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Giving Back with Repair the World

By JumpSpark

In December of 2021, Jumpspark’s Strong Women Fellowship gathered at The Weber School to meet with Lily Brent, the Executive Director of Repair the World, and Emma Burns, who is serving as a fellow with the organization. Repair the World is an Atlanta-based, Jewish organization focused on delivering equity to communities and people affected by poverty, food insecurity, and unequal accessibility to education. The organization has taken up a multitude of causes ranging from period poverty, to hurricane relief and The One America Movement, which serves to unite the nation to combat the growth in polarization over many issues. 

The group began with an activity where sheets of paper with statements were placed around the room. We were instructed to take some time to read each sheet and stand by the one we felt most connected to. The sheets read statements of advice such as, “Listen much more than you talk” and “Be aware that things you might take for granted might be scarce or unavailable to others.” Once each of us was standing with a paper, we went around the room reading our statements, introducing ourselves, and explaining why we felt connected to that specific piece of advice. 

We then turned to the back of the room where tables were piled with period products. Fellows were asked to bring packages of pads and tampons to later pack bags with. As a group, we were given instructions on how to fill a period pack and began organizing the supplies into bags which would later be distributed to those suffering from menstrual inequality. The period packs made during the event were donated to The Homeless Period Project, an organization with the goal of collecting and distributing menstrual products to cities around the United States. Many people with periods are unable to afford typical menstrual products due to its high price and inaccessibility within some communities. 

This experience with Repair the World enlightened many of us on what we take for granted in our everyday lives. Before being exposed to the struggles of people who are faced with period poverty, I never thought twice about my easy access to basic hygiene products; however, I now feel the privilege of being able to easily drive to a Walgreens and buy whatever products I need. Many people in America and around the world either cannot afford or do not have access to basic human necessities. Fortunately, there are many organizations, like Repair the World, who collect hygiene and menstrual products and create packages to support donation drives. As a community, we need to stand with and support our neighbors in any way we can; whether it’s through donating, volunteering, or advocating for political change, there is always a way to help.

Exploring Gender and Judaism with SOJOURN

By JumpSpark

Many teens who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community struggle daily with accepting their own identities due to the hetero-normative society that we live in. Learning about the struggles that LGBTQ+ youth go through is an essential step in creating an accepting and supportive community in our schools, homes, and workplaces. SOJOURN is creating huge strides to educate and support the Southern, Jewish community on these issues, to ultimately better our community.

On October 3rd, the young leaders of the Strong Women Fellowship had the pleasure of learning from McKenzie Wren from SOJOURN. McKenzie is the program coordinator of the organization. SOJOURN’s goal is to empower communities to advance and celebrate gender and sexual diversity across the South through education, outreach, advocacy, and support. 

Our session was focused on the pillar of education, primarily focused on gender. We learned about the Gender Spectrum, the difference between gender identity and gender expression, the vocabulary used to describe different gender identities and sexual orientations, and tied gender back to Judaism. We were given the space to ask uncomfortable questions that people often fear to ask. Those who didn’t previously understand the gender spectrum were given the opportunity to learn in a non-judgmental space. The fellows had a very positive experience with SOJOURN and felt comfortable in the community that was created. 

I am interested in the idea of the gender spectrum and hope to study Gender and Women Studies in college, so this session drew me in. I learned interesting facts about how to further explore this topic and was able to engage in meaningful conversation with my peers. The conversation of gender is usually tip-toed around and it is important to discuss it in a productive and welcoming way. This is exactly what we experienced with SOJOURN.

Making Jewish Memories

By JumpSpark

What comes to mind when you think of your earliest Jewish memory? For me, I remember my dad teaching me the Shema when I was five years old. The last line instructs us to “inscribe them [mezuzot] on the doorposts of your house and your gates.” My dad explained that because of this instruction, there are mezuzot on the doorway entrances of buildings and rooms and we kiss it as a sign of respect. Naturally, I took that to the extreme and whenever we would sing the last line of the prayer, I would sprint to the mezuzah in my room to kiss it and run back before finishing the last few words of the prayer. This happened every night for years during my childhood. Nobody stopped me- it was my first Jewish memory that exemplified experiential Judaism as it related to my five-year-old life at the time.  

