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Rising Voices

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

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. 

Rising Voices Fellow Molly Pifko at her Bat Mitzvah

My (Eloquent, Intelligent, and Inspiring) Rabbi

Rabbi Emily Mathis always seems to know the right thing to say. I remember being a little girl looking up at her on the Bimah during Friday night services, and wondering how she produced such beautiful and meaningful speech. I had the opportunity to speak with her recently, and I found myself wondering how she was able to answer so many of my questions before I had even asked them. 

Arlene Fickler

Different Stories, Same Meaning

A longtime fixture in the Philadelphia Jewish community, Arlene has been president of our synagogue for the past four years, overseeing numerous changes in shul clergy, staff, and financial circumstances. She’s everywhere all the time, attending board meetings, giving announcements from the bima, schmoozing with congregants at services. 

Rising Voices Fellow Lili Klayman and Family

A Woman And Her Journey To Better A Community

My grandmother Elaine Fallon was born in 1938 and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. Social activism has played a major role throughout her life, even though her involvement started later than one would expect. Since her introduction to feminism and activism, Elaine has been a key figure in voicing the importance of education throughout her community. 

Rising Voices Fellow Maya Jodidio with her Aunt

Because There's More to Russian Jews than Borscht

My aunt and I share so much more than our smile, passion for math and science, and college (go Barnard!). Our strongest and arguably our most important similarity lies in our shared sense of civic responsibility. Although I still have more to learn about social justice work, my aunt is the perfect model of a passionate, hard-working, and persevering activist.

RVF Fellow Diana Myers with a Copy of Lilith

Overcoming Opposition

It takes great courage to challenge authority when you’re a high school student. At that stage in your life, school comprises much of your world, and your relationship with school determines many aspects of your future. Although many school administrations might not encourage dissent, learning to stand up to injustice is as essential a skill for a young person to learn as calculus or chemistry. Of course, administrations are not the only unjust systems that teenagers typically encounter at school: it also takes great courage to stand up against the rigid social hierarchy that characterizes many student populations.

Topics: Activism
Rising Voices Fellow, Madisen Siegel '16-'17 at January Retreat

Being Fearlessly Feminist

Radical things happen when women come together. Whether it’s to plan a strike, march for the right to vote, or use their networks to spread information about birth control, when women come together, the establishment trembles. As Bella Abzug reminds us, “the establishment is made up of little men, very frightened.” If history is any indication, women who are brave enough to speak out can create an earthquake of social change, shattering any delusions little men may have about women and women’s equality.

Topics: Feminism
2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellows during book swap

Rising Voices Fellows Daring to be Themselves

With so many issues and challenges facing the world today, it’s easy to believe that effecting change must happen on a large scale in order to make an impact. However, small actions can often make big waves, and for teenage girls, one of the most radical and brave things you can do is be yourself. In a world that actively encourages teens to conform, sit still, and stay silent, having the courage to be your authentic self is no small feat, and it can have a lasting impact on the surrounding culture.

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellows

Rising Voices and Rising Activists

At some point in their development, almost all young feminists must figure out how to balance participation in inherently patriarchal institutions with their burgeoning feminist sensibilities. This balancing act can be particularly tricky for young women raised in organized religions, which are often even more explicit about their sexist practices than other institutions.

Justina Machado

A Tale of Two Quinces: How One Day at a Time Blends Tradition and Modernity

One Day at a Time is about a Latino family…Oh wait, you thought I was talking about that show from the seventies about a single mother raising her daughter? Well I am. Sort of. The Netflix reboot of One Day at a Time (ODAAT) tells the story of Penelope Alvarez, an army vet, current nurse, and single mother who shares the screen with her two children and her mother. 

Rising Voices Fellow Molly Pifko Dressed as Princess Leia

The Women of Star Wars: Princesses and Jedi

When I was ten years old, I dressed up as Princess Leia for Halloween. I dressed up as her because I admired her, and because I felt like I had no choice. My brother and I were both deep in our Star Wars phases, and I knew I had to match his Darth Vader costume with an iconic character of my own. Of course, as a little girl, there weren’t many iconic female characters to choose from, but I didn’t mind too much at the time. 

Topics: Children, Film
Emma Stone

The 21st Century Scarlet Letter: A Look at How the High School Rumor Mill Affects Teenage Sexuality

I was a sophomore when I first stumbled across Easy A on my Netflix browser one lonely Friday night. The green poster, exclaiming in bold lettering, “Let’s Not and Say We Did,” was the first thing to pop up under the “Top Picks For Hannah” banner. It instantly grabbed my attention. Intrigued, I clicked play. 

Topics: Schools, Film, Fiction
Rising Voices Fellow Aliza Abusch-Magder

Radical Feminist Idea: Independent Identity

Her struggles are relatable, and her story is compelling, giving hope that we too can break free from the patriarchy. By talking about her life with such brutal honesty, Liz Gilbert provides a cautionary tale for women about what happens when we define ourselves by our relationships with men. 

Penelope and the Suitors

Penelope’s Feminist Odyssey

Throughout The Odyssey, Penelope, Odysseus' wife, is characterized as constant, virtuous, and patient. She’s seen as the epitome of faithful wifeliness for her refusal to marry a suitor and for her belief that Odysseus will return. Her character is two-dimensional and, for the most part, irrelevant to Odysseus' escapades. 

Logo for The Bachelor

Is "The Bachelor" Here for the Right Reasons?

It’s late Monday evening. I’m snuggled up on the couch in my living room, popcorn rapidly flying into my mouth. My eyes are glued to the TV screen in front of me. I can’t look away from the scene of a handful of girls and one guy bouncing around the beach on some exotic island. It’s Bachelor time.

Topics: Television
Cast of Orange is the New Black

The Truth Behind Orange Is the New Black

Even though the series successfully portrays many failures of prisons, the show occasionally misrepresents the hardships people face. OITNB may have its viewers talking about feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, and so much more, but the series needs some work when it comes to elevating the voices of less privileged women and portraying the abuse they face.

Topics: Television

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on November 21, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.

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