The Rising Voices Fellowship is open to female-identified teens with a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism—particularly as it relates to issues of gender and social justice. Learn more and meet the Rising Voices Fellows of 2016-2017!
The Rising Voices Fellowship is funded in part by a grant from the Hadassah Foundation.
Elle Woods was one of my favorite heroines growing up, and I was not only in love with her sparkly outfits, but also with her fiery personality. It had been a couple years since I had watched the movie, but I caught myself thinking about Elle’s story as I walked around Harvard Square with my friend a few weeks ago. So, I decided to watch Legally Blonde again.
I am one of the biggest grammar freaks that I know. I proudly count myself as a “soldier of the subjunctive,” and I find cartoons about comma placement to be hilarious-- so it may come as a surprise that I was excited when The American Dialect Society voted an ”incorrect” use of English to be the defining word of 2015. The word in question? The singular “they.”
I am the funniest person I know. Out of all of the aspects of my identity, my sense of humor is probably my favorite. I say my jokes loudly; I laugh at the things I say even if nobody else does. Shari Short asserts in her article, "Jewish Funny", that humor is a common ground for Jews. Self-deprecation and sprinklings of Yiddish go a long way when identifying fellow members of the Tribe by jokes alone.
Bess Myerson, the one and only Jewish Miss America, was crowned winner in 1945. Jordyn Rozensky’s 2013 JWA blog post, Here She Comes….Miss America, discusses the influence Myerson had on America and on the Jewish community following her big win. Myerson was the first Jewish woman to win the pageant, and she experienced significant antisemitism as a result. Despite these challenges, Myerson channeled her fame into doing good—she became active with the Anti-Defamation League and launched a successful political career.
As soon as anyone tries to say that feminism is about women’s rights alone, someone pops up and points out that it’s a movement about equality. But if that person then turns around and says that men are inherently sexist or that men cannot be victims of sexism, they contradict themselves. Sexism towards men is real. It’s a parent telling their son, “big boys don’t cry.” It’s a boy feeling unable to ask for help because he’s afraid of being perceived as weak.
I remember my excitement upon hearing about Yeshivat Maharat’s ordination of women. As a supporter of female Jewish leadership in all of its forms, I was thrilled at the idea. Evidently, Jessica Cavanagh-Melhado, a contributor to JWA’s blog, felt the same way. In June 2013, she wrote a piece entitled, We Begin to Become a Multitude. In the piece, she describes her experience attending the first ever ordination of women as open Orthodox female spiritual leaders.
The world of Jewish women seems to be divided on the J.A.P. issue. Is it a positive term? Or is it a harmful one that reinforces negative stereotypes? In her article, Reclaim the J.A.P. ,for JWA’s blog, Alana Kayfetz argues that while most connotations of J.A.P. are harmful, we as Jewish women should work to redefine the term as follows: a J.A.P. is a powerful woman who is confident and willing to work hard to get what she wants.
In her November 2013 post for JWA’s blog, Marissa Harrington-Verb wrote about the challenges and critiques her mother faced with regard to her attachment parenting. Many people, including women, would critique Marissa’s mother for her very involved approach to parenting. Ultimately, Marissa argued that feminism is the freedom to make a choice. I could not agree more with Marissa’s point.
A lot of people leave Orthodoxy because of the sexism. Honestly, it’s really hard to stay. Being a teenager with friends who are all forming their identities, I struggle with this a lot. Many of my friends are leaving the movement because they are tired of tirelessly fighting, enduring, and never being equal.
Tony nominated playwright Elizabeth Swados raised our consciousness; she opened our eyes and dared us all to dance. Swados gave much to the world: theater, the gift of herself, one who constantly seeks truth and justice, and a strong female leader. Liz Swados also impacted my life in a very personal way- she taught me the meaning of community.
On June 13th, 2013, three women graduated from the Yeshivat Maharat and were ordained with the title of maharat, or female spiritual leader. Even then, the Rabbinic Counsel of America (RCA) refused to recognize these women as part of the Orthodox Rabbinate. This is a two steps forward, one step back situation.
