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Rising Voices

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

Food for Thought

by Eden Olsberg

As a resident of Massachusetts, I urge you to fight against any incoming bills that could harm SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the millions of Americans who cannot feed themselves or their families without it.  

Topics: Food, Social Policy
Charlie Baker

Tuition-Free College: Good for Students and Good for Massachusetts

by Lili Klayman

My name is Lili Klayman, and I am a junior at Mansfield High School. I am writing to you in the hopes that you and your administration will consider implementing tuition-free college for students in Massachusetts who struggle to pay for college. Many of my fellow students are unable to attend college due to their socioeconomic status; this is simply unfair, and prohibits promising students from reaching their full potential, and contributing all they can to society. 

Senator Jeff Klein

Dear Jeff Klein

by Abigail Fisher

With the recent election of a president who has a deleterious agenda, I have grown to depend on my representation more and more. Votes against reckless healthcare plans and sweeping immigration legislation are not merely important, but vital. Now more than ever, our district deserves outspoken representatives who vote their conscience, and accurately represent the needs of their constituents. 

Senator Robert Menendez

Bob (the Senator), can he fix it?

by Maya Jodidio

Last June, David Friedman, the current U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote an article for Arutz Sheva, a Zionist newspaper. His article discussed “how dangerous the Jewish left is to the State of Israel” and called liberal Jews “far worse than kapos–Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.” On March 23rd of this year, Mr. Menendez, you were one of only two Democrats who voted for David Friedman as the U.S. ambassador to Israel. 

Congressman Jamie Raskin

Gerrymandering Isn't an Issue for Maryland Alone

by Isabel Kirsch

As a committed Democrat, it might seem counterproductive for me to oppose something that makes this disproportionately Democratic congressional representation possible. However, I see gerrymandering in Maryland as part of a much larger national problem, and I urge you to use your platform as a federal representative to address it. 

Topics: Civil Service
Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney

Please, Sir, May We Have Some More?

by Diana Myers

I have attended city public schools all my life, and know firsthand the various difficulties Philadelphia students have faced over the years, especially those as a result of extensive budget cuts. Even though I’m very fortunate to go to a high-performing and well-funded school, I’m aware that that’s not the case for every school in the city. 

Students Studying in College Library

Balancing Academic Freedom and the Right to Bear Arms

by Hannah Himmelgreen

Gun control is an undeniably controversial topic, and while an individual may be entitled to their constitutional right to bear arms, allowing unrestricted carry of weapons does nothing to prevent mass school violence.  

Congressman Lee Zeldin

Through a Jewish Lens: An Argument for Safe, Legal Abortion

by Madisen Siegel

My name is Madisen Siegel. I am an 18-year- old, soon-to-be-registered voter in the first district of New York. As one of your constituents, and a young adult who just moved to New York–fresh from the malls and suburbia of northern New Jersey–I am concerned about your stance on healthcare, and I am asking you to re-think your position, especially when it comes to abortion. 

Statue of Liberty

The Safe Communities Act: Empathetic Immigration Reform

by Molly Pifko

I’m writing to urge your support of the Safe Communities Act, a bill that would ensure that Massachusetts resources are not used to support discriminatory and needlessly harsh deportation policies against immigrants in our state. 

Rising Voices Fellow Sarah Biskowitz with Grandmother Helene

A Girl Grows Up in Brooklyn

by Sarah Biskowitz

“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

by Hannah Himmelgreen

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

by Aliza Abusch-Magder

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

by Isabel Kirsch

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. 

Topics: Holocaust, Medicine
Rising Voices Fellow Madisen Siegel with her Best Friend Lucy

She Has Pink Hair and Just Doesn't Care

by Madisen Siegel

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.

Topics: Schools, Music, Cantors
Katy Ronkin and Rhoda Nissenbaum

Saturdays with Rhoda

by Katy Ronkin

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! 

Topics: Activism, Volunteers
Tess Kelly's Grandparents

The Last Question

by Tess Kelly

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

by Eden Olsberg

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

by Abigail Fisher

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

by Molly Pifko

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. 

2015-2016 Rising Voices Fellow Caroline Kubzansky

RVF Alumna Spotlight: Caroline Kubzansky

by Abby Richmond

This interview spotlights Caroline Kubzansky, a senior at Washington DC’s Edmund Burke School and an alumna of the 2015-2016 cohort of JWA's Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Journalism
Arlene Fickler

Different Stories, Same Meaning

by Diana Myers

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

by Lili Klayman

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

by Maya Jodidio

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

by Emily Cataneo

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

by Bella Book

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

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