The choice to cover one’s head is highly personal, but for those of us who work for the Jewish community – its also very public.
There happens to be an executive in my community who is an observant woman who is preparing to move to a new community – and is distraught over what to do about head covering. She has been on a journey, partially inspired by my diligence in covering (quite humbling for me!), and has made ongoing commitments to herself to strengthen her observance of this mitzvah. However as she prepares for the next step of her professional journey she feels halted in her personal journey. She will be in a position where she cannot run the risk of alienating people from the get-go because of her choice to cover, or even within the covering community by how she covers.
Meanwhile, I am so committed to my head covering that it has become a symbol of my level of observance and who I am. It has helped me to strengthen my observance of other mitzvot, knowing that when people see me with my head covered, I am an example of so much more than I want to be. As a front face of a communal organization, my head covering has become a defining feature not only of me, but of a new approach to diversity in the community. It has made many frum (observant) people feel more welcomed within our walls and events to not feel like a token, now that there is a visibly observant staff member.
Though my decision to cover my head full time was very personal, it has become very public. I am part of a small group of women in my local metro-area who cover full-time, and even less so who do it in a sheitel-free way (which makes it more obvious to outsiders). As someone who still belongs to a Conservative synogague and works for a pluralistic community organization, it is even more noticably public.
How do we recitfy making a personal commitment, to how our community sees us? How do we find a balance between our level of inner and outter observance? What do we do to keep ourselves approachable and respected by a wide array of people as we rise in the ranks of non-profit professionals, without sacrificing who we are?