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Young and Modest

Growing up in an observant home, Leah Caras loved reading magazines but felt that none spoke to her or her fellow Orthodox Jewish girls. So, when she was 13, she started her own: Yaldah.

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Leah Caras and an issue of Yaldah. (Alicia Candelora)

When Leah Caras was growing up, she pored over the pages of American Girl, a magazine beloved by parents for preserving an image of girlhood free from crass hypersexualization. For Caras, though, the publication fell short in one major way: its lack of Jewish content. “I was looking for something that connected more with being a Jewish girl—the holidays, the values, just my life—and I thought there must be other girls like that,” Caras, now 20, said. (In 2009, the American Girl doll empire, which publishes the magazine, released its first Jewish doll.) “I was surprised that it didn’t exist yet.”

So, Caras decided to take matters into her own hands. In 2004, when she was 13 years old, she founded Yaldah, a glossy quarterly aimed at Orthodox Jewish girls. She wrote 90 percent of the first issue herself, selling ads to her dentist and her school in Brookline, Mass. The first run cost $700 for 150 copies; today the circulation is 2,000 copies, of which 700 go to subscribers. Caras, now a junior at Yeshiva University, convinced a handful of Barnes & Noble stores (in various parts of the Northeast, Ohio, California, Michigan, and Texas) to carry the magazine. “We definitely have room to grow,” she said.

The publication is a cheerful, colorful affair, full of photographs of beaming brunettes with braces, cover lines about staying positive and organizing your bedroom, advice columns about modest attire, and puzzles with clues like “Find the hidden chometz.” Unlike the world of Hannah Montana, Yaldah exists in near-perfect alignment between a parents’ wishes for a daughter and those a girl has for herself.

Yaldah, which means “girl” in Hebrew, is “about getting away from the messages in the media that kids have to grow up so fast,” Caras said. “But we’re also into empowering girls—you can be 13 and publish a magazine—and inspiring them to take responsibilities. It’s a balance, growing up and still retaining your innocence.”

As a publication, Yaldah is a girl-driven affair, with an editorial board of 20 girls in the demographic—the magazine is aimed at girls from 8 to 14 years old—contributing most of the content. Its current ad-sales chief is a 12-year-old South African girl who makes Skype calls to Jewish camps and girls’ clothing sites after school. There’s also an advisory board of rabbis and educators, many of whom are parents of readers. Caras says they have vetoed very little. A rare hint of conflict: In a recent issue, a reader wrote to the advice columnist, chafing at her mother not letting her wear pants. “A Jewish girl is a daughter of a King,” the columnist responded, “she should feel dignified and special.”

Sometimes parents and children seem so united in the pages of the magazine that it’s hard to tell the difference between them. “Before I knew about Yaldah, I was reading a magazine that claimed to support the values important to girls, but I realized that they were just trying to get you to like them so that you would buy their products,” wrote one “Sara Chana, age 11, OR,” in a letter to the most recent issue.

The few ads sprinkled throughout Yaldah are for Jewish bookstores, camps, and schools. There’s a product section in the back labeled “Modest, stylish and affordable,” featuring merchandise from retailers like Target and Kohl’s. The page carries the following diplomatic caveat: “Different families and communities have different standards of tznius. Make sure to check with a parent or Rabbi if you’re not sure an outfit meets your standards.”

Puberty, with its attendant joys and discontents, is delicately avoided. “We might address moodiness or feelings,” said Caras. “We don’t do controversial topics—nothing too deep. Boyfriends we would definitely stay out of.” Drugs and alcohol, too. The winter 2008-2009 issue of Yaldah featured an article on anorexia, however, after someone in the magazine pointed out research showing that their demographic was affected by the disease. The piece focused on the Torah’s view of the body as a dwelling place for the soul, as well as unobjectionable advice on body image. It recommended telling an adult if you suspect a friend has an eating disorder and also advised girls: “Dress in a tznius way. Tznius takes the emphasis off of the body by covering it up, allowing people to focus on their Neshamos.”

“In the Jewish community, especially the Orthodox one, we’re not so into the clothing and boys,” said former editorial board coordinator Nechama Saltzman, now 17. “All that stuff is not so part of our lives.”

