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 or apply for 2017-2018!
The Rising Voices Fellowship is funded in part by a grant from the Hadassah Foundation.
It's Friday night. I'm sitting in a big tent, surrounded by some of the greatest friends I've ever made. The smell of chicken soup wafts under our noses. A man walks to the front of the room, and we smile and link pinkies with the people next to us. This is it. The moment we’ve been waiting for all week. I take a deep breath and close my eyes as he begins in Hebrew...
When the second half of 8th grade arrived, I was faced with what my 13-year old self believed was the most important decision I would ever have to make in my entire life. I had to choose a youth group to join. Even though Denver has fewer options than most cities, I was still overwhelmed by my choices.
If there’s one thing that characterized my formal Jewish education, it would have to be my profound dislike of it. Though I’ve always felt deeply connected to my Judaism, both culturally and religiously, organized religious school was extremely difficult for me.
My activism takes the form of words. Words that tiptoe out of my mouth and gently push others on a path towards justice. But increasingly I find myself not being able to speak. Why? Because being an activist is making me miserable.
I love student council. I’ve served on student councils since sixth grade. Contrary to what television says, student council races are rarely competitive. In fact, I’ve only been in one race where there was actually an opponent, and even then it was pretty clear who was going to win. My sophomore year in high school, three people ran for three spots each year so there wasn’t even voting. Still, we had to give speeches.
If you know anything about me, you know that I love Hillary Clinton. I’ve been infatuated with Hillary since 2008 when she ran against Barack Obama. One of the most iconic pictures from my childhood is a blurry photo of eight-year-old me holding a sloppily drawn sign for Hillary on Super Tuesday of that year. I didn’t know too much about politics back then, but I knew fervently that Hillary was my favorite candidate.
A large part of my upbringing was my exposure to progressive education. My middle school was one that nourished not only a love for learning, but a well-rounded approach to diversity in any form it may take, including sexual orientation. However, I learned that even this inclusivity was an extraordinary privilege and not everyone, my own parents included, was raised in such a tolerant community.
I’ll admit it—I own a power outfit. And it was only a few weeks ago that I woke up in a D.C. hotel room, put on my pressed skirt and my sensible (but classy) black heels, and took a bus with my friends to Capitol Hill. I remember listening to my shoes click on the marble floor, shuffling through printed pages of talking points, a nervous, excited energy rising from the center of my stomach.
I was a relatively passive preteen. I was stuck in this mentality that my life wasn’t really going to start until I was older, that everything until then was just filler. Looking back at it now, I can acknowledge the internalized adultism that clouded my perception of the world, but am still regretful of this period of stagnation in my life.
I once told a friend of mine that I think Grease is horribly sexist because the plot is basically: girl changes herself to get the guy. He responded, “I always thought it was her throwing off negative social norms. It’s not like the whole goody two shoes thing was good.” His sentiments versus my own are the crux of the argument about whether Grease is a sexist movie, or one that supports feminist ideals.
My favorite movie [The Princess Bride], though strikingly Jewish, is not particularly feminist. It’s not just that it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (because let’s be real how many movies do?), it’s because the female protagonist, Buttercup, is seemingly incapable of doing anything on her own.
Tyra Banks. What comes to mind when you hear that name? For you, maybe a middle-aged woman who has been riding a franchise for too long. However, what comes to mind for me is a strong, African American woman who has had a wildly successful career, first as a model, and more recently as one of the creators and judges on the TV show, America’s Next Top Model. ANTM originally was intended to humanize the modeling career, however, as of recent, it has done nothing but the polar opposite.
This winter, Ben Higgins graced our TV screens once again in his search for love on ABC’s hit reality show, The Bachelor. As an avid (yet ashamed) Bachelor viewer, I’ve been thinking about everything wrong with this show. From the degrading one-sided relationships, to what is expected of the women on the painfully cheesy dates, there are so many things wrong with this show; and don’t even get me started with the lack of diversity!
Woody Allen’s name is synonymous with New York City Jewry and avant-garde art; he is the poster boy for the guilt ridden, philosophically burdened, emotionally stunted kvetcher that we are all familiar with. Allen’s characters are recognizable—carrying pieces of our relatives, our community members, and ourselves. Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan, and Fading Gigolo, to name a few, place a strong emphasis on Jewish culture and idiosyncrasies, connecting to both a broad, general audience, that responds to the novelty, and to the specific tastes of Jews.
Joy is a cute movie, to say the most. Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Joy Mangano, is a housewife who strives to become a businesswoman despite the men in her life advising her against it. On the surface, this is a powerful story about a woman coming into her own; a working class woman in the late 80s who moves beyond her meager station in life to make a name for herself.
I wrote my most important college admissions essay about The Big Lebowski. This is probably less indicative of my commitment to higher education, and more indicative of my unabashed love of the unstoppable film duo that is The Coen Brothers.
For all that I am the outspoken, proud nerd in my school life, for all that I try to speak up for my views and ask questions in academic settings, for all that I am confidently liberal in conservative settings— I am distinctly self-conscious about all of it.
On December 17, I joined millions of people around the world in a line. Now this was no ordinary line. In front of me stood Chewbacca, and behind me several Stormtroopers waited patiently. This was the line to see the latest and possibly greatest movie in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens. That evening, I joined fans both young and old in delighting in the marvels of another world. I lost myself in the journey of Rey and Finn, cheering for their victories and crying at their defeats.
The West Wing is, in my opinion, one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It’s the perfect balance of seriousness and comedy, with enough storylines to keep you interested but not too many to get confused. It’s intellectual, but totally engaging. The characters are witty and lovable. I could go on about my love of The West Wing for hours. And I wouldn’t be done.
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.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on January 19, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.