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Rising Voices

Learn more about the Rising Voices Fellowship, JWA's thought-leadership program for female-identified teens.

The Kotel at Night

When Identities Meet

The first moment it hit me that Israel was my new reality—that I would be spending the next four months with these sixty teens as part of the NFTY EIE program—was our first Shabbat together. 

School Hallway with Lockers

Sexism: Adaptable to the 21st Century

My sophomore year of high school, a dozen freshman boys created a March Madness style bracket evaluating each girl in the school to determine who was the prettiest. 

Rising Voices Fellow Julia Clardy with Family

Living Water

I didn’t really know what religion was or what it meant. Spirituality had no presence in my life until I was five, when I met the woman who would become my stepmother, and her two daughters.

"The Three Musicians" Sculpture by Sam Cashwan

Art and America-A Letter to Senator Rob Portman

When things get tough, art is usually one of the first things to suffer, but today, I’m asking you to vote in favor of allocating funding for the arts in the federal budget this year.  

Governor Nathan Deal

Making a Deal with Governor Deal

Having received excellent sex education when in middle school, I have become somewhat of a “sex educator” for my peers, and I am often shocked by how unknowledgeable some of them are. With the safety and healthy development of Georgia’s youth in mind, I urge you to support comprehensive sex education. 

First Lady Michelle Obama with Students

Nutritious School Lunches for All

Sometimes when I babysit, kids don’t like the meals I prepare for them. They scrunch their noses and whine “ewww!” at the nutritious food on their plates; but then I explain to them how carrots make their eyesight sharper, yogurt makes their bones stronger, and whole-grain pasta gives them the energy to play. Wanting to be strong and healthy, the kids listen and eat up.

Charlie Baker

Support the Millionaire Tax: No Ifs, Ands, or Bakers

I am writing you this letter to urge you to support the “Millionaire Tax” that was recently passed by the state legislature. By supporting this tax, you would show the people of Massachusetts that you are committed to ending income inequality in our state, and that you believe that the wealthiest among us should pay their fair share. 

SNAP Logo

Food for Thought

As a resident of Massachusetts, I urge you to fight against any incoming bills that could harm SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the millions of Americans who cannot feed themselves or their families without it.  

Charlie Baker

Tuition-Free College: Good for Students and Good for Massachusetts

My name is Lili Klayman, and I am a junior at Mansfield High School. I am writing to you in the hopes that you and your administration will consider implementing tuition-free college for students in Massachusetts who struggle to pay for college. Many of my fellow students are unable to attend college due to their socioeconomic status; this is simply unfair, and prohibits promising students from reaching their full potential, and contributing all they can to society. 

Senator Jeff Klein

Dear Jeff Klein

With the recent election of a president who has a deleterious agenda, I have grown to depend on my representation more and more. Votes against reckless healthcare plans and sweeping immigration legislation are not merely important, but vital. Now more than ever, our district deserves outspoken representatives who vote their conscience, and accurately represent the needs of their constituents. 

Senator Robert Menendez

Bob (the Senator), can he fix it?

Last June, David Friedman, the current U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote an article for Arutz Sheva, a Zionist newspaper. His article discussed “how dangerous the Jewish left is to the State of Israel” and called liberal Jews “far worse than kapos–Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.” On March 23rd of this year, Mr. Menendez, you were one of only two Democrats who voted for David Friedman as the U.S. ambassador to Israel. 

Congressman Jamie Raskin

Gerrymandering Isn't an Issue for Maryland Alone

As a committed Democrat, it might seem counterproductive for me to oppose something that makes this disproportionately Democratic congressional representation possible. However, I see gerrymandering in Maryland as part of a much larger national problem, and I urge you to use your platform as a federal representative to address it. 

Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney

Please, Sir, May We Have Some More?

I have attended city public schools all my life, and know firsthand the various difficulties Philadelphia students have faced over the years, especially those as a result of extensive budget cuts. Even though I’m very fortunate to go to a high-performing and well-funded school, I’m aware that that’s not the case for every school in the city. 

Students Studying in College Library

Balancing Academic Freedom and the Right to Bear Arms

Gun control is an undeniably controversial topic, and while an individual may be entitled to their constitutional right to bear arms, allowing unrestricted carry of weapons does nothing to prevent mass school violence.  

