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Rising Voices

Learn more about the Rising Voices Fellowship, JWA's thought-leadership program for female-identified teens.

Lila Zinner in Fifth and Eleventh Grade

Reclaiming “Bossy”: How Sexism Shaped Who I Am

As a child, I was loud and outspoken. I prided myself on my intelligence and eagerness to learn; I truly had killer confidence. I told people I was going to be “the dictator of the world” when I grew up. But as time went on, it became increasingly apparent that the education system didn’t have room for a personality like mine. Well, at least when that personality belonged to a girl.

Girl Speak Event

Pressing “Post” on Speaking Up

Last winter, I created Girl Speak, an event-based organization built to foster education and action on issues affecting teenage girls as an answer to the calling I’d felt for years. When I first started labeling myself a feminist in middle school, I began searching for a way to become more engaged in social justice work and start making more of an impact on the world.

Topics: Feminism
Man and Woman Talking, Question Marks

Let’s Talk about the C-Word

While I can understand why some feminists want to reclaim this word, I personally believe it’s one of the vilest things you can say to or about someone. It’s indicative of our society’s contempt and disgust for the female sex.

Topics: Feminism
Emily Axelrod at L'Taken

Stirred and Spurred to Action

Judaism never seemed to offer anything that stoked my social justice fire. I didn’t hear many calls to action in services; partly because I wasn’t looking, and partly because services felt mundane to me.

Hannah Downing's Extended Family

Photographic Memory

I never paid much attention to our history when I was younger. I felt very disconnected from my Jewish past, as I had little grasp of what the Holocaust really was and what it meant to be Jewish, especially growing up in an area with few Jews.

Memorial at Tree of Life Synagogue

Rising Voices Fellows Respond to Pittsburgh

In the wake of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting, the 2018-2019 Rising Voices Fellows came together to reflect, respond, and call people to action. In these pieces you will find connection, sadness, outrage, courage, and compassion. You will find the strength of today’s teens who are growing up in an age of so much senseless gun violence.

The Personal is Political

Politically Personal: Personally Political

To me, being a feminist means working to achieve equity for all members of society, confronting personal bias, alleviating institutional sexism, and prompting others to do the same. There are so many ways feminism manifests itself in my life, but until freshman English class, I didn’t even think to consider one of the most significant ways that I’m involved in political feminism.

Topics: Feminism, Schools
Anti-Semitic Graffiti

May the Faith Be With You

Because I didn’t have support, because I felt alone, I didn’t confront my teacher about his words that day or about the lack of Holocaust education. I didn’t take a stand, either, when I found the words “JEW HUNTER” scrawled on the leg of a desk. Nor did I speak up when I found the same horrifying phrase on a different desk a few weeks later.

Ruby Russell at the Kotel

Am I Welcome at the Wall?

The first time I visited the Kotel (Western Wall), I cried. I know, this is nothing unusual. This historic place often invokes intense spiritual connection or deep reflection from its visitors, moving them to tears. I was certainly overcome by emotion, but for a completely different set of reasons.

Zioness Movement

Don’t Fence Me In

I feel proud of my Jewish and feminist beliefs as separate and intersecting parts of my identity and yet, especially after what happened at the march, I shy away from labeling myself a “Zionist.” Maybe it’s because I’m really not a Zionist, or maybe it’s because I’m afraid of the consequences that come with such a label.

Topics: Feminism, Israel
Mirabel Sandler at her Bat Mitzvah

My Big Fat Feminist Bat Mitzvah

The very idea that I would have to proudly chant and accept this story, this version of Judaism that so obviously conflicted with my feminist sensibility, forced me to question my Jewish identity in a very real way, and for the first time.

Lila Zinner at Consecration

Growing Up Jewish

I made the decision to continue Hebrew school after seventh grade when my friends informed me that they signed up because it “sounded fun.” That decision, although not well thought out, was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

Naomi Bethune Wearing Grandmother's Ring

La Rosa

When I think of something that represents my Jewish and female identity, I often go to a ring that my grandmother, who I call my abuela, gifted me. It had belonged to her before, and I had always admired it whenever she wore it.