Fast forward twenty years later and I have continued to experience Jewish moments and create new Jewish memories that are instilled in the concept of experiential Judaism. As a kid into my teens, I attended Jewish summer camp and ultimately forged a Jewish identity that could be seen in my plethora of camp t-shirts, singing camp songs to my heart’s content, and experiencing the Hebrew language as part of daily camp life. My teenage years featured endless amounts of USY, undertaking the value of Tikkun Olam as a value in my life (that would remain for years to come), and my first critical thinking opportunities as it related to being Jewish. In college, I learned how to advocate as a Jewish woman, combat ignorance, and work as a Jewish leader as a camp counselor and unit head. Most recently, I traveled to Israel for the first time as an Atlanta Community Birthright participant, served as a JumpSpark Strong Women mentor, and continue to create new friendships in the Atlanta Jewish Yong Professionals community. So, in a true Talmudic analytical questioning, “what does it all mean?” 

Your memories stay with you as they each represent a small impactful experience in your life. Jewish experiences build upon one another to not only create a rolodex of memories to look back upon, but to also create a strong identity built upon years of experiences, albeit positive and negative. I’m grateful to my Jewish community for curating a Jewish experience that allowed me to grow, question, challenge, and thrive into a prideful Jewish young adult. 

As I look back on my own memories, I can see the challenges and many opportunities that teens and young adults face in their Jewish journeys today. My goal while working as a Jewish professional is to create Jewish experiences and build relationships to find your “running to the mezuzah” moments- what ultimately connects and excites you to being Jewish that will serve as a catalyst to eventually create your own collection of Jewish memories along the way.  

Final Learnings From Our Engagement Manager

By JumpSpark

“I hope to gain a better understanding of what obstacles woman must deal with every day and how to become a better leader to impact my community.” 

“I hope to further my leadership experience and learn new ways to take part in society and speak up about important issues.” 

These were just a few of the sentiments shared from Strong Women Fellowship applicants for the 2019-20 cohort, a group of teens I would get to know well and have the privilege of working with to grow the Fellowship into the robust, action-oriented leadership program it is today. I remember sitting in the JumpSpark office when I first started my role as the Engagement Manager of JumpSpark, feeling so much hope for the future of our country. I found myself feeling inspired by the drive and passion I saw in these teen leaders to change the world for the better. 

Two years later, as I wrap up my final days on the JumpSpark team before leaving for graduate school at Brandeis University’s Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, I find myself reflecting on what I have learned. I continue to look forward to the future with hope and possibility having now seen what our teen leaders and those that support them are capable of achieving. I am excited to share some of the learnings from the role that I will continue to use well into the future. 

Teens Feel Seen and Heard Through Meaningful Action 

One of JumpSpark’s goals is to amplify teen voice in our community, and last year, I had the opportunity to dig into what this meant through participating in UpStart’s Change Accelerator program. Through focus groups and interviews with our Strong Women Fellows, I discovered that these teens would feel seen and heard through taking action to create positive change in the world using their unique skills and passions. I found that it is easy for one to feel disillusioned by the weight of the world’s problems and unsure of how to use their voice for change. During the Strong Women Fellowship, teens hear from speakers and gain new passions that they strongly desire to amplify in the world. Building in new opportunities for action will allow the teens to have a positive impact in the communities we serve and help the teens feel seen and heard as stewards of our changing world. 

This year, the Strong Women Fellowship will incorporate action into every speaker event, from advocating for LGBTQ+ justice to volunteering at a women’s shelter. Taking these actions will allow for these teens to amplify their efforts as budding Jewish changemakers. 

