Blogging: Full Speed Ahead
My first blog post was kind of like my first driving lesson: I was given the keys and told to go before I could ask, “which one’s the gas pedal?” (I’m not kidding. I had no idea.) When I first heard about the Jewish Women’s Archive and the Rising Voices Fellowship, I hadn’t thought much about what it means to identify as a feminist—I just knew that I loved writing, and I wanted to experiment with new forms of it. I’d never been taught how to blog before, and I was excited to learn.
Writing for Rising Voices has forced me to determine my own thoughts and opinions on many hard-to-ponder topics, and for that, I am grateful. When I had to write about where feminism and Judaism intersect in my life, I was given a space to form my opinions on the mechitza, the low wall that separates men and women during prayer. I learned about powerful women of the past, like Canadian Olympian Bobbie Rosenfeld and civil rights activist Odetta Holmes. I had the chance to share how I felt about various types of clothing, and I am proud of the piece in which I discuss the tension I feel from my participation in both a modern-orthodox and a secular society. These opinions and thoughts are all my own, but before this year, they were opinions I didn’t even know I had. Writing has changed me. It’s given me a stronger sense of who I am and how I fit into my community.
Now, when I sense that something is not right, I stop and think about it—almost as if I had an assignment to write a blog post about it. Why is it that only boys ask girls to prom? How come my shoulders must be covered at school? Why is “skinny” often used as a synonym for “beautiful?”
I am happily surprised by the positive reception my blog posts have received. I love the conversation they’ve sparked with my parents, my friends, my teachers, my rabbi, and even random strangers who leave comments on the JWA website. I am fascinated by what people have to say, whether they’re agreeing with me or calling me “mealy-mouthed.” (Hey, at least I learned a new SAT word.) I’ve received my fair share of criticism for the things I’ve written, but I’m proud that my writing has such an impact on others. The whole point of blogging is to share personal thoughts with the world and to make an impact on those who read them. The fact that my writing can make someone excited, or angry, or surprised is the whole reason blogging is worth it.
Blogging has made me feel powerful and eternal. I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity, this space to share my thoughts and post them online forever. It makes me feel proud to know that in twenty years, the thoughts of my sixteen-year-old self will still be there, preserved like a time capsule, providing a look into my mind during my junior year of high school. There are many things that I don’t know, but I do know that my perspective and my opinions are going to change over time, and that what I have written this year may not always be an accurate reflection of my beliefs. Yesterday they held true and they do today, too, but I can’t make any promises about tomorrow. So when I look back to read my writing in twenty years, I’ll smile as I remember the way I used to see the world, the things I used to believe in.
I feel so lucky that my family is here, cheering me on. I know that I’m not the only one in my family, or my community, that wrestles with this tension.
If there’s one thing I’ve gained from this journey with the Jewish Women’s Archive, it’s a feeling of appreciation for my supportive family. A few months before the fellowship started, my Zadie, Yale Harlow, passed away. He loved to daven and go to shul, and to honor his memory, his daughters (my mom and aunt) said Kaddish for him three times a day for eleven months. I’ve realized then that the tension I feel about being a feminist and a Jew is shared by other members of my family. Oftentimes, my mom was the only voice saying Kaddish at shul, and sometimes the men had a problem with that. “Women don’t say Kaddish here!” said a particularly hostile one in Hebrew at a hotel in Israel. “You should leave.” My mom didn’t even flinch. We stayed for the rest of the service, and she said Kaddish with pride. My grandfather loved to write, like I do, and when I think of him, I see him hunched over his computer, writing a letter to the editor of the Jewish Journal or drafting an email full of hilarious puns and interesting stories. I’d like to dedicate my writing on this blog to my Zadie’s memory, to continue his legacy.
Thank you to Rabbi Scheindlin, for encouraging me to apply to this fellowship, to Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer, for being an amazing mentor throughout this process, to Ellie Kahn, for being the best peer editor I could ask for, to Tara and Emilia, for pushing me to think deeply and for being understanding when I didn’t quite make my deadlines, to all the girls in the Rising Voices fellowship, for giving me something to look forward to on the first Sunday of every month when we had our live video chats, and to all of the people who took the time to read my thoughts. It is because of you that my words have power.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Melmed, Eliana. "Blogging: Full Speed Ahead." 9 June 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 6, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/blogging-full-speed-ahead>.