Research and Collaboration
Jill and I are two Ashkenazi cis-women artists based in Los Angeles who come from a long line of tailors, cutters, and menders. We have been collaborating since 2018 on costumes for my performance art project My Golem. In 2021, we designed a talit katan for my film Prayer For Burnt Forests and the ritual garment ended up playing an important role in my performance as the golem. The experience inspired me to practice wearing tzitzit in real life, but I soon discovered that there were no tzitzit on the market that met the quality of material and fit that I desired. So, I initiated a conversation with Jill about making a unique tzitzit for me. From there, we started to think about exploring how new tzitzit designs could serve our community. With the help of an expert panel of Jewish leaders and educators, we engaged in conversations about the practical and spiritual experiences of wearing tzitzit as women, trans, and non-binary Jews. From these conversations, Jill and I developed tzitzit prototypes for a select group of folx to test out. The testers’ feedback helped shape Tzitzit Project’s debut designs.
A NEW SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
Above: Tzitzit Project Banner featuring Sasha Perry, Liana Wertman, Holly Howell, Hadar Cohen, Chelsea Mandell, and Marval Rex
With our communities’ support, we are thrilled to launch Tzitzit Project with our debut collection of tzitzit designed to honor a wide variety of bodies, gender identities, and Jewish spiritual practices. Tzitzit are the fringes traditionally worn on a four-cornered undershirt to remind one of the divine presence in daily life. Though historically wearing tzitzit has been a ritual practiced by Orthodox cis-men, halacha (Jewish law) does not bar women or gender non-conforming Jews from wearing tzitzit. In ancient times, garments often consisted of simple rectangular cloths with four corners, in which tzitzit were easily tied. Since we no longer wear four-cornered garments, a special garment known as a tallit katan, also referred to as tzitzit, is now worn in order to fulfill this mitzvah.
Tzitzit Project’s goal is to inspire more inclusive expressions of Jewish ritual practice in a way that is spiritually nourishing, gender-inclusive, and non-denominational. By taking a new design approach to a traditional garment, our tzitzit offer an opportunity to reclaim the divine in the everyday. On December 11, 2022, we opened our online shop, making the wearing of tzitzit available to everyone and every body.
An Inclusive Ritual Guide
As part of our project, we also created a Tzitzit Project Ritual Guide illustrated by artist Sol Weiss and co-written by Binya Koatz and Nomy Lamm. This guide provides instructions for putting on your tzitzit and features masculine, feminine, and non-binary blessings in Hebrew and English with standard, Ashkenazi, and Mizraxi transliteration.
A free download of the Tzitzit Project Ritual Guide comes with each tzitzit order or donation. In the future, we hope to print laminated guides.
Julie Weitz is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles.
Tzitzit for Everyone
Tzitzit are one of the last ritual garments to become egalitarian. Why is that? What if tzitzit became a common gift for a b’nai mitzvahs?
Tzitzit are often uncomfortable, itchy, and unbreathable. Why do you think tzitzit have not been designed for greater comfort?
Experimenting with a Ritual
Wearing Tzitzit is a personal and intimate act. If you wear them, how do they impact your daily sense of holiness? If you have never worn tzitzit, would you now consider doing so?
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