JWA's Rising Voices Fellowship helps female-identified teens develop authentic voices, strengthen their leadership through writing, and begin to influence the important conversations of the Jewish community. Of course, these rock stars are already shaking things up in their communities today. This is part of Rising Voices in Action, a month-long annual series that demonstrates the many different ways in which you can challenge the status quo, no matter your gender or age.
These Rising Voices Fellows are standing up against racism, and for diversity and racial equality. From attending rallies and conferences, to tackling race-related issues in their own communities, these young women are modeling good allyship, and reminding us that we must advocate for others, not just for ourselves.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m relatively new to the activism world. I grew up in a Jewish liberal bubble during the Obama presidency, and it wasn’t until the 2016 presidential election that I realized that I needed to be vocal in fighting for my beliefs. Since then, I have seized every opportunity to make my voice heard by attending marches and rallies, participating in and organizing trainings with my local chapter of Bend the Arc, and contacting my representatives. A few months ago I left school in the middle of the day to join my Jewish community for a pro-immigrant, pro-DACA rally. We gathered in front of Pittsburgh’s Department of Homeland Security to listen to the stories of Dreamers in our own community. Of all the marches and rallies that I’ve participated in, this experience stood out. What was special was that this group of people felt like a second family to me. It included friends I’ve known my entire life, adults in my congregation who have known me my whole life, and, through this experience, I felt immediately close to those in attendance who I didn’t know personally. It felt like a cohesive community, and one of which I was proud to be a part. Although our single march didn’t result in the passage of a clean Dream Act, if we continue to raise our voices, I know that one day we’ll be heard.
This past December, I sat in room surrounded by 1,600 other students who, like me, dedicate themselves to social justice. This group hailed from across the country, and all over the world. We were gathered in Anaheim, California, at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. I stood, somewhat apprehensively, in a room full of strangers. It was the most diverse room I’ve ever stepped foot in, yet I felt deeply connected to each and every person there. We were united in our shared commitment to activism, and ready to bring about real change. I was re-energized after attending the conference; I applied to be a Student Director of my school’s annual “Diversity Day,” and am now busily planning for our full-day program celebrating diverse identities. Now, our nation’s youth is experiencing a similar invigoration, this time with attention focused on gun control. It was both astonishing and inspiring to watch as thousands of my classmates and peers across the country joined in the walkout on March 14 to advocate for stricter gun regulation. It was the first time since the conference in December that I felt similarly unified with such a vast and varied group, but it definitely will not be the last. We have only just begun.
At the start of my sophomore year, I created an Anti-Racism Initiative at my school. In our all-Jewish and nearly all-white community, race felt so removed from our lives that it was easy to ignore issues of inequity, and I wanted to change that. However, as a white person, I wasn’t sure if it was my place. I didn't want to put myself at the forefront of a movement that should be about amplifying POC’s voices. But in our racially homogeneous school, I decided it was okay to spearhead the initiative, because I wasn’t exploiting someone else’s platform. The initiate ran successfully for a few months, and we enjoyed heart-felt, in-depth discussions about the state of race relations in America. This year, the initiative has taken a back seat to other groups on campus who are leading the discussion about race. A group of students at my school attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, and brought their ideas back to the community, making the school a more inclusive and aware place. I am not at all disappointed that the Anti-Racism Initiative has been less active this year, because activism is far more about the movement than the individual. While I am glad to have contributed to a cause I care deeply about, I am far happier that anti-racism activism at my school has developed, improved, and flourished.
Inspired by these reflections? You can check out RVF’s other blog posts. If you love the series and want to hear more about what these budding revolutionaries are doing, sign up for our blog mailing list.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Klebe, Larisa. "Practicing Allyship." 2 April 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 25, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/practicing-allyship>.