jGirls Magazine gives teens a ‘room of their own’
Next generationAll streams of Judaism are represented

jGirls Magazine gives teens a ‘room of their own’

New online magazine is run by an editorial board of Jewish females between the ages of 13 and 19 from around the country

Rivka Mandelbaum

Photo courtesy of jGirls
Rivka Mandelbaum Photo courtesy of jGirls

If jGirls Magazine is any indication of what the next generation of Jewish womanhood looks like, the future is in excellent hands.

The newly launched online magazine, run by an editorial board of Jewish females between the ages of 13 and 19 from around the country and representing all streams of Judaism, is a treasure trove of original essays, fiction, poetry, music and visual arts.

jGirls board training screen shot
Photo courtesy of jGirls

Not only does the magazine provide its contributors and editors with an outlet for their creativity, but it also offers them a platform to exchange ideas with other young Jewish women from divergent backgrounds whom they otherwise might never meet.

The magazine was conceived by Elizabeth Mandel, who serves as its executive director and who admittedly spends a “lot of time thinking about where my identity exists at the nexus of being Jewish and being a woman.”

Inspired by other online spaces for self-identifying Jewish women, including Kveller, Lilith Magazine and Jewish Women’s Archive that “create a source of community,” she set out to develop a site that she would be proud to have her three young daughters tap as they become teens and “start to look away from adults and to their peers for guidance.”

“I started thinking about how important it is for our daughters to express themselves,” Mandel said, “and to start thinking at an early age about establishing relationships with others who are both the same and different from themselves.”

jGirls, she said, gives Jewish girls “a room of their own,” alluding to Virginia Woolf’s celebrated feminist essay which advocated for allowing women writers to have their own space — both physical and figurative — in the face of a historically male-dominated literary tradition.

Elizabeth Mandel

“There are other spaces [for Jewish women] out there,” Mandel said. “But they tend to be multigenerational. This space is for Jewish girls, by Jewish girls.”

jGirls is a “collaborative space” that works alongside other organizations that “empower and amplify the voices of Jewish teenage girls, including the Jewish Women’s Archives’ Rising Voice Fellowship, Moving Traditions’ Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing and Ma’yan/Research Training Internship,” she added.

When launching jGirls, Mandel put out a wide call for applications to its inaugural 12-person editorial board. She received several dozen.

“It was competitive,” she said. “They were all fabulous girls with diverse Jewish geographic backgrounds and interests. The applications reflected the glorious mosaic of our Jewish community.”

Rivka Mandelbaum, a 16-year-old graduate of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, was one of the 12 chosen for the board. Currently studying in Jerusalem at Nishmat for a gap year before beginning her college career at Princeton University, Mandelbaum applied to jGirls “because I love the idea of having a magazine aimed at fostering a creative community of Jewish teen girls,” she said on her bio on the site.

Mandelbaum, whose family is Orthodox, served as an editor and writer at Hillel’s school newspaper, was involved in theater and also participated in Mock Trial.

“jGirls has been an awesome outlet for her,” said Mandelbaum’s father, Yitzie Mandelbaum, a software engineer at Google. “It’s an interesting mix of girls from different Jewish backgrounds.”

The young women discuss together the merits of publishing various pieces on different topics, he said. “It’s been a great way for her to share her own thoughts and learn about others. It’s a healthy environment for that discussion.”

Because the young women on the editorial board are geographically dispersed, they meet virtually to review submissions, Mandel said, adding that submissions “can be on anything; they don’t have to be explicitly about being Jewish or being a girl, because whatever is submitted is coming from that lens.”

After receiving about 130 submissions from about 80 writers and artists, the magazine had a soft launch in June, publishing 42 pieces. Those works came from six countries — the U.S., the United Kingdom, Israel, France, Australia and Spain — and from about 20 states. Some of those 130 submissions are not yet published and are still under review. They may be released when the site has its full launch later this fall.
jGirls, which can be found at jgirlsmagazine.org, has so far had 2,665 unique visitors to its site, Mandel said.

jGirls is funded by the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, the Jewish Women’s Foundation, the Hadassah Foundation, Morty’s Angels, FJC, the Jewish Education Project, Bikkurim, the UJA Federation of New York and Sally Gottesman. pjc

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at ttabachnick@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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