Collaboration Makes Us Stronger 

Throughout my time at JumpSpark, I have had the opportunity to watch our Community Partner Network of teen-serving professionals grow and gain strength. I witnessed a shift in our community towards more collaboration, towards people calling on others in similar roles for support on programs and combining forces to create high-quality Jewish opportunities for teens. I myself leaned on collaboration to support so many of our initiatives, thinking strategically about who we could partner with to reach more teens and build stronger programs. Throughout the rest of my career, I will embrace collaboration in creating new initiatives, knowing that it leads to more robust opportunities. 

JumpSpark is excited to continue strengthening the network of Jewish youth professionals in Atlanta. The Community Partner Network is beginning its third year with spots for 40 partners, and JumpSpark will be hosting convenings with professional development and networking opportunities twice a month to encourage collaboration and relationship building in the field. 

Parent and Teen Engagement are Interconnected 

One of the first findings that struck me from JumpSpark’s data and evaluation efforts was the interconnectedness of parent and teen Jewish engagement – if we engage parents Jewishly, their teen is more likely to get involved in Jewish opportunities and vice versa. Throughout my time at JumpSpark, I have seen this finding play out. Just the other day, my coworker shared about a parent she engaged with through one of our parent programs who then enrolled her teens in Jewish programming as well. Because of anecdotes like these, I see the value in parent engagement as a tool to further teen engagement, too. 

This year, we are excited to continue supporting parents through a variety of initiatives, like Project Launch for parents of teens just entering their next phase after high school and PhD in Parenting sessions for parents of younger teens. These powerful tools for engagement raise the bar for the family unit as a whole, and I will be excited to see what other new and innovative initiatives crop up for parent engagement at JumpSpark. 

Teens are Today’s Changemakers 

I have heard time and time again that teens are our future leaders. After my two years working with teens at JumpSpark, however, I can definitively say that teens are the leaders of NOW. Teen initiatives across the world are making waves and creating positive change. I have watched right here in Atlanta as teens themselves contributed to creating innovative Jewish programming and strengthening our Jewish community. I witnessed countless teen initiatives crop up to support those most vulnerable during the pandemic. I continue to be inspired every day by the teens in our community and throughout the world, and I am so grateful to have been able to play apart along some of these teens’ journeys. Look around – teens are making change today, leading us into a future that is more inclusive and just. 

All of these learnings and more will continue to guide my Jewish professional journey for the rest of my career – I am excited to take all of the lessons garnered from the teens, parents and professionals I have had the privilege to work with at JumpSpark to my graduate studies in Jewish Professional Leadership and beyond. I am so grateful to JumpSpark and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for guiding me on my Jewish journey and shaping me into the Jewish leader I am today. L’hitraot Atlanta, see you soon. 

My Typical School Day As An American Teen

By JumpSpark

It’s Monday morning. My alarm goes off at 6:15 am, which is too early. Way too early. But for me, this is just the start of a normal day. I like to run in the mornings, so I have to get up this early to make sure I have enough time to be in the car on the way to school by 8:10. I roll out of bed and get ready to go, passing the mezuzah on my bedroom door frame, then my front door, taking off down the street as the run begins to peek through the clouds. I love running in the morning. It’s a stress reliever, a break, a time all to myself. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, or music, or nothing at all. I pass the same people each morning, the walking mom in the bright colored tank top, the men who run together, the man waiting for the Marta bus on the corner. My morning runs are one of the only constants in my life, and they bring me a great sense of peace. 

When I get back to my house after about an hour, it’s time to get ready for the day. I grab some breakfast, which normally consists of oatmeal with a banana, and of course a cup of coffee. I call out to my brother, who is perpetually late, that I am leaving whether he is ready or not. He normally makes it to the car door before I’m out of the driveway. Then we are off to school. It’s about a 10 minute drive to my high school.I go to an inner city school so it’s a pretty diverse place, but there aren’t that many Jews, maybe me and about 5 or 6 other people in my grade. This means I often have to deal with tests on high holidays and pointed stares whenever we study the Holocaust. Even so, my school remains one of the most accepting environments I’ve ever found myself in. I feel lucky when I say I’ve never felt like an outsider or unwelcome in any way because of my Judaism.

