The Tallit Project
Before Dylan D. became a bat mitzvah, she decided she wanted to create a tallit of her own, a prayer shawl that would mark the joyous occasion and involve her family.
Her great-grandfather, who had died before she was born, had treasured a piece of laser-cut art depicting a luxuriant tree. A local tallit artist created a stencil from the image and painted it on the back of Dylan’s tallit. She guided Dylan to infuse the silk fabric she had chosen with sky-blue, green, and lilac watercolors. She also helped Dylan tie the knots on the fringes of the tallit (tzitzit).
The tallit Dylan created, suffused with the love and spirit of her family, is now a cherished heirloom. She hopes that if and when she has children, they will create their own tallitot.
Dylan is a twenty-first-century teenager, yet the tallit is a ritual object whose origin stretches all the way back to biblical times. Now fifteen,
Dylan continues to wear the tallit that wraps her in the love of several generations.
For Shira K’s B-Mitzvah, her mother embroidered a phrase with words from Moses’s Song of the Sea onto the atarah. It incorporated Shira’s name: Ashirah L’Adonai (I will Sing to God). As she carefully threaded each stitch of purple onto the white silk of the atarah, her blessing for her daughter became part of the fabric. The tallit announced who Shira was.
Liora P.’s great-grandparents, Lillian and Jack, sent each other letters during World War II. The letters flew back and forth from Toronto to Europe, where Jack was fighting with the Canadian Army. Many years later, their family gave the letters and photos to a textile artist, who silk-screened them onto three Torah mantles (covers), one for each branch of the family. Liora used one of the mantles at their B-Mitzvah.
Liora learned about the letters from their Zayda (grandfather), who loved sharing his family stories. Liora also made several road trips with their grandma, filled with conversation and laughs — times that deepened their bonds and created memories.
Like the Torah mantles, Liora’s mother wanted Liora to have a ritual object that showed who they were and found a large-size tallit of bold green and gold stripes in Israel. Though the tallit itself was store-bought, it allowed Liora to show others that they could wear any size tallit they wanted, even though typically women wear a smaller tallit.
Adin EF picked out his tallit online with his grandfather. His family replaced the purchased atarah with an atarah that came from a family member who had died years before. Adin says, “on a poetic level, it was like my relatives were hugging me because the atarah is around my neck.” Adin also tied the tzitzit with his parents.