Caras recently married and has been juggling the 30 or so hours she spends on the magazine weekly with her studies. But for all her media-mogul tendencies and her interest in empowerment, she is not a feminist, she said. “I definitely think it’s great, empowering girls, and I guess I just don’t fit with what most feminists would fit into. I still very much connect with the sort of traditional roles of being at home, being a mother.”

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Thank you, Tablet for the wonderful article! I’d like to remind everyone that while based on traditional Jewish values, our magazine is open to Jewish girls from all walks of life and has readers and staff members from a variety of backgrounds, not just Orthodoxy. We’re all about promoting unity between Jewish girls!

Although I have to admit I, like Yaldah’s founder and readership, am not thrilled with the emphasis on consumerism and age-inappropriate (and often female disempowering) sexuality found in most other young girl’s magazines, the idea that “Jewish values” for girls are basically obedience and modesty, and that’s what the magazine trumpets on every page, makes me a little nauseous. It’s just willfully blind to reality.

Even the most religious girl goes through puberty and is forced to establish some relationship with her sexuality. This magazine’s emphasis on modesty and it’s refusal to address any real issues of teenage life, is irresponsible and sickening.

The obscene rates of eating disorders in the religious community is just one symptom of what happens when a girl’s sexuality and identity is so repressed. And although more attention is paid to the nightmares of boys being sexually abused in the religious community, there are plenty of cases of girls being abused as well. By insisting that obedience and modesty are all there is to the teenage experience of religious girls, this magazine perpetuates a culture of shame that is harmful to its readers and feeds the more intense problems of the community.’

More of my response, as a former insider: http://www.unpious.com/2011/08/teen-mag-cover-up-obey/

I think this is a great thing and I am only sorry about 2 things I read here. The fact that Caras doesn’t see herself as a feminist, not sure what definition she is considering, but she has set out to fill a niche where she saw one, created her own business and wants to be a mom at home – bottom line she is doing whatever it is she sees fit for herself. In my book that’s truly feminism. Second, the idea that fashion and boyfriends are not part of Orthodox life just isn’t true. It may not be emphasized in the community, but there are plenty of orthodox girls wondering and curious and interested.

I for commend you for your enthusiasm and motivation.

Dear FreiFem,
Thank you for your comments about the article in Tablet about Yaldah. Of course, every reporter chooses their own slant to emphasize when writing about YALDAH. This article focused on the value of modesty expressed in the magazine but failed to mention that this is just one topic addressed along with a host of other topics relating to girls including volunteering, creative expression, social troubles, getting along with siblings, hairstyles, book reviews, profiles of Jewish women in a variety of careers, a health column, crafts, fiction stories, as well as articles about sports, nature, travel and holidays.
At YALDAH we recognize that puberty is an important topic for young girls to discuss. We made the decision not to include topics on puberty inside the magazine because of the variety of ages and backgrounds of our readers. Each parent should be able to discuss puberty with her daughter when she feels that it is age appropriate and relevant for her daughter. Since we target 8-14 year olds, many parents feel that a magazine is not the proper venue for such a discussion. However, for the future we are open to (and have received requests from parents to) publishing a book discussing puberty for Jewish girls so that parents could introduce the book when they feel it is appropriate for their daughter. Secular magazines like American Girl also don’t discuss puberty in their magazine. They have a separate book available for parents to introduce to their daughters.
Our forthcoming book for teenagers (“Teen Talk”) includes topics on depression, eating disorders, boyfriends, and at-risk friends because we feel that by that age these are topics every teenager has encountered needs to read about.
While we do value modesty, it’s not our main focus. Our focus is to empower and inspire Jewish girls to become leaders and change the world for the better. We’re all about uniting Jewish girls of all backgrounds and giving them an an outlet for creative expression.

just me says:

As a non-Orth Jewish woman, I have long wondered why the right-wing is so adamant about denying the sexuality of young Jews, especially of the girls. Oh wait– so many years ago Jewesses were seen as temptresses. I see, backlash that has lasted way too long.

