This month, my family celebrated a major milestone: the bar and bat mitzvah of our twins. It is hard to put into words the power of witnessing our children step up in front of family and friends to share their voices and insights. Though they are not yet adults (except in the eyes of Jewish law), they are on the journey to becoming themselves.
At a Thursday morning school celebration before the big day, my daughter put on tefillin for the first time. I am proud to be one of the first women who began praying with tefillin at the time of my bat mitzvah. Thirty-three years later, there are still few girls who wear tefillin, and even fewer whose mothers do. To capture this occasion in twenty-first-century style, I snapped a selfie of the two of us, wrapped in our tefillin, and posted it on social media with the caption: “The traditional mother/daughter tefillin selfie.” Of course, there is nothing traditional about this photo—not the selfie, not the mother and daughter wearing tefillin, hardly even the bat mitzvah! As a historian, however, I couldn’t help but consider the moment through the eyes of the (hopeful) future, when such photos will be part of a long, storied tradition.
At the Jewish Women's Archive, we know that personal milestones are not only significant to individuals and families, but are also important building blocks of the larger communal story. That’s why JWA is dedicated to capturing and sharing the stories of women’s experiences, journeys, and moments of history-making. We need the diversity of Jewish women’s stories to enrich and expand our understanding of who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we are headed.
To that end, our most recent episode of Can We Talk? features a conversation with Abby Stein about her new memoir, detailing her path from ultra-Orthodox rabbi to transgender activist. On the blog, our teen Rising Voices Fellows are exploring their identities and their journeys into Jewish womanhood.
And for all the stories you want to share, JWA has created Story Aperture, a new mobile app that provides the tools to record interviews and contribute them to our archive. We invite you to partner with us in documenting history and preserving the voices and experiences of Jewish women. Download and try Story Aperture today!