Rising Voices

Learn more about the Rising Voices Fellowship, JWA's thought-leadership program for female-identified teens.
2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Eden Olsberg Snapchat

Strongly Undecided

by Eden Olsberg

Every morning when I wake up, I immediately open the New York Times app on my phone to read the morning briefing to which I’m subscribed. I’m instantly informed of worldwide events from the past 24 hours. Then, I scroll through my Facebook feed and find out what my friends think about these same topics.

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Isabel Kirsch with her Model UN Partner

My Power Outfit Deserves Its Name

by Isabel Kirsch

Although I've learned to embrace my short stature and recognize its impact on my confidence as a woman, when I was younger, my height was my biggest insecurity. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Molly Pifko at Camp

The Challenge of Teamwork

by Molly Pifko

Competitions can bring out the best in people. Unfortunately, they can also bring out the worst. Team competitions, even silly camp ones full of crazy outfits and team cheers, require leadership, and unfortunately, some leaders don’t value everyone’s voices equally.

Topics: Summer Camps
"That's funny. Do you want me to ruin it with my feminism?"

I Walk the Line: The Shaky Tightrope of Male Validation

by Katy Ronkin

Freshman year, my new friend John (name changed to protect the male ego) made a lot of gay jokes, and I laughed at every one of them. He would make all these jokes about Jews, egged on by his Jewish friends, and I laughed at every one of them. Freshman year, John would joke about rape, and when I didn’t laugh, John laughed at me. 

Topics: Feminism, Schools
Cartoon Image of a Girl Looking Embarrassed

Can I Ask You Something?

by Abigail Fisher

For as long as I can remember, I’ve butted heads with Orthodox men. There was the time in third grade when I volunteered to sing the Torah trope, but was discouraged  by a boy in my class who said that “girls don’t actually read Torah at their bat mitzvahs.” In other words, why bother? Then in sixth grade, when all I wanted was to learn advanced Talmud,  I was met with a discrediting, “okay, Abigail, okay. We’ll see.” 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Maya Jodidio Pipetting DNA into a Gel

Whoever Said Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend Never Saw a Girl Doing Science

by Maya Jodidio

High school boys often try to explain physics or calculus problems to me in a way that clearly implies they think I have no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes a classmate asks me a science question and almost immediately a male peer nearby says, “Don’t worry! I can explain this if she can’t!” In addition to mansplaining, jokes about feminism and subtle sexist comments occur on a daily basis at my high school, so I’ve become used to it. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Sarah Biskowitz and her Sister Lighting Shabbat Candles

The Ham Sandwich

by Sarah Biskowitz

Looking back, I now know that the comment about my sandwich choice was an extremely inappropriate thing for a coach to say to a student. It was also just rude. But most of all, it capitalized on my outsider-ness. 

Stock Image of Girl Wearing Athletic Jersey and Visor

Fifth Grade Feminist Football Fight

by Aliza Abusch-Magder

I didn’t want to play football, I just wasn’t accustomed to being told no, especially without being given a logical reason. So the right for girls to play football, which I could’ve cared less about personally, became a cause for which I fought with persistence.

Topics: Feminism, Schools, Sports
2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Isabel Kirsch and her Twin Brother as Infants

Almost Identical

by Isabel Kirsch

I have a twin brother. Most people, upon finding this out, ask if we’re identical. In the scientific sense of the word, my brother, Jacob, and I are fraternal twins, and I always have to suppress a laugh when I’m asked this question because it’s biologically impossible that we’re identical. However, except for our gender difference, Jacob and I share many social identifiers that influence how we experience the world. 

Topics: Schools, Children
2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Molly Pifko with her Bat Mitzvah Project Display

Honey and Hanukah: How Food Justice has shaped my Judaism

by Molly Pifko

Food and food justice had always been something that my family and I were passionate about, so I decided that for my Bat Mitzvah project, I would found a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at my temple. CSA is a system in which customers pay a deposit in exchange for weekly bags of fresh vegetables, giving farmers more financial security, and the customer a steady supply of healthy, environmentally friendly, and in-season produce. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Katy Ronkin at Camp

From Camp Gyno to Women’s Health Activist

by Katy Ronkin

The summer of 2013 was when I taught my bunk at Camp Young Judaea that girls have more than two holes “down there.” Now for those uninitiated with the workings of a girls’ bunk, this may seem crazy or even obscene. However, for us, this was just another lesson in a long line of facts about the female body I had told my bunkmates that summer. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Tess Kelly at her Bat Mitzvah

The Cleveland Jew’s Dilemma

by Tess Kelly

Nearly 200 years ago, residents of the West Side of Cleveland destroyed the bridge that connected the banks of the Cuyahoga river, separating themselves from East Cleveland, and intending to become their own city. Since then, we’ve built a new bridge and stayed a single city, but we still haven’t gotten over our differences. East Siders think that West Siders are blue-collar conservatives who have failed to build up their communities. West Siders think that East Siders are snobby, rich, white people who never leave their suburban bubble. 