Phoebe Chapnick-Sorokin and Family at Disneyland

Leaving My Liberal Bubble

Because of my upbringing, the gender separation at my cousin Zoe’s bat mitzvah came to me as a shock. Why couldn’t I stand with my dad and all my male cousins? Why wasn’t Zoe reading Torah like all the other girls I knew did at their bat mitzvah services?

Promotional Poster for Wonder Woman

The Wonder of Representation

Watching Patty Jenkins’s 2017 film Wonder Woman was nothing short of a transformative experience. It was a victory, glorious and all-consuming, and it was my victory. I was the hero. And as I sat in that theater, tongue dry with over-buttered popcorn and stale air, I cried.

Topics: Film
Western Wall

Looking at the Kotel Through a Feminist Lens

I remember being four years old and writing notes to God to put into the fake Kotel we had constructed at my preschool. It was about three feet tall and made out of colorful building blocks, but to me, that was as good as it got.

Abigail Glickman's Shabbat Candlesticks

Lighting Candles, Linking Hands

Before it was safe for me to use matches, I remember looking forward to the first Shabbat when I could light my own candles. Now, when I light the candles on Friday nights, I feel empowered. I feel as if my mother and I are physically bringing Shabbat into our home as we strike our matches and light our candles.

2018-2019 Rising Voices Fellow Shira Minsk in First Grade

Why Keep Passover When You Love Carbs?

Now that I’m out in the secular world, I have to decide what Judaism really means to me. I have to distinguish between the things that are actually important to me and the things I’ve just done out of habit.

Nina Baran's Tanakh

Interpreting the Torah Through a Feminist Lens

I got my own Tanakh and started doing some research. I looked up different passages, including some that I’d heard that seemed to go against my beliefs as a feminist and activist.

Lily Drazin at her Bat Mitzvah

Orthodoxy, Feminism, and Me

My family, being more progressive than most in our community, are strong believers in women reading from the Torah. My older sister, Jennie, read Torah at Robinson’s Arch, the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, for her Bat Mitzvah, so it was a given that I would do the same.

Clash of Clans

The Art of Attack

Video games are inherently sexist. I’ve accepted this fact as true and immutable ever since I began playing multiplayer games. From the way they’re marketed towards boys and the sexist character designs, to the anonymous players’ offensive language, everything about video games seems to scream at me: YOU ARE NOT MEANT TO BE HERE!

Topics: Holocaust
Kotel Mechitza

Finding My Space

I visited the Western Wall twice as part of my school’s eighth grade trip to Israel—once on a weekday, and once on Friday night. These two experiences couldn’t have been more different.       

Minnah Stein with Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie

A Tale of Two Cities and Their Mayors

Getting to intern with the mayor of Sarasota, Shelli Freeland Eddie, has been one of the best experiences of my life. I want to have a career that allows me to help people, and working with the mayor has enabled me to learn from the best. I’m so proud that our city has a strong woman as mayor who young girls in my community can look up to.

I’ve learned so much from all of the experiences my internship has offered me, but my favorite internship days are the days when after the City Council meetings are over, I trade my notepad and flats for a Girls Inc. t-shirt and sneakers. I leave the City of Sarasota and go to Dream Harbor, the mock city run by the girls at Girls Inc.

Max M. at his Bar Mitzvah

It Takes a Village

Over the years, I’ve been to countless bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies. While each one has been unique to the specific teen being honored, all of the services have been catered to the typical Jewish kid: one who can read English and some Hebrew, memorize prayers, and stand at the bimah and speak about about his or her Jewish education and life experiences. In February, I had the honor of being part of a bar mitzvah that was unlike any of the others I had previously attended. My family friend Max became a bar mitzvah without speaking a single word.

Market at Minho by Sonia Delaunay, 1915

The Art of Gender Representation

The words to SZA’s “Drew Barrymore” ring in my ears as I write this; the song serves as an anthem for the teen angst and insecurities I’ve been feeling since I got home from school today. Feeling lonely, feeling like I’m not living up to the standard of female beauty: SZA articulates the thoughts that have been running through my mind.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on December 16, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.

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