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Rising Voices

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

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.

Julia Clardy's Three Grandmothers

My Personal Imahot

When it comes to grandmothers, I hit the jackpot. My grandmothers are some of the strongest and most incredible women I’ve ever met, and because I come from a blended family, I have three of them! My grandmothers are models of power and grace, and they haven’t sacrificed their passions and values as they’ve aged. They’re all fierce defenders of justice, and I am who I am today largely because of their influence.

Mental Health in Scrabble Tiles

Embracing Crazy and Having Hope

There are several points in the year of an American Jewish feminist student that demand a certain degree of self-reflection – Yom Kippur, for example, or the secular new year. Or, as I see now, the last month of school. I began this school year as an ally for people struggling with just about everything, but most passionately for those struggling with mental health issues. Along the way, my own mental health started to take precedence. But activists and Jews are creatures of hope, so when I started to lose hope, it was this dual identity that kept me afloat.

Topics: Feminism
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel on the Selma March, March 21, 1965

The Privilege to be an Activist

I’ve had it with white people–myself included. I don’t consider myself to be a shining example of a good activist, especially when it comes to issues that primarily affect communities of color; and, I know I say ignorant things sometimes, but I’m trying. I’m really trying. 

Topics: Civil Rights
Women's March on Washington, 2017

Authentic Community Organizing, From Food to Feminism

From dining on Mexican-fusion cuisine at Macho’s, to learning about the intersectional practices of San Diego’s large Mexican-Jewish population, my identity has largely been shaped by San Diego’s multiculturalism.

Topics: Feminism, Food
March for Our Lives NYC

Rising From the Ashes

April 19th was a day of highs and lows. During the day, school was abuzz. Everyone was talking about the next day’s school walkout (planned in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida)–whether they were going to do it, what they thought the punishments might be, if they were going to be in our local newspaper…my phone was on fire with texts from the organizers’ group chat. We planned to meet that day after school. We sat in the conference room, excitedly discussing who was bringing what, and writing the post for the Facebook event. I went home, giddy and anxious. My leg bounced under my kitchen table while I worked on my homework, my trademark nervous habit. I worried that no one would show up, or that everyone would get in trouble and blame me, or that it would rain really hard. My foot bounced faster. My phone dinged, bringing me out of my reverie.

Topics: Activism, Schools
New American Best Friend

Ode to Slam Poetry

I’ve always been in love with words. As long as I can remember, I’ve read everything and anything I could get my hands on. My love for stories turned me into a storyteller. However, my writing used to always be about hypotheticals and was firmly entrenched in the fiction genre. My protagonists tended to be straight, white, Christian people, because they’re mostly who you see in literature. 

Topics: Fiction, Poetry
Daniella Shear Outside Elementary School

The Day School Question

There’s a lot to think about when choosing schools for your kids: private or public, religious or secular, co-ed or single sex. Parents try to make the best choice for their child and for their family with the resources they have. It’s impossible for a parent to know what the best fit will be for their four or five-year-old for the next 13 years, so ultimately they just have to choose a school and hope for the best.

Rachel Harris with Grandparents and Brother

Lessons from Savta

I always knew my grandma was pretty cool. As soon as activism became something of interest to me, my mom started telling me stories about her experiences growing up with my grandmother. They never ate Domino’s because the owner had expressed strong anti-choice sentiments; they didn’t eat grapes to support Cesar Chavez; activism was simply ingrained in my mom’s life from a very young age — mostly because of her mom.

Cantor Alisa Pomerantz-Boro

Blazing a Trail, One Note at a Time

I’ve always considered words to hold a certain power. As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” So, when I was sitting in the front row as my little brother was called to the Torah for the first time as a bar mitzvah, something struck me about the language of the event. Usually, the English translation in the siddurim (prayer books) follows the literal Hebrew on the opposite page, reading “God” for “Adonai” and “He” for “Hu.” But in the readings that day, God was genderless. The biblical Hebrew that has been passed down for millennia wasn’t changed, but the English translation avoided the use of any pronouns that would invoke gender. 

Natalie Harder at her Bat Mitzvah

A Woman’s Place is in the Cantorate

If you ask any member of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts, they will tell you that Jodi Sufrin was made to be a cantor. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, but she radiates this soft warmth at all times—inviting everyone to take part in what she is saying or singing. From sing-alongs in Beth Elohim’s preschool to Friday night services, Cantor Sufrin has been a gentle, but nonetheless powerful female presence in my life. She is, and has always been, the type of person I (and every other young Jewish girl at my temple) aspire to be. And as I grew up and became the person I am today, I couldn’t have been luckier to have a role model like her, showing me what being a Jewish woman can mean.