I am a junior and my brother Meyer is a freshman. We don’t see each other much during the day, but then again, I don’t see many people during my school day. Because of the pandemic, classes were all online for the majority of this school year. When school reopened in February, only about 15% of students chose to come back. Out of my four classes, the biggest one has four people aside from me. Everyone else is at home. 

At the beginning of every class I log on to Zoom. Even though I am back in school, due to the fact that the majority of students are not, we still conduct classes all online. We have an hour-long break for lunch, which is nice. I spend that in my photography class. I’m the only one in that class who went back to school in person. There used to be one other boy there with me, but he was a senior and he graduated so now it is just me and my teacher. I’m fine with that though, I like my teacher and I enjoy the time I get to spend talking with her. My youngest brother’s bar mitzvah was during the first week of May, so I’ve been telling her all about that. I read Torah and I didn’t mess up! My family was super lucky because we actually were allowed to invite guests to the service (we had 50 people). 

Celebrating my brother’s Bar Mitzvah

At the end of the school day, which is at 3:30, I walk out to the parking lot and wait for Meyer to meet me in my car. Sometimes I have to bring some of his friends home too, a lot of them live in our neighborhood. I like to drive with the windows down, especially since it’s gotten warmer out. There is this really pretty street that we drive down on the way home, it’s lined with cute houses and there is a park too, but my favorite part is all the trees that flower in the spring.

Once we get home, I start on my homework, or mock trial, or my school newspaper article, or anything else that needs to get done. Friday nights are different though. On Friday nights (on the rare chance that all five of my family members are home for dinner) we gather around the table over my mom’s homemade challah. We do the brachah over the candles, the wine, the children, and of course the delicious bread. Then we sit down to a home cooked meal made by my mom and myself, and we enjoy our time together. 

EMBRACING OUR UNIQUE MENTAL HEALTH STORIES WITH PAMELA SCHULLER

By JumpSpark

Alexa Freedman and Julia Harris, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article originally published in VOXATL.


 

As anyone who struggles with mental illness knows, it is hard to love your brain and appreciate your mind, when you know that in some cases it is the root of your issues. However, Pamela Schuller, an internationally known disability and mental health advocate and professional standup comedian, has learned to love her brain and embrace what makes her different.


In March, JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship got to hear from Schuller. She has an incredibly interesting story and used hilarious anecdotes to tell it. When she was young, Pamela had the worst diagnosed case of Tourette Syndrome in the country. Pamela says she loves Tourettes; it’s the best neurological disorder she could have asked for, she told us. 

How, you may ask, did she make it to this point? It was a long journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and unfortunately, pain. For a long time, Pamela said, she believed she was a waste of space; she struggled with being an outsider and with her disability defining her. When asked to write something she loved about herself, she was unable. Throughout the years, however, with help from therapists, friends, and community, Pamela has learned that she is more than her diagnosis and has so much to give to the world.

Throughout our session, Pamela shared many funny stories from her childhood experiences, but each one taught a lesson. She certainly faced many hardships growing up, including having a broken neck and several broken bones due to her tics, but she chose not to focus on those when telling her story. For example, she shared how one night, she was barking (this happens when she is excited), and a neighbor complained about her having a dog in their no-pet complex. Pamela said she absolutely mortified the landlord, who had come to explain the rule, when she said the barking was her. The landlord promised to never come to her if anyone else complained again, and according to Pamela, she went out and got a dog right after. This funny story really stuck with me, since instead of being upset Pamela really made the most out of the situation.

She was once told that her case of Tourette’s Syndrome was one of the worst, but today she uses her own story in hopes of inspiring others. Pamela taught a very important lesson to the Strong Women Fellowship: Every person has struggles, but every person still adds so much value to the world. If allowed, a perceived disability or illness can add wonderful things to a person’s life. It is possible to balance struggling and loving oneself at the same time.