Shades of Gray says:

“Even the most religious girl goes through puberty and is forced to establish some relationship with her sexuality. This magazine’s emphasis on modesty and it’s refusal to address any real issues of teenage life, is irresponsible and sickening.”

I have no problem with the magazine’s policy; the fact that puberty or sexuality– male or female– is not addressed in a magazine need not be a problem in even the slightest way.

What *can* be a problem, is if sexuality is not addressed correctly, from a pespective that is sensitive to mental health. While their is no data that this, alone, causes some people to leave Orthodoxy(such as those Hasidim who go “Off the Derech”, referred to on the “UnPious” website), surely these types of issues can add to whatever other problems, pressures, or matters are involved which lead to associating Judaism with unhappiness.

On the positive side, Sarah Diament has published a book on the topic for parents(see link below). I think, for what it is worth, that the entire Torah community would be healthier and much better off, were her book to get wider circulation and the issue serious attention. This might lessen some defection from Orthodox life as well as the need for any discussion in magazines(which as above, I don’t believe to be necessary)!

http://www.torahparenting.com/

Shades of Grey–you show no “grey” at all in your comment! Have you even read the magazine before? Of course it addresses real issues in a teenager’s life. The magazine doesn’t “refuse” to address the issues you mention, rather its focus is elsewhere. Why don’t you talk to Yaldah’s many fans? Not all girls want a magazine focusing on puberty and sexuality. American girl does not have sex articles. Does that make it “sickening?” Each issue of Yaldah features Girls Doing Great Things, like winning the science fair, starting a business,and raising funds for a charity.
By the way, the reporter chose only one slant, missing the chance to show how Leah Larson Caras has given hundreds of girls the opportunity to express themselves through their artistic contributions to the magazine as well as the business side. The modest clothing the reporter focused on was ONE page in the 64 pages of the magazine–the fashion page.

Audrey Larson says:

I am 13 and the subscriptions manager and customer service representative for Yaldah Magazine. First, I can tell you that we have many subscribers who identify themselves as reform as well as conservative Jews. We even have non-Jewish subscribers who just like learning about Jewish life, as one subscriber put it, “Jewish girls rock!” Every day we get fan letters from girls all around the world. Many girls say they were inspired to start their own newsletter, ezine, or business because of Leah’s example. Too bad the reporter didn’t have room to mention that Yaldah Magazine is a part of Leah’s expanded company–Yaldah Media, Inc. which includes YM Books, Jewish Girls Retreat, Jewish Girls Unite Clubs, Yaldah Readers Online Forum. Pretty amazing, huh?

My apologies to Shades of Grey”. I thought that was your comment which belongs to Frei Fem, who obviously as an axe to grind.

Shades of Gray says:

Evelyn Krieger,

I don’t think you are responding to what I wrote in my comment!

To be clear, Yaldah sounds like a wonderful, and a great, wholesome magazine, with or without(as I prefer) mention of sexuality. While I have not read it, I did read a while ago a nice review in the OU’s Jewish Action which I link to below, and kudos to all those involved in its publication!

http://www.ou.org/pdf/ja/5767/winter67/20_23.pdf

To the contrary, I *supported* Leah Caras’ comment on the subject of not including sexuality, by saying twice that the magazine’s policy “need not be a problem in even the slightest way”(I started off quoting from, and responding to, the previous criticism from the article on the “UnPious” website).

The issue, is NOT the magazine, but a communal issue– whether there are girls(or boys, for that matter)in all segments of Orthodoxy falling through the cracks, and which point to the need for Sarah Diament’s book(or some other type of alternative). This is a sensitive, but also an important communal issue(see, for example, the rabbinic approbations to Sarah Diament’s book on the website I linked, above).

Shades of Gray says:

Evelyn,

Sorry, I finished submitting my comment before I saw your second one :)

Anita Bonita says:

Ms. Caras, congratulations on a wonderful accomplishment. In most of the frum community, I’d be considered of an age to have granddaughters in your magazine’s demographic … and I can remember being their age and wishing there was a magazine like this which spoke to me.

