Where Are They Now? RVF Alum Sarah Groustra

JWA talks with Sarah Groustra, a Brooklyn-based playwright, actress, and theatermaker, and contributor to the Jewish Women’s Archive blog. Sarah participated in the third cohort of the Jewish Women’s Archive’s Rising Voices Fellowship, which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary year.

JWA: Tell us about your experience participating in the third cohort of the Rising Voices Fellowship in 2015-2016.

Sarah Groustra: It feels like so long ago now! At the time I was a sophomore in high school, on the verge of a lot of discoveries about myself and my identity. I think I knew how to be a feminist in theory, but not in practice, and I didn’t really know yet that I could merge Judaism and activism as part of my practice.

I have very fond memories of my cohort, particularly from our retreats. Some of the best memories come from the time we spent just getting to know each other, hanging out and talking about our lives. I also remember that our cohort was one of the first to have participants from outside New England/the East Coast, so even though I only traveled twenty minutes by car to get to the retreat in the greater Boston area, I got to meet other people from across the country.

JWA: What were the impacts of the Rising Voices Fellowship on your high school self?

SG: Being a Rising Voices Fellow taught me how to take my overwhelming emotions about the world and turn them into something communicable. I think so many of the convictions I have about the importance of storytelling can be traced back to the language I learned at RVF. It’s not a coincidence at all that shortly after my time as a Fellow, I published an op-ed in my school’s newspaper about period shame that caught the eye of an incredible local legislator, Rebecca Stone, who cited the article in her movement to put free menstrual products in public restrooms. It was an incredible lesson about the ability of stories to enact social change.

JWA: How has the Rising Voices Fellowship continued to influence you as an adult?

SG: Because of RVF, I think there’s always a part of me that will feel like writing is a spiritual practice. Even though I’ve moved away from home and am no longer part of a regular congregation, using my voice and my ability to communicate still feels like something rare and sacred. Maybe it’s because writing always puts me in touch with a greater community, whether that’s a Jewish or feminist one, or the theater community, a writer’s group, etc.

JWA: You’ve published many articles and interviews since RVF on the JWA blog. Can you talk about some of your favorites?

SG: I mostly conduct interviews for JWA’s 7 Questions column, which is SO fun, for a similar reason to what I just spoke about above: I get these little windows into people’s lives and their work, all in their own words. It’s so hard to pick a favorite! For now, I’ll highlight my interview with Gila Axelrod, whose writing about balancing Jewish tradition and mental health inspired me before I even got the chance to meet her, and my conversation with the author Sara Lippmann, whose writing advice from the piece I still try to follow.

JWA: You’ve also written several plays that have won awards. How do you approach the playwriting process?

SG: My plays often begin as a “what-if” question. For instance, the thought that grew into my play Insertion, which premiered last summer in California, was: “What if a famous author actually made all their money from secretly writing romance novels?” From there, I try to create a world where no matter how absurd the circumstances get, the characters’ reactions remain honest and truthful. That’s how I approach it conceptually, but my actual daily writing practice is much less straightforward. I’m still figuring that out!

JWA: What advice do you have for young people discovering their Jewish and feminist identities?

SG: Read! Learn whose shoulders you’re standing on and how we got to these historical crossroads. Read essays you think you’ll agree with and those you think you won’t. And if you can, find a community you can learn alongside and try out new ideas together. That’s what RVF was for me!

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Non-Fiction, Plays
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How to cite this page

Biskowitz, Sarah. "Where Are They Now? RVF Alum Sarah Groustra." 19 December 2023. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 26, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/rvf-alums-where-are-they-now>.