Alexa’s takeaway: As someone who has struggled with mental illness her whole life, it was so empowering for me to hear Pamela talk about all the ways she has embraced her diagnoses and let them enrich her life, instead of taking away from it. It gave me a lot of hope to see Pamela thriving and having so much self-love because of the way she has transformed her diagnoses into blessings instead of burdens. Pamela’s journey is proof that with help and hard work, it is possible to break down defining barriers and rewrite who you are and how you want to live.

Julia’s takeaway: Pamela taught us so many valuable lessons and made me feel nothing but proud of who I am and what makes me different. I learned the importance of celebrating our differences, and her unique outlook really spoke to me. I also recognized how impactful it is to advocate for others who cannot do so for themselves, or else the pointing and laughing will continue. Sometimes I refrain from doing things that will make me stand out in fear of being judged, but I now realize that standing out is really special, and that there is no point in only considering others and not myself. It was so reassuring to know how much greatness came out of Pamela’s tough situation, and this made me think with a much more positive outlook. I now know that what might seem like an unbearable situation for me has to have some upsides; it just may take a little digging. Pamela Schuller — a Jewish, 4-foot 6-inch woman with Tourette’s (or, as she calls it, “the trifecta”), taught me so much from the little time spent with her. I will certainly be passing on her story and using her advice in my daily life.


Alexa Freedman is an 11th grader at The Galloway School, and Julia Harris is a 10th grader at Dunwoody High School. Both are second-year Fellows and Peer Leaders for the JumpSpark Strong Women Fellowship.

A Little Taste Of Life: How Tradition Kitchens Changed Atlanta For The Better

By JumpSpark

Rachel Binderman and Rebecca Kann, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article originally published in VOXATL.



Food brings people together — families, friends, and strangers alike. Food brings together communities from all backgrounds and has the ability to bond people over a home-cooked dish. Some of our fondest memories are around meals, and food engages some of our strongest senses: smell, and taste.

For Rachel, food has always been a huge part of her family and Jewish identity. For as long as she can remember, her family sat around our dinner table every Friday night, sang the prayers, lit the candles, and ate Mom’s delicious challah. As she got older, this tradition became less frequent until COVID hit. If you ask her mom, that was the upside to COVID, having the whole family home every Friday night. Since last March they have had dinner together every Friday night. As teenagers, we often would rather hang out with our friends on Friday nights, but her family’s weekly Friday night dinners allow us to spend one special night together. 

We continued to have these conversations about our family’s traditions when Julia Levy spoke with JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship this spring. By day, Julia Levy leads internal communications at a startup, and pursues her side projects passions at night. She co-founded a podcast with her father called Peach and Prosperity, which discusses stories around economics, and cultural and historical stories about the Atlanta area. Julia recently spoke at TedXEmory about her various projects and how she manages to keep up with her passions, including Tradition Kitchens which she began with her mother, making kitchens into a learning space around Judaism and other cultures.

During the meeting, Julia and her Kitchen Ambassadors — Ruby, Brianna, and Lauren — talked about their experiences with the community that has been built through Tradition Kitchens. Tradition Kitchens’ classes originally took place in people’s homes throughout the Atlanta area. However, due to the pandemic, that all changed. Tradition Kitchens now has online classes you can stream or watch the recordings. They also go farther than just discussing food; they talk about the significance around the food and the history behind it. For example, for Black History month, Karon, a friend of Julia’s, made fried chicken tenders with biscuits while talking about restaurants with stories from the Civil Rights Movement. The best thing about the program is that it is volunteer-based, so anybody is able to partake as either a student ready to learn more about different cuisines or as a teacher sharing your favorite recipes. Food is a way for people to bond and gives people the opportunity to learn more about other cultures. In cities such as Atlanta there is a wide variety of people that eat different foods. There is a great opportunity for learning and laughter at Tradition Kitchens.


Rachel Binderman is an 11th grader at The Weber School, and Rebecca Kann is an 11th grader at Pace Academy. Both are Peer Leaders for JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship.

AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT — THE WORD ‘YES’ IS KEY

By JumpSpark

Miriam Raggs and Phoebe Kaplan, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article originally published in VOXATL.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is VOX_Jaclyn-Friedman-1024x576.png

The word “yes” is a crucial word that needs to be clearly stated before any sort of sexual act. “Yes” is what ties consent all together, and author Jaclyn Friedman uses her voice to spread awareness about affirmative consent. Consent has to be clear “yes” and no other version. Consent can’t be an “I don’t know” or “maybe.” Both people must be in agreement.

JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship met with Jaclyn Friedman, a writer, speaker, and activist, in January to talk candidly about sexual consent. We’ve always thought that sexual freedom and consent were important, and when Jaclyn talked about affirmative consent, we realized that it is even more important than one might think. It’s much harder to say “no” than it is to say “yes.” If someone is not saying yes, then it’s a no. People need to make sure the other party is saying yes the whole way through.

Sadly, affirmative consent isn’t spoken about enough for it to be practiced. Consent needs to be taught. At the public schools, we attend, we were only taught to practice abstinence, and our sexual health class or sex ed was only for a few days each year. We learned all about the reproductive organs and mostly why not to have sex. Teaching teenagers only about abstinence is a poor choice. This abstinence-only education only makes us more reckless and unaware of sexual assault. 

Jaclyn brought up the fact that schools only ever teach about male sexual pleasure and never about female pleasure. This is because they are so focused on not wanting teens to have sex. Schools should change their focus and teach teens to have safer sex. 

As a closing for our meeting, we used a Padlet that contained reflection questions after Jaclyn finished speaking. One of the questions was “What are your overall thoughts about this topic,” and someone responded saying, “It needs to be normalized at a younger age.” Sex education needs to start younger, be offered every year, and be more extensive. Younger elementary school children should be learning about consent through asking before hugging or touching someone.


The image shows a screenshot of a Padlet board where individuals who participated in the workshop left their thoughts on their reflections of the content that was presented to them. These responses were gathered via a virtual tool and are on a dark pink background.

If affirmative consent was taught in sexual-education classes, sexual assaults could be reduced by a great amount by having both parties of the sexual situation knowing what they truly are doing. Affirmative consent is an extremely important topic that needs to be spoken about more.


Miriam Raggs is a 10th grader at The Weber School, and Phoebe Kaplan is a 10th grader at Riverwood International Charter School. Both are second-year Fellows and Peer Leaders for the JumpSpark Strong Women Fellowship.

HEALTHY BODIES COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

By JumpSpark

 

Jenna Sailor and Peyton Schwartz, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article, originally published in VOXATL.

Sara Zoldan, who has taken up the profession of being a health and dating coach, is showing people all over the world how to become more confident in themselves and their bodies, as well as aiding women of all shapes and sizes in finding their perfect partners. You may be thinking, how is she helping people all over the world if she doesn’t travel for work that often? Well, the answer is her Instagram. By using her platform on social media, Sara is able to reach people everywhere with her health and romance advice and knowledge, which allows her compassionate and accommodating aura to be felt by many.  

Sara’s interest in health was first piqued shortly after she moved to California from Toronto at the age of 21. She decided to take on Crossfit in order to achieve a healthier body. She describes her physical struggles during her first session: “I start running around the block and halfway through I’m down to a total crawl. I get back to the gym huffing and puffing, and thank God I had my asthma inhaler with me because I needed it.” However, she said that afterwards Crossfit was all she could talk about. Zoldan became immersed in the Crossfit world, eventually becoming a Crossfit coach herself. Up until  COVID-19, she helped others to reach their health goals, teaching them that they didn’t have to look a certain way to be considered healthy, and Zoldan practiced what she preached. Crossfit played a huge role in Sara’s journey toward becoming her healthiest and happiest self.