Shira Small with her Great-Aunt Esther

Labels vs. Identity

Jewish. Feminist. Single. Religious. People are so multifaceted that labels often can’t capture the entirety of our experiences. I interviewed my great-aunt Esther about various elements of her complex identity and where they intersect; I mostly came away wondering if labels—namely “Jewish” and “feminist”—can really do our identities justice. As a Jewish, single, working woman in her 70s, I assumed my aunt would have a plethora of stories that fit a single narrative. But life is complex, and messy, and seldom fits into the boxes we create to try to make sense of it all.

Daniella Shear with her Grandmother

Activism in My Genes

My grandma and I have always been close despite only seeing each other a few times a year. I love the time we spend together in New York City and DC seeing Broadway shows, eating cupcakes, and doing jigsaw puzzles. For my entire life she has had a career as an event planner, and as I’ve gotten older she has let me help with events when I can. Although I knew that she had attended the March on Washington and edited a Jewish newspaper, I didn’t know the extent to which activism had played a role in her life.

Rabbi Jennifer Singer

Faith and Feminism

Last year I met Rabbi Jennifer Singer, and I immediately looked up to her. She’s a strong, spiritual, and independent woman who commands the room with her lively personality. She’s an excellent rabbi, and I always leave her sermons with new ideas and ways of thinking. 

Josie Rosman Trip Photo

Lessons from Rabbi Lauren

All my life, I’ve been learning lessons both about the Torah and about how to live a fulfilling life from Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann at Kol Tzedek (my synagogue) in Philadelphia. From services and Torah school, to the time we spent together prepping for my bat mitzvah, Rabbi Lauren was the person who taught me how to look at Jewish texts in a new light, and turn them into something inspiring and relevant. She taught me about the concept of social justice, and how as Jews, we have a moral responsibility to make the world a better place. 

Gann Academy Teacher Amy Newman

My Jewish Studies Teacher Is My Favorite Jewish Feminist

At every school, in every subject, there’s a certain teacher who everyone hopes to see on their class list in the fall. At Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts, in the Jewish Studies department, that teacher is Amy Newman. I’ve been lucky enough to have her two years in a row, making me the object of much envy from my peers, but she is truthfully one of the most exceptional educators I’ve ever met. Amy is incredibly knowledgeable, gracious, and funny, and she makes a sincere effort to let her students into her life and teaching process as much as she can.

Kara Sherman Bat Mitzvah

My Jewish Role Model and her Humanist Role Models

You haven’t really lived until you’ve had a meal at my Aunt Roberta’s kitchen table. It’s small and made of light, grainy wood, and I really think it should be recognized as the capital of Jewish free thought. This, of course, has nothing to do with the make or model of the table, nor with the meals served on it, but has everything to do with the woman who owns it. I may be slightly biased, but Roberta Schiffer, my mother’s paternal aunt, is undoubtedly one of the most intelligent, introspective, and loving thinkers I have ever met.

Emma Mair in Jerusalem

Debbie Coltin: Now on Your Radar

When you google Debbie Coltin, not much comes up. If you ask her why, she’ll say it’s because she’s a private person; she’d much rather fly under the radar. But as a writer, a Jew, and a young woman, I feel that Debbie’s contributions to Massachusetts’s North Shore Jewish community are too valuable to simply “fly under the radar.” Luckily, since Debbie has given me permission to share her story, they no longer have to!

Dorrit Corwin and Rabbi Laura Geller

Rabbi Laura Geller: Torah of Jewish Feminism

I wasn’t always easily identifiable as the Jewish feminist activist I am today. In fact, I was a Hebrew school drop-out ... but then I discovered Rabbi Laura Geller.

Rising Voices Fellows attending a retreat seminar (Winter 2018)

Combating Bullying and Exclusion

When the status quo simply isn’t acceptable, our Rising Voices Fellows step in. In addition to being activists, they are just some of the mensch-iest people you’ll ever meet, and they don’t take things like bullying or exclusion lightly. From working to make youth group more open and inclusive, to refusing to take part in school bullying, these young women teach us the importance of sticking to good values, no matter the risk or cost.

Three RVF Fellows in Feminist T-shirts

Women's Rights are Human Rights

Feminism is a big part of the Rising Voices Fellowship, and our Fellows involve themselves in feminist work in a variety of different ways. From attending conferences about issues facing women today, to addressing sexual assault in schools and beyond, these young women are standing up for themselves, and for women in their communities.

Topics: Feminism
Rising Voices Fellows in their feminist t-shirts

Strengthening School Communities

Our Rising Voices Fellows are active members of their high schools who work to strengthen and positively contribute to these communities. From combating negativity and unkind behavior with positive messages, to making school a more environmentally conscious place, these young women are taking the lead in shaping and bettering their school communities.

Rising Voices and Havdallah Candle (Winter 2018)

Standing Up For Our Lives

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, many of our Rising Voices Fellows sprung into action. From writing their own reflections and calling for change, to organizing their communities to act, these young women are taking part in a teen-led movement that’s sweeping the nation.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on August 14, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.

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