Dreams of a Bat Mitzvah Girl
Four years ago, I embarked on a journey that my friends thought was impossible. I dreamed of creating a full color, glossy magazine to provide high-quality, fun reading and inspiration to young Jewish girls. Quite a daunting task for someone who’s not in the publishing industry. Did I mention that I just had my Bat Mitzvah?
The idea first came up in the sixth grade lunchroom. Casually, I mentioned to my friend, “Wouldn’t it be cool to publish a magazine for Jewish girls?”
She thought about it for a moment. “Yeah, but we could never do it.”
That should have been the end of my idea. I could feel my friend’s message hanging in the air: Kids play sports, do homework, arrange surprise parties, baby sit. A kid could never do something big like publish a magazine.
I pushed the idea to the back of my mind where it incubated for a year. One afternoon, while fooling around with the publishing software on my computer, I began designing a cover of my dream magazine. Excited by how real the cover turned out, I started brainstorming what I would put in a magazine for Jewish girls. Before I knew it, I had created the table of contents for the first issue of “Yaldah” (Hebrew for girl). I would show everyone it could be done, even if I had to do it myself.
One year later, the premiere issue was complete. (I even skipped summer camp so I could finish it.) I wrote 90 percent of the content. I had to teach myself everything: how to create a website, accept payments, find a printer, design the layout, write press releases, sell advertising, and fundraise. Finally, one cold evening in October 2005, a package arrived at my front door — 150 copies of the first issue of Yaldah Magazine — for Jewish girls, by Jewish girls! I proudly flipped through a copy and my life was forever changed.
Fast-forward four years. Now I’m a senior in high school and a busy publisher. Yaldah has a staff of nine employees, and over 60 girls have served on our yearly Editorial Board. We just printed 1500 copies of the latest issue. We have hundreds of subscribers worldwide, and Yaldah is sold in bookstores across the country. We run summer and winter retreats for Jewish girls, art and writing contests, and mitzvah projects. And next year Yaldah will release three high quality books for girls.
Children always think up big ideas and dreams. It’s the adults who try to pound reality into them.
People always ask me, “How did you do it?” I sometimes ask myself the same question. How can someone so young accomplish something so big? And I think part of the answer is because I was so young. Children have a natural imagination. They’re always thinking up big ideas and dreams. It’s the adults who try to pound reality into them. If an adult has an idea, they’ll usually think through all the little details of what might not work; they’re afraid of failure. Kids aren’t afraid to take risks and try new things. After all, that’s what childhood is all about.
Sometimes adults share with me an idea or a dream they have. I’m often taken aback at the tiny details they worry about. I want to say, “Just take action! Go for your dream and everything else will fall in place.” When I had first dreamed of publishing a magazine, the idea of failure or problems didn’t even cross my mind. All I saw and felt was the excitement of my goal. When your goal is your focus, you see challenges as bumps in the road and part of the journey to reach your destination.
I’ve observed that adults feel the need to clue children in on how the world really works, to point out how things really aren’t so simple, and that oftenthings don’t go your way. While these statements are true, I think kids can and will learn them on their own, through life experience. Adults sometimes need to let kids just enjoy the thrill and innocence of childhood dreaming.
Adults can learn from children, too. Be positive, play, try new things, take risks, imagine, dream. I bet we’d all accomplish a lot more if we remembered our childhood ambition.
Recently, I’ve been blessed with an incredible opportunity for YALDAH to expand. My mother heard about the “Someday Stories” essay contest sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, asking people to write about what they would do with $100,000. My mother wrote about how with that money Yaldah could expand and offer so much more to Jewish girls.
I was thrilled to find out that I was one of five finalists from over 10,000 entries. Wells Fargo came to my house for a day to video, and came in their signature stagecoach! They posted a short video about each finalist on their website, and for over seven weeks people can vote for which finalist should win the $100,000.
Winning $100,000 would take off the burden of constantly having to fundraise to cover our expensive printing costs. We’d be able to expand to publish more books for girls, publish longer issues more often, pay professional staff, keep subscription costs affordable, offer scholarships to our Jewish girls’ retreats, and so much more.
The support and unity of the Jewish community could help me win. You can vote today (there are only a few days left, voting ends November 10th) atwww.wellsfargo.com/somedaystories (it’s under my mother’s name, Evelyn from Sharon,MA).
My journey has made me believe in the power of children. Thanks for your support.