Just one minor quibble, in the last paragraph of the article. Being a feminist involves having the choice to be a mogul or be a full-time mom, not living by society’s dictates, but rather by your own. It’s known as “feminism,” but it’s actually “humanism” — each human being living according to his or her own choices. I’d say that makes you a feminist, and we’re happy to have you.

Basya Devorah says:

Frei Fem writes: “The obscene rates of eating disorders in the religious community is just one symptom of what happens when a girl’s sexuality and identity is so repressed.”

I wonder how it is that traditionally, both girls and boys have been what many today call repressed, yet were virtually free from this terrible scourge. I blame the media focus on the physical that has seeped into all communities, plus our over-scheduled and over-achieving lifestyles, for the increase in eating disorders among girls.

Eating disorders are a major problem among young girls both inside and outside the frum community — and in other populations as well. Indeed, it could be said that it is the emphasis on sexuality and perfection (both physical and scholastic) in our society that’s causing girls to resort to anorexic and bulemic behavior in order to gain control over their bodies in this unfortunate and harmful way.

Hooray for a magazine that helps girls feel good about themselves based on who they are and what they can do, not on how they look and whether or not they attract male attention. It’s an antidote to beauty pageants for toddlers and 14-year-olds showing cleavage and getting pregnant. Yasher koach, Leah. I wish Yaldah had been around when I was a girl.

JGR Mom & YALDAH FAN says:

I know Leah as an exceptional role model for our daughters at the Jewish Girls Retreat where she is a staff member. Leah is able to balance her role as a women with her many achievements. This is being a healthy “feminist” to value the role of mothers. The fact that she would like to put family before career does not make her old fashioned but a wake up call to others who neglect family for personal gain. How many children today are lacking a warm and loving home because it is not their parents priority? What has this world come to? We need more women, like Leah, who are changing the world each day while retaining strong family values! What can be a greater accomplishment then raising the next generation? Leah is a dynamo, talented, creative, ambitious, girl who rocks the Jewish world! We are all so proud to know her!!

Chavie Resnick says:

I opened this page in anticipation of reading a new article about YALDAH, a magazine who’s values and message I wholeheartedly support. I was disappointed to find an article written with a slant that only encompasses a small part of what YALDAH stands for.
Modesty is something that YALDAH does mention, as it is, admittedly, an important part of a Jewish girl’s life, but it’s not the main focus of the magazine. I feel like the reporter missed out on a great opportunity to spread other important messages of YALDAH – that girls, no matter how old they are or how long their sleeves are, can express themselves, become leaders, and form friendships with girls of all backgrounds.
YALDAH’s messages are appropriate for girls with the highest level of observance yet are universal enough for everyone to appreciate them. I worked in customer service at YALDAH for a few years and read many an email from girls (and their parents), from all over the religious spectrum, telling us how much they appreciate the forum that YALDAH provides for them to connect with other Jewish girls who have similar interests.
While 14 year olds might be able to be exposed to articles about puberty, boys, and “real issues of teenage life,” our average reader is not a teenager. As Leah said in her comment above, “Teen Talk” will be published shortly and does discuss all of these (very relevant) topics in a healthy way.
I encourage everyone to flip through just one issue of YALDAH and see how it manages to be open minded while still showing girls the values that are really important in life, modesty being just one of them.

Ellen Z.G. says:

My daughters have been long-time subscribers to Yaldah and I like the holistic attitude the magazine takes. Really, the modesty part is only a small part of the magazine (but a wonderful part, in my opinion) and I think it was a bit short-sighted of the author here to focus on that…..Leah Larson Caras is a wonderful (and feminist) role-model for girls of any religion!

I’m genuinely curious if and how Yaldah “positions” career aspirations for its readers, and how the magazine balances that aspect of life with the expectation that frum girls will marry and start families at a comparatively young age.

Ms. Caras’ comment above indicates that the magazine profiles Jewish women across a variety of professions, but do any significant portion of these profiled women who are successful professionals *also* have families? Or are Yaldah’s readers being told – either implicitly or explicitly – that they will have to choose between family and career, and that there is really only one “right” choice?

