Read My Lips
Recently, I read Ellen Willis’s “Next Year In Jerusalem,” an essay about her experience exploring Judaism as she struggled to overcome the subservient expectations of women within the religion. As I read it, it felt like every page spoke to me. Her experience legitimized my own, put words to feelings I had struggled so much to describe to others. Writing is a tool for changing our preconceived ideas and learning new things as much as it is a tool for putting into words a feeling we’ve known well but could never properly describe. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be able to affect other people with my writing.
I’ve been so influenced by the writing of others yet until this year had never been able to properly express my feelings in writing. Being given a space every month to write not as a student or an employee but as a Jewish teenage girl allowed me to develop a voice, my own voice, and put it into written words. The ability to capture a moment or a feeling with my own words, free from the constraints of academic writing, allowed me not only to have agency over my subjects but over the experience of writing itself. I don’t just want people to hear my stories, I want them to know how I feel.
When I wrote my first piece for Rising Voices, it was about an experience I had in Israel. It was about the moment I realized what kind of Jew I wanted to be, not compromising any cosmopolitan feminist part of myself for my religion. When I posted the piece on Facebook, someone told me that they totally understood what I meant and often felt the same way. It was among the highest compliments I’ve ever received. I believe the first person narrative is one of the most powerful tools humans have to spark connection. No other medium so accurately conveys one person’s experience to another, and isn’t that how we create empathy? A word to anyone who may read this: write on. Your experience of the world is unique and important, and out there somewhere someone like you is looking for the proper words.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Edelhart, Sophie. "Read My Lips ." 4 June 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/read-my-lips>.