Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
Teen girls are absolutely killing it in 2017. From being on the forefront of science and technology to fearlessly engaging in politics and helping to push forward the cultural conversation, it’s not only mega inspiring to see, but it’s a reminder how important it is to give young women from many experiences and backgrounds a platform for their voices.
A group of high school girls from diverse Jewish communities want to do the same for their community, so together they put out jGirls, an online magazine dealing with everything from relationships to politics to mental health to feminism — and much more.
“As girls grow older they are taught by society to make themselves smaller,” says Elizabeth Mandel, the New York documentary filmmaker who started working on jGirls in 2015. She wanted to help create a space dedicated to amplifying and honoring voices of pluralistic Jewish teenage girls, and for it to be run by them as well.
“This past year was our inaugural year, and the editors really have worked together to help build jGirls from the ground up,” she says. “They are empowered to either make or opine on decisions at every level.”
This includes everything from handling controversial topics and dealing with internal disagreements to running meetings and being brand ambassadors. Currently, there are 12 editorial board members from across the U.S. ranging in ages from 13-19, and applications for 2017-2018 will be open soon.
Kinneret Katz is a college freshman from Los Angeles who serves on the editorial board, and she agrees that jGirls fills a much-needed void in the community.
“There are spaces for pluralistic discussion among teens in the Jewish community, both co-ed and female-driven, and many have found it an important tool in strengthening our community,” she says. “However, most of these programs center around community service, leadership, Jewish identity, or some other thematic concept. jGirls is simply an open space for us Jewish girls.”
“What’s most exciting about the deep diversity of our contributors is that it demonstrates how broad jGirls’ appeal is,” adds editorial board member Ayelet Kalfus, a high school senior from New York. “Our contributors come from across the world, their personal identities and interests vary tremendously, yet they are all eager to join the jGirls’ community. [Mandel] recognized what Jewish teenage girls across the globe needed and wanted: a way to share themselves with each other.”
Mandel agrees that the diversity of voices from both the editors and contributors, who come from a variety of family structures, sexual orientations, schooling, geography, interests, and perspectives, has been exciting. “Girls are utilizing the space to talk about the subjects of greatest interest to them,” she says, adding that the importance of this cannot be understated.
“Jewish communal and institutional spaces are male dominated at the leadership level, per the work of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community and others,” she explains. “Because jGirls is for girls specifically, it allows users the space to explore matters relevant to girls on the threshold of adulthood. Because girls set the editorial agenda, it gives them ownership and leadership and decision-making skills which will serve them into adulthood.”
Maya Rabinowitz, a high school senior from Philadelphia, says that working on the jGirls editorial board hasn’t only helped her and others connect with their community, but has given her a sense of empowerment and optimism to apply to her life going forward.
“It’s rare that people my age are given such trust, respect, and responsibility as we have been given from the directors of jGirls,” she says. “Because we have seen our ideas implemented and have been given the freedom to help shape the process, I feel confident that I could be successful in similar projects in the future.”
What teen mags did you read growing up? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photos via Elizabeth Mandel/jGirls)