A Chabad representative placed tefillin on a woman in New York last Friday, apparently mistaking her for a man.
Baci Weiler, a student at the University of Chicago, was stopped near Union Square and asked if she was Jewish.
While she planned to keep walking, her friend yelled out, “Yeah!” Weiler said in a Facebook post Monday.
After offering her friend Alex Stern a free set of Shabbat candles, the Chabad rep asked Weiler if she had put on tefillin that day.
Tefillin, two black leather boxes containing parchments with passages from the Torah, are traditionally worn by Jewish men during morning prayers.
The Jewish outreach efforts of the Chabad sect include offering nonobservant Jews an opportunity to out on tefillin, with representatives often approaching pedestrians and asking them if they would like to don a pair.
But unbeknownst to the Chabad rep in Union Square, not only was Weiler not male, but she had been putting tefillin on as part of her daily routine for 10 months.
Weiler was surprised by the question, and as it turned out, she had not donned tefillin yet that day.
“I was just shocked by the question and answered confusedly,” Weiler told the Times of Israel. “He helped me fulfill my chiyuv [obligation] for that day.”
Her friend rushed to take photos of the moment, as the Chabad representative asked, “Have you heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe?”
Sharing the experience on Facebook, she said, “Apparently, buzzed hair + baggy t-shirt + haredi lack of any concept of fluidity in gender expression = egalitarianism.”
Women traditionally do not wear tefillin in Orthodox Jewish communities, though a growing number of women are choosing to take on the practice, as do women in non-Orthodox movements of Judaism.