The YALDAH Story
I have always been an avid magazine reader, and could spend hours curled up with back issue of magazines like “American Girl”. Still, there were many articles I couldn’t relate to as a Jewish girl, and I was frustrated by the limited amount of good magazines for girls my age. I had always wanted a magazine for Jewish girls. One that would provide fun reading and connect Jewish girls, with Jewish values on every page.
When I was twelve, I began experimenting with new photo editing software on my computer, and discovered I could make magazine covers. I thought about what I would call a magazine for Jewish girls, and used the name “yaldah”, the Hebrew word for girl. I started thinking… why not? What’s stopping me from making this magazine? Hey, I even have the cover already!
I’ve always been ambitious, or as some would say, unrealistically optimistic. I think that if I had known how hard publishing a magazine would be when I first started, I probably never would have started. But, right then I was sure I could do it. So at twelve years old I wrote out the table of contents for the first issue of my future magazine, YALDAH.
Of course, creating the rest of the magazine was a lot harder than the cover. When I would tell adults about my plans, they would smile and then suggest that I make a simple photocopied newsletter that I could give out for free, covered by one sponsor.
But I decided not to listen and went on with my plans for YALDAH: a colorful, glossy, 48-page magazine. Once these people saw my determination, many were extremely helpful throughout my publishing journey.
Besides for the publishing, there was also the business angle. I had to go cross-eyed reading the fine print on the application form for a tax ID number, open a bank account, learn to use accounting software, and set up a website and online shopping cart with so I could take credit card orders. I learned how to write press releases, fundraising letters, and articles. I spent hours researching printers and getting quotes.
As I flipped through the glossy pages of the first issue of YALDAH I could see the past year of hard work reflected in it. “Wow, I really did it!” I thought.
Magazines taking over our living room.
The most challenging aspect of starting up was, of course, fundraising. I knew that girls like reading things that look nice, so I was determined to print the magazine in color on glossy paper, which is quite expensive. After hundreds of letters to businesses and individuals, phone calls, and applying for grants, I had just enough money to print only 150 copies of the first issue. But I had to start somewhere.
As I flipped through the glossy pages of the first issue of YALDAH I could see the past year of hard work reflected in it. “Wow, I really did it!” I thought. But at the same time I could see the future of how much it could grow and improve. The first issue was ninety percent my writing, although some friends had volunteered to write as well.
Once I had a real magazine to show people, they began to take me seriously. As word spread, orders poured in and the first issue sold out. I was interviewed on TV, radio, and in national newspapers.
As our subscription list expanded, I had to juggle school work with business. I took my YALDAH responsibilities with me to high school in Toronto , seminary in Israel, and to college in NYC, often staying up all night to get an issue out.
Receiving the check for $100,000 with my mom
One of the most memorable experiences of my life was winning the $100,000 Wells Fargo Someday Stories Contest. This was an open miracle at a time when YALDAH was very short on funds. It enabled me to expand the magazine, run marketing campaigns, distribute the magazine in Barnes & Noble bookstores, and publish two books.
As my life shifted to that of a wife and mother, and the publishing world shifted from print to digital, YALDAH evolved as well. First it was a digital magazine delivered by e-mail, and then an online blog website. Now we have joined forces with JGU to create an online community for Jewish girls.
One goal that YALDAH has accomplished is connecting Jewish girls and making them feel part of a greater whole. Having lived in a community where it was easy to feel that I was the only Jewish girl, it was important to me that other teenagers felt they had a place where they could connect to other Jewish girls. I hope that this online community will form even stronger connections that a print magazine could.
I hope that my story continues to inspire girls to pursue their dreams, whether it’s starting a newspaper, directing a play, organizing a fundraiser, or founding a business.
I hope that my story continues to inspire girls to pursue their dreams, whether it’s starting a newspaper, directing a play, organizing a fundraiser, or founding a business. As eight year old Shayna wrote to me, “I really admire you, Leah. You inspired me to think I can do it! Now I know I can make a difference in people’s lives.”
That really sums up what I hope to achieve. For every Jewish girl to take initiative, and become a leader. Start something new, reach out a helping hand. There is tremendous power in young girls, and together, you can change the world. No matter how old you are, using you talents and determination, you can make your dreams come true.
Leah (Larson) Caras
P.S. Click here to read the full YALDAH history.