This winter, Zoldan talked to JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship, a group of Jewish teens from all over Atlanta, about her experiences in the realm of fitness and body image, both the good and the bad. Sarah has coached many young women in finding love regardless of their size. She educated us: impressionable young women on how to feel good about ourselves with the unreachable beauty standards of today’s world. She helped us identify why we may associate negative things with our bodies, or think badly of them: Getting weighed in PE and at the doctor’s office, being criticized by our parents, and seeing all of the perfect bodies on our Instagram feeds were just a few of the underlying reasons for our perceptions of ourselves. With Zoldan’s guidance, we were able to realize that most of us feel very similarly when it comes to our bodies, and we are influenced by many of the same things. 

One of the most empowering things we did in this session was listening to the song “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara. As a group, we took a moment to really feel the weight and meanings of the lyrics, such as: “And you don’t have to change a thing the world could change its heart.” 

The activity that stuck with Jenna the most was when we went into breakout rooms and thought of the things on social media that make us happy versus the ones that don’t make us feel as good. Zoldan explained that our confidence is extremely sensitive to social media. For example, seeing countless touched-up images of girls with flawless bodies pushes negative, intrusive thoughts into our minds; whereas, seeing a picture of a funny cat will increase confidence and make us laugh. The overall message of this activity was to demonstrate how destructive self-comparison can be and to shed light on the number one catalyst of it: social media.

Zoldan is changing the way women view themselves and leading by example in how to love oneself in order to project that love to others. She has helped us to recognize the very demanding beauty standards in society, and honor our own individual beauty — even if it does not conform to those standards. Ultimately, our meeting with Sara Zoldan provided us with a lot of insight on how to create and maintain a good relationship with our minds and our bodies.


Peyton Schwartz, 15, is a sophomore at Pope High School in Marietta, GA, who enjoys listening to music and spending time with friends.

Jenna Sailor, 15, is a sophomore at Dunwoody High School in Dunwoody, GA.

 

My Connection to Judaism in Everyday Life

By JumpSpark

Whether I am lighting the Shabbat candles, eating chicken soup with matzah balls, participating in a global Jewish youth group like BBYO, or attending a Strong Jewish Women’s Fellowship meeting, there is no doubt that I am connected to my Judaism . Being Jewish is a huge part of my identity and it plays a major role in my daily life. When I wake up in the morning, it’s not like the first thing I think of is being Jewish. But when I come downstairs and see a plate of hamentashens from my neighbor on the counter, I don’t question it. When I get a bowl for my cereal before I go to school, I make sure to get a dairy one and not a meat one. Leaving my house for school, I pass the mezuzah on the door and walk to my car. I don’t even notice the sticker on my windshield for the Jewish Community Center anymore; it is the same one that practically every other Jew in Atlanta also has. 

I used to go to a Jewish day school where all my friends and most of my teachers were Jewish. Now, I attend public school. My closest friends are still Jewish but I am no longer in a bubble where Judaism defines my every day. Everyone at school knows I am Jewish, but it doesn’t seem to phase anyone like I expected it to. I’m not even sure how I expected people to act, but for some reason I believed that my Judaism would really matter to others. I remember one day, my first year of high school, I brought matzah ball soup to school for lunch. I spent the entire lunch period trying to explain to my non-Jewish friends what a matzah ball even is. Wet bread? Mushy dumpling? I didn’t know how to explain it but my non-Jewish friends were interested and it made me laugh trying to explain a traditional food to someone who had never tried it.  It was funny and I enjoyed telling my friends about Jewish traditions. 

After school, I usually go home and I either have tutoring, a ceramics class or a BBYO call. On Fridays, I have Shabbat dinner with my family and sometimes we light the candles on FaceTime with my aunt and Bubbie who are all the way in Canada. Judaism plays out in my everyday life, but it is all I have ever known. And until I wrote this article, I didn’t even realize how much of a role being Jewish really has in my daily life, but I like having something that connects me to others who also share my religion and I also appreciate feeling unique when I am around others who aren’t Jewish. My great-grandparents were Holocaust survivors and, after everything she went through, my great-grandmother’s Jewish pride had a big impact on me. I honestly wouldn’t trade being Jewish for anything. 

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