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Rising Voices

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

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Molly Pifko with her Bat Mitzvah Project Display

Honey and Hanukah: How Food Justice has shaped my Judaism

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

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

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

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!

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

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

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

“‘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.”

NFTY STR Spring Kallah 2016

Leading a Sea of Voices

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

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

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

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

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

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, Mothers
High School Graduation Photo of Rising Voices Fellow Ariela Basson

The Beauty of Insignificance

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. Would I love if my blog posts really inspired people and made them want to change the world around them? Yes! But I know that’s probably not the case. In fact, I think it would be a little naïve rather than ambitious of me to think that.

Topics: Feminism, Writing
Maya Franks Photo Collage

I Am My Own Person and Proud

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
Rising Voices Fellow Gabi Cantor Before Senior Prom

My Not So Picture Perfect Prom

As a little girl, I dreamed of when I would be in high school and would get to attend my high school prom. I always thought that it would be just like what I saw in the movies - I would be asked by the boy of my dreams, I would go to the mall with my friends to find the perfect dress, and I would spend the morning getting ready with my friends. Then my date would ring my doorbell, we’d take pictures on a grand staircase, he’d sweep me off my feet and away to prom, where we would dance the night away and take home the titles of Prom King and Queen. It would be perfect. 

Delaney Hoffman with a Camp Friend

On Feminism’s Place in a Conventional Summer Space

My summer camp has rats in the walls and rotting wooden decks and haunted basements. My summer camp is hot and cold, made up of love and hate and freedom and restriction and myth and reality. My summer camp is more corrupt than the Brazilian government but still comforting enough to call it a religion. My summer camp is where I grew up two weeks at a time. 

That '70s Show

Man Up

In that masterwork of the western cannon, Fox TV’s That 70’s Show, the main character Eric Foreman is a wimp. The viewer knows he’s a wimp because of numerous running gags, including his friends mocking him for his action figures and Spiderman sheets. He is derided for his childish things, unlike another member of the gang, Jackie (a woman), whose obsession with unicorns is considered cute. This running gag is telling of a larger phenomenon, that men are expected to move on from childhood more quickly than women.  

2015-2016 Rising Voices Fellow Eliana Gayle-Schneider

Why I Write

Two driving forces in my life are creativity and passion. These qualities have always gone hand in hand. As I have grown through the years, my love for writing and my passion for activism have blended into one tremendous, creative, passionate, one-act play.

Feminist Relics in Rising Voices Fellow Sarah Groustra's Room

Cool Girls Club

When I was nine, I idolized Hermione Granger. I had just finished the Harry Potter series, and I was convinced that she was everything I aspired to be--bookish and intelligent, a powerful witch who stood up for what she believed in, but who could also snag the world’s best Quidditch player as a prom date. 

Rising Voices Fellow Abby Richmond Selling Her First Book

Using My Words

My world completely changed when I learned how to read in first grade. From that time forward, I brought books with me everywhere I went. As a shy girl who rarely had the courage to speak her mind, I learned to make friends with characters in cozy novels. 

Empty Journal

A Journalistic Odyssey: Or, Why I write obsessively

I’ve kept a journal since I was ten years old-- just over a third of my life. After seven years of writing, I’ve filled eighteen notebooks, all of which I’ve kept in a box under my bed. I can get lost for hours in these old volumes; I’ve been known to lose full weekend evenings to re-reading my thoughts from sixth grade. 

2015-2016 Rising Voices Fellowship Cohort Selfie

Finding A Community

Such is the life of a Rising Voices Fellow.  Late nights full of soul searching and edited drafts covered in red. Going to sleep feeling like your latest piece is worse than your third grade diary, and waking up realizing it’s halfway decent. But it’s not just about the writing. 

Rising Voices Fellow Noam Green Eating Sauerkraut

Reclaiming Shtetl Life in 2016

In looking forward into my near future, I’ve seen it fit to look into my distant past for inspiration and as a guide. I’ll soon be leaving my childhood home and will be tasked with forging a life and identity separate from that which I had with my parents. I’m an Ashkenazi Jew, one that has always felt connected to the “old country,” so to say. 

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on December 12, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.

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