This month our Rising Voices Fellows reflect on their experiences of the fellowship over the past year. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.
As my year in the Rising Voices Fellowship comes to a close, it is time to look back on the experience and look forward to my next adventures as a student, a writer, and a teenager. RVF has allowed me to explore Judaism, feminism and blogging in ways I never have before. I have learned many small and meaningful lessons over this year, but I found the most important material taught about writing—and life—that I learned from Rising Voices fit neatly into three parts: looking back, living in the present, and moving forward.
These blog posts are often about topics I have never explored on my own. Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes each year, and for the most part, I pass it by, thankful for the day off from school. Until now. Rising Voices gave me the opportunity to confront my own beliefs and discover my opinions and thoughts on Dr. King’s legacy—and a wide range of other topics. For MLK Jr. Day, I was confronted with the idea of the power I hold to change a culture that is still ingrained with discrimination. I was afforded the time and space to reflect on my experiences and pull out what I carry with me from each one. At times, it can be really difficult to write for an audience of strangers about events in my life that carry heavy weight. I have found, however, that the pieces that are hardest to write because of their personal aspect are the ones of which I am most proud.
Present: Learn As Much As You Can
Each month the Rising Voices fellows have a webinar to discuss writing techniques, check in, and learn our next prompt. Each month I keep a Google page open next to the video chat screen. The fellows and the guests we bring to the conversation each month are among the most intelligent women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And one of them is always bound to mention something I have never heard of. At one virtual meeting, we brought up Passover, the old traditions from the time of the Israelites, and the new ones we have adopted in recent times. One fellow mentioned adding an orange to the Seder plate, which I had thought was in support of women taking leadership in Jewish practice. Instead, she explained that the orange is a symbol of acceptance for the LGBTQ community as welcome members of the Jewish people. It’s these times when I sometimes feel shallow or sheltered because I am unaware of the issues facing Jews all over the world, but these topics are opportunities to learn, and I try not to let a single one pass by.
Future: Take Your Time
I am a perfectionist. I like to get everything done in a neat and orderly fashion, well before a deadline. Unfortunately for me, that is not how life works. This year I have found that everything takes time. Once our monthly prompt is revealed, I have an urge to begin writing and complete the process that very night. That tends to be a rather counterproductive idea, as the prompts come out on school nights, and writing can take quite a while. Instead, I have taught myself to write down only the initial concepts that come to mind, to make sure I do not forget. Then, at many points later in time, I will sit, write, edit, write, edit, and edit some more. The piece will take shape bit by bit, and nothing I do will make it happen any faster. The slower process is, at times, still frustrating, but I have been able to apply this particular lesson to more than just my Rising Voices writing. There has been a conscious shift in my life from focusing on speed of completion to the quality of the final product.
I am so grateful to Rising Voices, Prozdor, and the Jewish Women’s Archive for allowing me to explore blogging, Judaism, and feminism. The lessons I have learned will travel with me for the rest of my life.