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I've noticed that Reform and Conservative often use small "scarf" talleisim (here's an image). Where did this practice originate? (Is there any connection to the scarves that some Christian priests wear, and if so, could there be an issue of chukas hagoyim)? Is there some ideological reason why Reform and Conservative continue using "scarf" talleisim b'davka, or is it just something that they are used to doing for historical reasons?

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The "scarf" tallit is not related to Reform or Conservative Judaism specifically. I know a lot of conservative and reform Jews (especially the rabbis!) who wear a "larger" tallit gadol. It actually arises from the German Jews, not a specific movement. –  Jason Nov 12 '13 at 12:09
@Jason – Do you have a source for that? –  Adam Mosheh Nov 14 '13 at 1:17
@Jason, in Reform and Conservative congregations they are used as standard today, whereas they are exceedingly rare in Orthodox congregations among those who own their own, and the synagogues themselves generally have the larger size only (for general use) on hand. The question seeks their origin, not their affiliation. Their affiliation today is Reform and Conservative (and perhaps others, but those being the largest movements, and both being movements where these are a common feature, I think the question is appropriate. However, with a source, you've got a valid answer. –  Seth J Dec 5 '13 at 0:10
Here is an interesting article on Jewish and non-Jewish liturgical garments, though it doesn't directly answer the question. See especially the paragraph beginning with "Ministerial vestments are sometimes called chukkat ha-goy, gentile usage." oztorah.com/2012/03/robes-the-rabbis –  Malper Dec 9 '13 at 20:39
From the shulchan aruch orach chayim siman 10 siff 11 and siman 301 siff 30 and relevant commentaries, one does not fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis with a taalis worn as a scarf. The item you linked to is not even anywhere close to being in the discussion for a mitzvah as it actually has no tzitzis on it! The one saving grace is it a synthetic cloth so acc to Reb Moshe it does not require tzitzis and whoever wears it is not mivatel any mitzvah. –  user6591 Oct 20 '14 at 15:40

2 Answers 2

According to this link, which I received in an answer to a question about Spanish-Portuguese minhagim, the "scarf-like" tallit (or tallet) is originally from their community. As you can see below, the ba'alei battim, the chazzan, and the chacham all wear the style in question.

S&P bringing Sifrei Torah to Teba

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They look much larger than the standard scarf talleisim. They seem to cover the whole back above the waist –  Shmuel Brin 2 days ago
@ShmuelBrin, people were shorter then. Furthermore, these are probably the size 24 affairs. Also, we mustn't forget that silk is significantly more pliable than our traditional wool. –  Noach mi Frankfurt 2 days ago

from what I have heard the original reform movement made change in in davening both the liturgy and the dress of those leading to be more like the church. This was part of their goal to become assimilated and then so they thought become more accepted by non-Jews. Today I don't think this people today use this tallis for this reason but rather after several generations it simply became popular. The main problems with such tallesim... 1)they often aren't big enough to require tzitzis. 2)even if they are large enough wearing them in such a manner is problematic as each of the tzitzis are to be on the four corners around one's body and not all in the front.

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