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.
It is a general truism that in a society which prioritizes one’s physical appearance over one’s personality, dressing outside of the established norm is often a form of social self-ruin. It is also a general truism that the delicate ecosystem of Jewish private school isn’t the place most conducive to experimentation with gender expression through clothing.
You know the saying: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Were we to meet, we wouldn’t be enemies exactly, but I doubt that we’d be friends either. While you and I are both female Jewish writers, the similarity stops there.
Nehama Leibowitz, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the twentieth century, was often described as a paradoxical woman. She was a pious Jew, and a liberal. She was fiercely intelligent, and nonetheless humble. She was a Torah scholar and teacher of thousands, and she was a woman.
There is a certain type of girl our parents always told us to stay away from when we were younger; she was often described as bad news, or as bound to corrupt our innocent souls. Always getting herself into trouble, she's the type of girl who the adults detest and the kids idolize.
I have an insane amount of respect for Susan Brownmiller. Trailblazer is truly the word to describe this journalist who became a civil rights and feminist activist. Her book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, legitimately changed the public outlook on rape.
Andrea Dworkin was one of the greatest feminist minds of the 20th century, and a huge influence on second wave feminism, the dominant feminist ideology of the 1960s and 70s. Second wave feminism held that sex work and sexual entertainment were harmful and degrading to women, and should be abolished.
I grew up singing. My family sang songs every holiday, and we even listened to fun Jewish family songs in the car. My favorite part of Hebrew School every week was when we got to sing, and I looked forward to coming home and serenading my parents with the latest song that I had learned.
It is more difficult, in my opinion, to believe in something that you can’t hold in your hand than it is to live a life strictly governed by accepting the world around you at face value. It goes against human nature, however, not to long, wish, or hope.
I don’t think I’m a very brave person. I’m normally quite timid, and taking a stand is something that does not come naturally to me. I sometimes hesitate to say what I really think for fear of how others will react, and I often find it easy to fade into the background in large groups.
While my Jewish views are different from Helène’s, she and I have similar artistic views. Just like Helène, I think art can be utilized as a powerful weapon to fight various forms of oppression and injustice. I believe that art ought to be used more often in the everlasting fight for gender equality.
Each Shabbat my parents bless me with the words, “Be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are.” These words have been embedded in my mind as my family’s traditional blessing, signifying the start of Shabbat. While other families bless their children saying, “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah,” this alternative prayer has been our way of welcoming the Sabbath for as long as I can remember.
The variety of feminist voices gives me all the more reason to look for a variety of Jewish voices. Both Judaism and feminism give me the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with feeling like you truly belong somewhere. These two aspects of my life are so closely intertwined that sometimes I can’t even tell one from the other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I never really understood the purpose of the dress code. Was it for religious reasons? Was it to protect our male classmates from possible distraction from their studies? Was it for both reasons? I found it extremely degrading that I felt pressured to be ashamed of my body.
Growing up as the oldest of three girls, I have always been taught that my position in the Jewish community is an important one. I was taught that when I grow up I’ll get the opportunity to be an active participant within my Jewish community.
I’ve grown up in the epitome of a noisy Jewish household. For me, a large part of the Jewish cultural experience consists of rapid-fire Shabbos dinner debates that leave you with a sore throat and a full stomach.
“Judaism and feminism? Aren’t those contradictory?” an elderly Jewish man remarked to me and fellow blogger Caroline as we left a Saturday morning minyan.
“You’d be surprised,” Caroline tactfully responded.
As he walked away, we turned and looked at each other incredulously. How many people believe that the two are uncombinable?
I was raised in a modern orthodox household. I went to a private Jewish preschool, then a private Jewish elementary school, and then a private Jewish middle school. But when I reached high school, my family and I made the decision to go to public school. It was a brand new social and educational experience, and almost all of the changes I went through were positive. However, I lost the daily Hebrew and Judaics I’d had my whole life, and I realized how you can get very distant very quickly from your Judaism.
Earlier this year, it was a Saturday afternoon and I was at my friend’s house when she asked me how my beliefs in feminism and Modern Orthodoxy were compatible. I tried to explain to her that in order for my feminism to be real, it had to be challenged.
At my conservative temple, Temple Emanuel, two out of our three rabbis are women. This is the biggest conservative temple in New England, and it is thrilling to me when thousands of people pour in for the High Holidays to watch women lead services. I know that some synagogues aren’t as accepting of women taking on leadership roles, and I find it inspiring that my temple is so encouraging and supportive.
In a religion that can seem inaccessible to those who aren’t cis men, it’s hard to be observant when you feel as if no one gives a crap about you. Over the course of my life, I have experienced exclusion by the wider Jewish community for various aspects of my identity and ideologies. Rather than turn away from Judaism, a religion and culture that is an intrinsic part of who I am, I made the active choice to reshape it into a Judaism that reflects my feminist and activist values. I chose to redefine my Judaism rather than give it up—that would have been too easy. Plus, now I get to freak people out with the sheer force of my GRRRL POWER.
My parents met at JTS. Both are committed feminists, and passionately observant Jews. As a young child, feminism and Judaism came easily to me; they were so natural that although I went through the motions of Judaism, and always believed in equality between the genders, I wasn’t particularly passionate about either one. I just knew them to be inherent truths in my life.
At sixteen years old, I’m entering that phase of my life in which I have to state my personal qualities fairly often, whether in a personal essay for school or in a conversation at a Yom Kippur break-fast. Depending on whom I am speaking to, my answer varies, but it almost always includes a few basic attributes: I am a reader, a writer, an athlete … and I’m a feminist Jew.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on February 9, 2016) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.