Congressman Lee Zeldin

Through a Jewish Lens: An Argument for Safe, Legal Abortion

My name is Madisen Siegel. I am an 18-year- old, soon-to-be-registered voter in the first district of New York. As one of your constituents, and a young adult who just moved to New York–fresh from the malls and suburbia of northern New Jersey–I am concerned about your stance on healthcare, and I am asking you to re-think your position, especially when it comes to abortion. 

Statue of Liberty

The Safe Communities Act: Empathetic Immigration Reform

I’m writing to urge your support of the Safe Communities Act, a bill that would ensure that Massachusetts resources are not used to support discriminatory and needlessly harsh deportation policies against immigrants in our state. 

Rising Voices Fellow Sarah Biskowitz with Grandmother Helene

A Girl Grows Up in Brooklyn

“It was the magic age of growing up in Brooklyn,” my grandmother Helene told me as she recounted her idyllic 1940s and 1950s childhood. “A lot of people came out of Brooklyn, and it was a great place to grow up…Bernie Sanders was in my class...Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated a year ahead of my brother…” 

Rising Voices Fellow Hannah Himmelgreen's Aunt Sophie

Lessons from Aunt Sophie

I often find myself thinking about how lucky I am to have spent my childhood surrounded by strong women; my mother, my aunts, and my grandmothers have all taught me that shattering the glass ceiling takes not only the force of a sledgehammer, but also the courage to face what lies beyond. As I, a once incredibly timid child, have grown into a strong Jewish woman, I’ve realized that this idea applies just as much in my religious life as it does in my secular one. 

Pixabay Stock Image: Education

Timeless Sex Education

Wilma Asrael is an 84-year-old Baltimore native. Though it’s now in vogue, she’s has been talking about effective sex education since the sixties. She worked as a sex educator for over twenty-five years, after training as an occupational therapist and receiving her master’s in Education. 

Topics: Teachers
Rising Voices Fellow Isabel Kirsch and her Grandmother

L'Dor Vador: Lessons from my Grandmother

My grandmother, Marguerite, was born in Paris in 1937 to Polish parents, Fania and Adam. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Jarnac, a tiny village in southwestern France. The family was Jewish, though they were not observant. Regardless, after the fall of the Third Republic in 1940, it became dangerous for them to even speak of their religion. 

Rising Voices Fellow Madisen Siegel with her Best Friend Lucy

She Has Pink Hair and Just Doesn't Care

Lucy is easy to find. It’s easy to spot her bobbing pink hair in the crowd, though it might have a blue or purple undertone now. Even before she started dying her hair last year, Lucy made herself known. Whether it’s by singing at the top of her lungs – with perfect pitch, by the way – or boldly introducing herself to strangers left and right, Lucy is not like everyone else.

Katy Ronkin and Rhoda Nissenbaum

Saturdays with Rhoda

Almost every Saturday for the last five years, I’ve gone to visit my friend Rhoda Nissenbaum. We read together and talk, along with my mother and Rhoda’s aide, Sarah. What started as my Bat Mitzvah project has blossomed into a beautiful friendship.  Fortunately, I was able to record my recent meeting with Rhoda, and we got a chance to talk about her life, all 97 years of it! 

Tess Kelly's Grandparents

The Last Question

For someone I spend a lot of time with, I was sadly ignorant of much of my grandmother’s past.  My maternal grandma, Joan, grew up in Brooklyn, New York with an older and a twin sister, and her Judaism was largely cultural. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know where she went to college, why she chose Reform Judaism or how she felt about feminism. She simply never talked about those sorts of things. 

Laila Goodman

Sexism, Spirituality, and Science: The Story of Laila Goodman

Laila Goodman isn’t your average high school biology teacher. Her class is regularly filled with personal anecdotes from her life, and her office is regularly filled with students seeking advice. One of my most memorable interactions with her was talking about her experiences as a doula, and then later looking at an album of birthing photos.

Stephanie Ives

Sometimes Your Mom’s Friends are Your Friends Too

Stephanie grew up going to a single-sex Orthodox day school and later went to Stern College for Women, a partner with Yeshiva College. But knowing her today, you’d never be able to tell. Since then Stephanie has exploded into a Jewish feminist badass, and yet a lot remains the same. 

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on December 11, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.

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