"Shelo Asani Isha" Blessing

The Oxymoron of Jewish Feminism

by Abigail Fisher

I had fallen so deeply in love with Jewish text study that I neglected to see the many ways in which I was not represented in those texts. The tension became clear: How could I honor  a tradition that did not make space for me as a female? 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Maya Jodidio at her Bat Mitzvah

Secular Bat Mitzvahs? Yes, they do exist!

by Maya Jodidio

When I was in 7th grade, all of my Jewish friends complained about having to memorize Torah portions and prayers for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I had a Bat Mitzvah too, but mine was secular and didn't include these traditional elements. My secular ceremony was different than any other Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and that is what made it so special to me. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Diana Myers Wearing Tefillin

Binding My Religious and Feminist Identities Together

by Diana Myers

I started wearing tefillin at camp. I was fourteen and I had a lot of ideas about overthrowing patriarchal Judaism, and I thought it looked cool. Tefillin are traditionally worn only by Jewish men who have reached bar mitzvah age (thirteen), although Conservative and Reform Judaism, some of the more liberal sects of Judaism, are very accepting of women wrapping as well. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Aliza Abusch-Magder with her Mom

My Jewish Feminist Roots and The Fruit of My Mother’s Labor

by Aliza Abusch-Magder

My mother struggled her whole life to bring her love of Judaism and her expectation of gender equality together. I was raised on the foundation that she had worked tirelessly to build. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Sarah Biskowitz with her Sister and Friend

A Podcast That Sounds Like Me

by Sarah Biskowitz

“‘We talk about current events, friendship, Beyoncé, and politics,’ Aminatou Sow said in Episode One of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. I smiled to myself. That’s exactly what I talk about with my friends, I thought.”

Topics: Feminism, Media
NFTY STR Spring Kallah 2016

Leading a Sea of Voices

by Hannah Himmelgreen

I never realized that it was possible for my whole outlook on Judaism to be transformed in an hour and a half, or that a few moments of hearing voices come together in prayer could move me so deeply. But that’s exactly what happened when I led my youth group in Shabbat services this past March. 

The Blue Coat School: Birmingham, UK

How the WASP-iest School in America Taught Me to be a Feminist

by Madisen Siegel

I would understand if upperclassmen boys bad-mouthed feminism – they tend to have the need to silence strong women. But our head of school? The first female to hold this position at my school? What kind of example does that set for new girls on campus? 

Topics: Feminism, Schools
Hands in the Shape of a Heart

Power Through Words

by Lili Klayman

Boys in my preschool told me that I should like pink. “Boys like blue and girls like pink;” that was their reasoning. They told me that if I wanted to play with them at recess I couldn’t “act like a girl.” I didn’t understand what they meant, but I agreed to the terms. While things like this didn’t bother me in preschool, as I got older, people’s choice of words started to have more and more of an impact on me. 

Topics: Feminism, Schools
2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Eden Olsberg in Tsfat (Cropped)

A Pluralistic Girl in a Non-Pluralistic City

by Eden Olsberg

As a vocal feminist, you might expect me to get upset at various sites in Israel, such as the Kotel, because women are not treated equally to men. On the contrary, I tend to forgive these characteristics that go against my personal values, and instead embrace the spiritual and Jewish aspects to which I can connect. However, I broke this trend on a Shabbat trip to Tsfat, one of the holiest cities in the country with one of the most observant populations. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Emma Bauchner at Camp

Deciphering the Code

by Emma Bauchner

Dress codes. If you’ve been on the internet in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that teenage girls tend to butt heads with them quite a bit. You may have read about how blatantly discriminatory dress codes are when it comes to gender. You might already be informed about how they contribute to victim blaming, are a form of slut shaming, and reinforce rape culture.  Indeed, dress codes have become a sort-of gateway into feminist thought for teenage girls. For me, they were certainly a rude awakening.

Stack of Magazines

Celebrity Status

by Hani Fish-Bieler

I don’t think I fully understood the importance of my mother's words at the time. But looking back, this lesson, and being raised in a household that constantly preached passion and hard work over vanity, are some of the things that have shaped me most into who I am today.

Topics: Feminism, Motherhood
High School Graduation Photo of Rising Voices Fellow Ariela Basson

The Beauty of Insignificance

by Ariela Basson

I wouldn’t really say I write for change. In theory, yes, that’s a wonderful idea: the idea that everything can be changed through the power of the pen (or should I say keyboard), but I honestly don’t believe that’s true in my case.

Topics: Feminism, Writing
Maya Franks Photo Collage

I Am My Own Person and Proud

by Maya Franks

Each day when you wake up in the morning, you have a choice. You can be positive, or you can be negative. Sometimes people blame what choice they make in the morning on what is going on in their lives, be it trivial or life threatening issues. I am one of those people.

Topics: Feminism

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