Despite the implication in some of the comments to the contrary, one can be a successful professional and still be a terrific hands-on parent; it is not a given at **all** that people (i.e., women) who enjoy their careers do so at the expense of their families’ happiness and well-being. I just hope that every girl is given the opportunity to craft her own path in that regard, without feeling as though she can only rightly choose one “door”.

I also hope that Yaldah’s emphasis on modesty does not preclude an emphasis upon being physically-active and even being involved in athletics. This message would seem to be a partial antidote for any negative feelings or shame that girls may be developing (no pun intended) about their changing bodies; an emphasis upon keeping their bodies strong and healthy might help combat the increasing number of eating disorders.

If girls read about/see pictures of female athletes with beautiful, strong, healthy bodies – and learn that these women eat sensibly and exercise to attain their athletic aspirations – then hopefully they will take away positive messages about eating well, exercise, and appreciating their own bodies.(I’d also hope that the magazine would convey that going running or playing soccer in a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt isn’t being “immodest”… but, given its “pants stance”, maybe not.)

loyal reader says:

I read Yaldah and find nothing “sickening” about it. It is my favorite magazine and in my opinion special because it focusus on things girls should care about instead of boyfriends and clothing. While I am not frum,my sister is and we both enjoy the magazine. I could be reading Teen Vougue but because I am nit a boy crazed girl that is obsessed with clothes,hair,and makeup,I don’t. LONG LIVE YALDAH!! :)

loyal reader says:

I read Yaldah and find nothing “sickening” about it. It is my favorite magazine and in my opinion special because it focuses on things girls should care about instead of boyfriends and clothing. While I am not frum, my sister is, and we both enjoy the magazine. I could be reading Teen Vogue but because I am not a boy- crazed girl that is obsessed with clothes, hair, and makeup, I don’t. LONG LIVE YALDAH!! :)

My daughter is a Yaldah subscriber. We are a liberal Jewish household – although Yaldah is welcoming and inclusive to all Jewish girls, the magazine is definitely written from an Orthodox perspective. It has opened up many lines of discussion in our home – and she loves the craft projects in each issue. Yasher koach, Leah!

yaldah reader says:

RS,
I’m a YALDAH reader and can assure you there are plenty articles about sports, exercise, and health plus interviews and profiles with women who are both mothers and doctors, writers, entrepreneurs, actresses and more. It’s a fun magazine, and really not very preachy!

Hi,
I am the Executive Editor at YALDAH. While I am happy to see that this wonderful magazine is getting attention in the media, I would like to concur with what others have said: YALDAH is about so much more than modesty and ‘traditional’ values! It is dedicated to the creativity of Jewish girls’ artwork and writing, fun ideas and activities to try, inspiring articles about Jewish girls and women in interesting places doing interesting things, interesting facts and information about Jewish traditions and holidays, and much more. In fact, when I began receiving YALDAH, my first thought was: ‘This is a rich magazine.’ ‘Rich’ as in ‘substantive, diverse, entertaining, satisfying.’As Executive Editor, my work includes everything from fact-checking an article on flowers to brainstorming contests. Modesty is only a fraction of the wide variety of topics that we offer.

Furthermore, it’s not an ‘Orthodox’ magazine. I am not Orthodox, but I still enjoy reading, and working with, the magazine. Many girls who write for and work for YALDAH are Orthodox, and they bring their own unique perspectives to the pieces, just as do non-Orthodox girls.

I appreciate all the time that the Tablet took to profile this amazing magazine, but I want to point out that there is more to the publication than Orthodoxy and modesty.

Thank you!

From the article:

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With all due respect, while I truly admire much of what your magazine brings to the table, and while I understand that modesty issues are NOT the sum total of what Yaldah encompasses … based upon the text above, it seems a bit disingenuous to claim that Yaldah does not hardline a specifically-Orthodox editorial perspective.

Conflicts surrounding dressing in accordance with one’s parents’ standards is an issue that would seem to span across all levels of observance; every generation seems to make fashion choices that are not exactly beloved by the older generations (something that, while frustrating for parents, I think is just a natural part of the “establishing an independent identity” element involved in growing up). Struggling for a balance between parent vs. child preferences is a pretty common issue – a “pick the hills you want to die on” matter in my own (non-Orthodox) experience.

