivor and a man whose friendship I enjoyed for over two decades, presented me a very large cream and burgundy tallit as a gift to commemorate the completion of my third term as president of Temple Beth Tikvah in the Friday evening Shabbat ceremony where I formally turned over the office to the synagogue’s next president. Over the past 19-years since I received it, I have chosen to only use this special tallit annually when I attend Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuva, Kol Nidre, and Yom Kippur services. What makes this tallit even more special to me aside from how and why I acquired it is that Steffanie and I used it as the canopy for the chuppah we used at our wedding ceremony over eight years ago in 2014.

Then too, the off-white tallit with blue graphics and gold trim fashioned by the Israeli artist Yair Emanuel that I use throughout the rest of the year is also special to me as I acquired in a little Judaica shop in Safed, Israel, during a visit 16-years ago.

Darla Holland Shepard

Mrs. Alexander Kline was my mother’s best friend. She was the Rabbi’s wife in Lubbock, Texas, a city with forty Jewish families. My mother would admit to being a “Methodist” even though she raised us, her children as Baptists because that was my father’s faith. Mom and Mrs. Kline were friends from a Book Review Group. She loved Mrs. Kline for her humor, intellect, generosity and honesty. When I shared with my parents my desire to convert to Judaism after Rick and I decided to get married, I shared that Judaism is a better fit for me. I also told them that I really wanted to raise children in a home that embraced a faith that both my husband and me shared. In large part because of my mother’s friendship with Mrs. Kline, both my parents supported my decision to convert.

When I became a Bat Mitzvah in 2009, I needed a Tallis of my own. Because we had Shoshanna, an artist who had helped us make Matzah covers in a class at Temple Beth Sholom, create Tallit for both my children, I turned to her to create one for me. My mother had passed away in 2007 and I still had a beautiful Christmas dress that I had given to her and that she had loved. I asked Shoshanna to use parts of the dress in creating my tallis so that my mother would always be a part of my Judaism practice. She also created a kippah from the yarmulkes that we had made for Jake and Maggie’s B’nai mitzvah. The tallis continues to be precious to me because it contains so many pieces that make up who I am today.

Alan Shebroe

When Joy and I went to Israel, Rabbi Donnell was living there at the time. He and I walked the streets of Jerusalem looking for, and I ultimately buying a new tallit to replace the one Joy gave me for our wedding.

That tallis was my prayer wrap for almost 20 years. It had been used as a Chupah covering for three weddings, 2 of which where I was the officiant. I loved that tallis.

It was ultimately stolen out of the back of my car in 2021, the only thing taken besides 47 cents in pennies. I doubt the vagrant who took it knew what it was, but being large and made of cloth, it is now most likely being used as a blanket.

“Spread Over Us the Shelter of Your Peace. I hope it keeps him as warm as it did me.

Jackie Gallant

My tallit story is about my father Alter Chaim Willen and my oldest son Daniel Michael Gallant.

As my son Dan was studying for his bar mitzvah my father wanted to get a very special tallit for him. Grandad was going to presented it to him on his bar mitzvah day. He made arrangements for a friend to buy a tallit while he was in Israel.

While Dan was diligently preparing for his special day my dad had a stroke and was hospitalized. As the day of bar mitzvah approached it became evident that Dan’s grandfather would not be able to be physically present and his condition deteriorated.

On January 26, 1985 Dan was ready to have his ceremony and my father Dans grandfather was not able to attend. My brother Dans uncle presented that tallit to Dan amidst emotional sharing of my father’s desire to present that symbol of Judaism to his first grandson born in freedom away from Hitlers carnage that took the lives of all our family. I think everyone cried. The family standing on the bima with Dan and my brother were full of emotions. So, when Dan took the tallit from Uncle Ted’s hands, said the prayer and put the tallit on we felt my dad’s presence with us in spirit.

My dad passed away February 10, 1985.

Barbara Rosen

In the mid 1970’s my husband and I joined TBS and became members of a wonderful chavurah. When one of the members of the group suggested that we take a week-end trip to the mountains to ski, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because I had always admired bright, colorful ski clothes. I just couldn’t justify buying ski clothes unless I learned to ski. So, I took lessons, bought the clothes and became a ski enthusiast.

What does this have to do with my tallit? Similar story. On a trip to Israel in 2016 I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy a beautiful, brightly colored tallit I found in Jerusalem. However, I couldn’t justify wearing a tallit since I never became Bat Mitzvah. In fact, a few years later my husband bought me a second tallit at TBS made by the Women at the Wall. Now I had 2 tallitot and still felt guilty wearing either of them. When I was a teen, girls couldn’t have a bat mitzvah at my Conservative temple in West Covina. So, my tallit story is simple: buy a tallit and become Bat Mitzvah. 2019 check! Now I proudly wear the tallit that I truly earned. And, by the way, I gave up skiing in exchange for my Medicare card.

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