The Rising Voices Fellowship is a collaborative program created by the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) and Prozdor of Hebrew College. The fellowship is open to female-identified teens with a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism—particularly as it relates to issues of gender and equality. Learn more here!
In 2015-2016, the Rising Voices Fellowship is funded in part by a grant from the Hadassah Foundation.
Tony nominated playwright Elizabeth Swados raised our consciousness; she opened our eyes and dared us all to dance. Swados gave much to the world: theater, the gift of herself, one who constantly seeks truth and justice, and a strong female leader. Liz Swados also impacted my life in a very personal way- she taught me the meaning of community.
On June 13th, 2013, three women graduated from the Yeshivat Maharat and were ordained with the title of maharat, or female spiritual leader. Even then, the Rabbinic Counsel of America (RCA) refused to recognize these women as part of the Orthodox Rabbinate. This is a two steps forward, one step back situation.
Every Thursday, the Jewish Standard, a community newspaper catered to the diverse North Jersey and Rockland County Jewish populations, is delivered to my house just in time for Shabbat. When I was younger, I used to look forward to its arrival. I would straighten out the pages and perch on the couch like the adults I saw on television, immersing myself in the cultural happenings of my local Jewish community.
As a child, I would play “school.” I would pretend to be the teacher, and my siblings and stuffed animals were my students. Although it was a curriculum based on Barbies and Legos, I was attracted early on to sharing my knowledge. It was rewarding to stand in front of the “class,” lecture, and ask questions.
When I think of former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, the first thing that comes to my mind is her shoes. A fearlessly bright shade of pink, this choice of footwear made headlines across the country when Davis debuted them…at an eleven-hour filibuster to prevent a vote on a bill that would have mandated the closure of most Texas abortion clinics.
Two great loves that I’ve discovered in high school are politics and coffee. These are two critical elements of who I am today, but one would think they rarely intersect. That’s what I thought too—until Stav Shaffir came along and gave Israeli politics a total caffeine jolt. Stav Shaffir is a young female member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), a star to be sure.
Religious leaders aren’t normally considered cool by teenagers, but Pope Francis is most definitely an exception. As a teenager myself, I can say that the Catholic Church was not at all on my radar until he started making waves.
I live in a town where Bernie Sanders merchandise adorns front yards and backpacks, school clubs like the GTSA (Gay-Trans-Straight Alliance) and Students Against Human Trafficking have the largest followings, introducing yourself with pronouns is required, and discussions on issues like the refugee crisis and racial inequality are held in both the classroom and the cafeteria. It’s a liberal bubble in a world with increasingly pervasive conservatism, and while many members of my town are wonderfully open about acceptance of liberal issues, kids at school are ostracized for identifying as Republican.
I grew up bilingual. From a young age, my parents, who are not Israeli, spoke to me in Hebrew because they felt it was an important skill to have. My ability to communicate with people outside of the English-speaking world has always felt like an incredible privilege. Although I love being able to find deeper meaning in the things I say through my dual-vocabulary, it’s the ability to share stories with people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to understand them, and the ability to hear theirs, that I find most important.
This lady is my German RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and let’s not even discuss what would happen if I were to bump into RBG at a coffee shop. For anyone who might not know, Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany (2005-present), and is the first woman to hold the position.
Donald Trump isn’t a name thrown around fondly in my social circles. I’d say I live comfortably in a liberal bubble, one which sees Donald Trump as an overblown joke. With the upcoming election, his name has become a household one, and is uttered with callousness and a little bit of fear. As primaries are approaching and poll results are flying in, I’m becoming uneasy about Donald Trump’s viability as a presidential candidate.
Recently, American women came under attack. And I’m not talking about a dozen women, or even a hundred women. Earlier this year, each and every one of the estimated 160 million women living in the United States of America was threatened by an attack which, had it succeeded, would have set women’s rights back to the early 1900s.
Marwa Sayed was the first Hijabi I ever met. I was a freshman in high school and she was a junior. A force to be reckoned with, she terrified me. She had strong convictions for equality and justice from which she did not back down. I served on student council with her at Boston University Academy (the high school we both attended) for two years, and during that time she led the charge to abolish the dress code and to establish gender neutral bathrooms.
As a teenage girl who has had a consistent, though definitively low key, internet presence since I was 12, I have witnessed the rise and fall of many-a carefully tailored persona. Online venues (Tumblr being the most recent and preeminent, but MySpace before this) provide a space for young people to pick the best bits and pieces of themselves, and to cut and paste them together into some straw man fallacy of a person.
I am a member of the Marching Band and Color Guard at my high school. One challenge that we face as a group year after year is designing our costumes. The easy part is making the design fit with the show’s theme. The harder part is designing something to wear that everyone is happy with.
For the young woman, a thrift store serves as the proverbial laboratory of feminism. The reactants: bits and pieces of people left behind in coat pockets and skirt pleats (the people, hopefully, being solely metaphorical). The product: a newly formed sense of self, or the ability to form said sense of self.
Brandy’s clothes are appealing to girls like me who prefer a simple look. However, there’s one important thing that separates Brandy from the other clothing chains for teenage girls—their one-size policy. Yes, all of Brandy Melville’s clothes are only available in one, miniature, singular size. One size fits most is the company’s complacent statement regarding their sizing.
There is not a single part of American culture that infuriates me more then the over-editing of the female body. It’s untrue, unfair, and unjust. You and I should not have to feel badly about what we see in the mirror. It’s not fair, but it’s not going away unless people try to do something about it.
I have always been what some may call a “fashionista.” I have loved fashion since I was a very little girl. Whether it be my all-pink clothing phase, my mortifying obsession with layering neon Sugar Lips tank tops, my love for high side ponytails, or my obnoxiously bright and sparkly Limited-Too wardrobe, I have always used fashion to mirror my inner self.
Every single morning, I wake up, shake the fog out of my head, and consider what I am going to wear. Almost every day, my outfit is some version of Doc Martens (or, “Docs”) boots, a white button up shirt, and jeans. I somewhat intentionally do not dress like most of the other girls in my grade. I don’t care about looking similar to them, but I do care about my appearance.
Recently I found myself bombarded by a series of conflicting articles, all telling women how they should dress. Strangely, for articles that seek to police women’s behavior, each one claims that its dress prescription is the only way women can be respected from a feminist perspective.
I used to wear tie-dye. A lot of it. I also used to wear awkward length skirts, brightly colored shirts, and sparkly jewelry. It was a middle school phase; everyone is entitled to one. But it was also more than a phase. It was the time before I cared what people thought of me.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on February 12, 2016) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.