When I was in sixth grade I read my first issue of Fresh Ink. Inside was an article which captured my interest written by a young woman about her experiences wearing tefillin. I was contemplating wearing tefillin at the time and was both surprised and impressed by the article. I was strongly affected by the fact that a legitimate newspaper was able to publish a human interest piece that appealed to me in a very specific way as an adolescent and a Jew. The writer spoke so well of her internal enrichment contrasted with the external controversy of a woman donning tefillin. It was at that point that I took an interest in reading Fresh Ink, but the idea of writing for it never occurred to me.
When I was in 10th grade two classmates published articles in Fresh Ink. One recommended that I come to a meeting to learn more about contributing. Curious, I showed up at The Jewish Week office on a Sunday morning not knowing what to expect. It was there I met Shira Vickar-Fox, the editor of Fresh Ink.
At the meeting were teenagers from all around the metropolitan area with varying backgrounds and levels of religious observance. There were students from public schools and yeshivas. After a lesson on AP style we snacked while discussing our ideas; the meeting lasted for two hours. Staff from the general paper spoke to us as well and gave us advice. I felt as if contributing to Fresh Ink would be important to The Jewish Week too.
When discussing our communities, I offhandedly mentioned living in an observant neighborhood. Shira suggested that it be the topic of my article and I was taken aback. It had never occurred to me that anyone would want to hear about my particular environment. So I went home and wrote from the heart about the Five Towns. As a Conservative Jew, I have often felt isolated in my neighborhood, unofficially segregated between Orthodox Jews and non-Jews. After an editing process and a few months of waiting, the issue came out, including my article mentioned on the cover with a picture of me!
Picking up that paper was one of the proudest moments of my life. My excitement continued when The Jewish Week printed a letter disagreeing with the views expressed in my article. An Orthodox woman wrote that as one of the only Jews in her neighborhood she could relate but that I had to move past that. I was worried I had not fully gotten my point across of feeling trapped between two poles, but I was thrilled that someone had taken the time to read it and to respond to the points that I had made.
I became determined to write for Fresh Ink again. Over the last three years I have written four articles for Fresh Ink from political debates to humor pieces. At the quarterly meetings (and end of year dinner) I have met other Jewish teenagers with whom I have a lot in common. Shira’s skills as an editor and tireless efforts ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to express him or herself (and no, she did not ask me to write this).
As a graduating senior, contributing will be one of the high school experiences I will miss the most. I could always rely on Fresh Ink for a fair chance to express myself and I enjoyed the writing. It also gave me opportunities. For example, I would never have been able to interview Chancellor Arnold Eisen of the Jewish Theological Seminary if it was not for such an important publication.
I will definitely study journalism in college next year and will consider it as a career path. Fresh Ink helped me develop my academic and professional interests. And every time someone that I meet remembers one of my articles, I feel a sense of accomplishment and know that I truly have a place in the Jewish community. Through Fresh Ink Jewish teenagers can find common ground and adults can see where we stand. If you ever find yourself with something important to say about being a Jewish high school student, this publication is a wonderful opportunity to share your thoughts.
However Fresh Ink is far more than a bullet point on my college résumé: it has taught me how to write, speak and think for myself. Through Fresh Ink I have gained valuable skills for my future. If you are in high school and are curious about the newspaper send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Come to a meeting. Becoming involved is uncomplicated and the rewards are great. I began high school as a reader and thanks to Fresh Ink, I am graduating a writer.
Gabriela Geselowitz is a senior at Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island.
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