Every Thursday, the Jewish Standard, a community newspaper catered to the diverse North Jersey and Rockland County Jewish populations, is delivered to my house just in time for Shabbat. When I was younger, I used to look forward to its arrival. I would straighten out the pages and perch on the couch like the adults I saw on television, immersing myself in the cultural happenings of my local Jewish community.
As a child, I would play “school.” I would pretend to be the teacher, and my siblings and stuffed animals were my students. Although it was a curriculum based on Barbies and Legos, I was attracted early on to sharing my knowledge. It was rewarding to stand in front of the “class,” lecture, and ask questions.
When I think of former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, the first thing that comes to my mind is her shoes. A fearlessly bright shade of pink, this choice of footwear made headlines across the country when Davis debuted them…at an eleven-hour filibuster to prevent a vote on a bill that would have mandated the closure of most Texas abortion clinics.
Two great loves that I’ve discovered in high school are politics and coffee. These are two critical elements of who I am today, but one would think they rarely intersect. That’s what I thought too—until Stav Shaffir came along and gave Israeli politics a total caffeine jolt. Stav Shaffir is a young female member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), a star to be sure.
Religious leaders aren’t normally considered cool by teenagers, but Pope Francis is most definitely an exception. As a teenager myself, I can say that the Catholic Church was not at all on my radar until he started making waves.
I live in a town where Bernie Sanders merchandise adorns front yards and backpacks, school clubs like the GTSA (Gay-Trans-Straight Alliance) and Students Against Human Trafficking have the largest followings, introducing yourself with pronouns is required, and discussions on issues like the refugee crisis and racial inequality are held in both the classroom and the cafeteria. It’s a liberal bubble in a world with increasingly pervasive conservatism, and while many members of my town are wonderfully open about acceptance of liberal issues, kids at school are ostracized for identifying as Republican.
I grew up bilingual. From a young age, my parents, who are not Israeli, spoke to me in Hebrew because they felt it was an important skill to have. My ability to communicate with people outside of the English-speaking world has always felt like an incredible privilege. Although I love being able to find deeper meaning in the things I say through my dual-vocabulary, it’s the ability to share stories with people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to understand them, and the ability to hear theirs, that I find most important.
This lady is my German RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and let’s not even discuss what would happen if I were to bump into RBG at a coffee shop. For anyone who might not know, Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany (2005-present), and is the first woman to hold the position.
Donald Trump isn’t a name thrown around fondly in my social circles. I’d say I live comfortably in a liberal bubble, one which sees Donald Trump as an overblown joke. With the upcoming election, his name has become a household one, and is uttered with callousness and a little bit of fear. As primaries are approaching and poll results are flying in, I’m becoming uneasy about Donald Trump’s viability as a presidential candidate.
Recently, American women came under attack. And I’m not talking about a dozen women, or even a hundred women. Earlier this year, each and every one of the estimated 160 million women living in the United States of America was threatened by an attack which, had it succeeded, would have set women’s rights back to the early 1900s.
Marwa Sayed was the first Hijabi I ever met. I was a freshman in high school and she was a junior. A force to be reckoned with, she terrified me. She had strong convictions for equality and justice from which she did not back down. I served on student council with her at Boston University Academy (the high school we both attended) for two years, and during that time she led the charge to abolish the dress code and to establish gender neutral bathrooms.
As a teenage girl who has had a consistent, though definitively low key, internet presence since I was 12, I have witnessed the rise and fall of many-a carefully tailored persona. Online venues (Tumblr being the most recent and preeminent, but MySpace before this) provide a space for young people to pick the best bits and pieces of themselves, and to cut and paste them together into some straw man fallacy of a person.
I am a member of the Marching Band and Color Guard at my high school. One challenge that we face as a group year after year is designing our costumes. The easy part is making the design fit with the show’s theme. The harder part is designing something to wear that everyone is happy with.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on December 6, 2016) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.