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Finding A Community

2015-2016 Rising Voices Fellowship cohort selfie

It’s 1:00 AM and the only sounds in my house are the clocks ticking and the sound of my fingers typing steadily on my keyboard. I roll over, kick my math textbook to the side, and pause, my fingers hovering over the keys as I think about the best way to articulate what I want to say. I pull my blanket up around me and skim through the various articles I have open on my computer about feminism, intersectionality, privilege, Judaism, the usual. I like being the only one awake in my house so that my thoughts can breathe. I rub my eyes tiredly and finish off my article smiling. I open an email, attach the document, and hit send. Then I triumphantly close my computer, which is covered in stickers that say things like “Flawless,” and, “On Wednesdays we smash the patriarchy,” then stand up and stretch. The clock now says 1:45 as I grab a siddur (Jewish prayer book) and murmur the evening prayer. Then, limbs aching, I go upstairs, wash up, and throw myself into bed. As I sleep bits of thoughts about female confidence and the history of the Jewish people float around in my head.

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. My peer editor and I spend the first half hour of our skype sessions catching up and talking about prom and college and the second half editing each other's articles and laughing. We wave to each other's parents who we’ve met over skype multiple times. There are twelve of us young Jewish feminist writers scattered across the country. In each of our schools we are the "token feminist" or "token Jew" but together we are a community of passionate, thoughtful, young women who are going to make a difference.

I spend a weekend on the Upper West Side with a Rising Voices friend. Before Shabbos comes in we snapchat our whole Rising Voices crew and get lots of heart emojis sent back from twelve teenage Jewish feminists across the country.  We go to multiple synagogues and analyze the services to no end. We stay up late discussing mental health, college campuses, and Jewish continuity. And another Rising Voices friend from New Jersey takes the train to come hang out with us. We walk through Riverside Park, swinging hands and laughing. We sing zmirot (Jewish songs) as the sun sets just because it feels right.

Our retreats are full of the best kind of pluralism. Everyone is uncomfortable. Everyone is being pushed and forced to learn and grow from each other. And we love every minute of it. We have sessions with guest speakers about Taylor Swift or redefining the Jewish ritual bath and then we sit in a circle in the grass in our free time and continue the discussion. When we’re not together, we Facebook message each other about what’s going on in our lives and how we feel about that New York Times article we all read. We support each other's creative endeavors as we get into college, start websites, and get articles published elsewhere.

So even though when I wake up at 6:30 for school and I’m exhausted and I didn't finish my genetics homework, it’s okay. Because I have a community to go to after someone makes a misogynistic comment in class. It’s okay because for some reason people read my articles and learn from them and talk to me and to each other about them. It’s okay because getting four hours of sleep a couple nights a month is a small price to pay for the conversations I’m starting in my community. It’s okay that I’m tired in the morning because this program has supported me, changed me, touched me and taught me. 

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Feminism, Writing
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This article makes me so excited to be a RV fellow for the next year! Thank you for sharing your experience so eloquently; it sounds incredible and I can't believe I'm going to get to do the same thing starting next weekend!

How to cite this page

Bickel, Rana. "Finding A Community." 3 June 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 10, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/finding-community>.

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