The Rising Voices 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 social justice. Learn more or apply for 2017-2018!
The Rising Voices Fellowship is funded in part by a grant from the Hadassah Foundation.
Laws, tradition, and God are words that typically come to mind when you think of Judaism. In my Bat Mitzvah parsha (Torah reading), Lech Lecha, these words are relevant, but not the ones that stuck out to me.
When I first read my assigned Bat Mitzvah parsha (Torah portion), Ki Teitzei, my response was one of shock and disgust. The parsha discusses the guidelines for punishing an engaged virgin who lies with another man, outlining different punishments depending upon where the activity occurs.
The matriarchs are complex women, who do not always behave “perfectly,” or in the manner we would expect of our biblical female role models. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the story of Hagar, Sarah’s one-time slave, and Abraham’s one-time concubine.
When I was younger, I learned about a woman who drove a people from war times to peace. She was widely respected in a male dominated era, and she was one of only seven women who spoke to God directly. The protagonist of the story is the prophetess Deborah.
Every year, my temple holds a women’s seder on the second night of Passover. This ritual has always been important to me because throughout my Jewish education, I have clung to stories as the basis for my learning.
We all know the story. The courageous Maccabees, the oil that lasted for a miraculous eight nights. We all know the branded fable, the great tale of Hanukkah that has been recited again and again in synagogues and religious schools forever. But it isn’t the whole story.
When I was still pretty small—in first grade, or maybe kindergarten—someone gave me a book for my birthday. This wasn’t an unusual event; I’ve received more books as presents in my seventeen years than I think most people end up owning in their entire lifetime. What was unusual was that this book was by a Jewish woman, and about Jewish girls, like me.
You may be uncomfortable reading a blog post about a vibrator inventor written by a sixteen-year-old, but bear with me. I have a great deal of admiration for Alexandra Fine, who graduated Columbia with an advanced degree in Human Psychology, and started a successful business at the age of twenty-six.
But I don’t want to be silent. After all, it’s not silent women who get stuff done, it’s an explosion of nasty women. So, in thinking about how to move forward and stand my ground, I look to the past. I look to a woman who got stuff done. I look to Anita Pollitzer.
What got my attention wasn’t the writing, though it does connect us. I wasn’t drawn in by the poetry or the Judaism or any of the other traits I share with this woman. No, what caught my eye was the measles. Grace Aguilar: British/Jewish novelist, poet extraordinaire, religious writer, social historian, and liturgist; and I wanted to write about her because of the measles.
In the late forties and early fifties, a time when many refused to listen to female voices, Polier made her voice heard. She was published in various legal journals and other opinion pieces, and never filtered her views so that others could digest them more easily. She didn’t mince words or walk on eggshells to sound more feminine. Her writing was unadulterated social criticism.
Few women have been both scientists and social justice activists in their lifetimes. Both of these roles are time-consuming and challenging, yet somehow Tikvah Alper succeeded as a distinguished radiobiologist and as a fierce opponent to the apartheid in South Africa. She faced much opposition as a woman, but still managed to have a significant impact in both of these spheres.
“I want a commander in chief who will...ensure that the threat from...terrorists does not wash up on American soil….If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” said my governor, Republican Scott Walker, in February 2015.
It certainly has been a crazy month, huh? Like many people, I was shocked and disheartened by the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States. I know, I know. You’re sick of hearing about it and about the depressing and infuriating stories that accompany the president-elect. However, I want to talk about a Jewish lady who I’ve been thinking a lot about this past month, and in whom I’ve found comfort.
Since November 8th I’ve been thinking a lot about politics. Personally it was devastating to see Hillary Clinton lose the Presidential election. It took me a while to digest the news because nearly all the polls had predicted otherwise, and most people assumed it was a sealed deal.
If anyone has an indelible sparkle, it’s women’s rights activist and French politician Simone Veil. Although she’s not a household name in the United States, she’s regarded with unwavering praise and awe in France, her home country.
Clinical descriptions of eating disorders date back centuries, yet it took until the 1970s for the pioneering research of doctor, psychologist, and writer Hilde Bruch to bring the issue to public attention.
Ask any middle schooler and they will tell you that lunch and recess are treasured time. A few years ago, when I found out my school was taking away half of this precious time, I was furious. My lunch period transformed from 45 minutes of eating and relaxing, into fifteen minutes of rushed eating (which, by the way, is an unhealthily short period of time to eat and digest) and 15 minutes of study hall. I decided to act.
Friends, let me take you back to a dark time in our nation’s history. The time is late July 2016. After four days of insanity at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the country is settling down to watch the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“It doesn't seem to matter if you have a PhD in neuroscience, that won't stop some [man] from assuming you are ignorant on the subject and carefully explaining what he learned in his high school bio class.” This quote, from an article by Lily Feinn published on Bustle, perfectly explains the art of mansplaining.
Every morning when I wake up, I immediately open the New York Times app on my phone to read the morning briefing to which I’m subscribed. I’m instantly informed of worldwide events from the past 24 hours. Then, I scroll through my Facebook feed and find out what my friends think about these same topics.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on January 17, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.