However, needing to check with one’s Rabbi on sartorial matters, and believing that wearing pants somehow has anything at all to do with her “dignity”, both fall firmly within what I would characterize as an “Orthodox” level of observance and perspective.

So – while I applaud what Yaldah offers overall – it’s seemingly a stretch to say that Yaldah’s editorial policies are aligned to include girls from *all* walks of Jewish life. (Is there content on divorced or mixed-marriage families?) That Yaldah happens to include some content that resonates with girls from other branches of Judaism is great … but it’s a “bonus”.

Apologies: The two blocks of text I thought I’d copied over from the article and then referenced in my comment above apparently didn’t survive.

Here they are:

“The page carries the following diplomatic caveat: ‘Different families and communities have different standards of tznius. Make sure to check with a parent or Rabbi if you’re not sure an outfit meets your standards.’ ”

“In a recent issue, a reader wrote to the advice columnist, chafing at her mother not letting her wear pants. ‘A Jewish girl is a daughter of a King,’ the columnist responded, ‘she should feel dignified and special.’ “

RS: (and others)

You’ve asked many questions; some of gotten answers. I’ll try to fill in some of the rest.

YALDAH does feature articles about women who have both families and active careers. From school principals and doctors to singers and fashion designers, a YALDAH reader will get the impression that both can be done simultaneously, in a fulfilling way.

YALDAH does in fact have a column entitled “Ask the Doctor” in which many aspects of general health are discussed. You’ll also find articles in YALDAH about exercising in the winter, getting glasses, and a variety of such issues that a girl of our target age group is liable to come across in life.

Regarding sports and modesty, we have indeed profiled girls who are very involved in sports such as soccer and softball. YALDAH does its best to show girls of all backgrounds that they should not feel limited by their religious “restrictions”; rather there is a way to do almost anything in the right way. YALDAH encourages girls to explore their options, to dream big. It’s actually more liberating than it is restricting. One of our main themes? Anything is possible.

As Chavie Resnick mentioned, our goal here at YALDAH is that our content should be applicable to girls of all Jewish backgrounds. Does this mean that sometimes we won’t address something that only applies to one segment of that demographic? Yes. While we won’t publish an article solely about mixed marriages, you also will not find an article in YALDAH about different Hassidic sects. And really and truly – does it make sense for the editors of a magazine to include content that they know will not be appropriate for a high percentage of its readership?

I ask only one thing from all of you reading the above article – please don’t base your opinion of YALDAH on this article alone, which presents you with only one slant on the magazine. Check out http://www.yaldah.com/info#!__info/in-the-news to see some other news pieces about YALDAH. Perhaps your perspective will change.

However, of course there is only one way for you to form an honest, fair opinion of YALDAH. Pick up a copy of an issue or a few copies of a few issues, and take a look. I doubt that you will find only articles that conform to the descriptions in the above article.

As part of the YALDAH staff, I appreciate your interest and desire to know the truth about YALDAH and our perspective.

I have written a post on the YALDAH blog in response to this article. http://yaldah-magazine.blogspot.com/2011/08/believe-it-or-not.html

@Nechama – Thank you for taking the time to address the flurry of questions that have been posted. I’ve been called a “hypocrite” and told that my religious beliefs and the way my family practices Judaism (i.e., not Orthodox) are “not really Judaism” (putting it nicely) by several Orthodox/”traditional” individuals recently, so your measured, thoughtful response was very much appreciated!

If I can find a place to purchase Yaldah, I’d be interested in checking it out (with an open mind!) I’m the mom of a 15 YO son (who happens to be wrapping up his final week at a URJ overnight camp) so I’m not exactly within your target demographic, but I don’t mind if you don’t. ;-)

I’m off to read Leah’s blog post … thanks again.

Esther says:

I was on the Yaldah editorial board in 2008 and wrote the article about eating disorders that the author references. I am also the older sister of Sara Chana, whose letter was quoted. I feel this article seriously and deliberately misrepresents Yaldah by seeming to claim that the magazine exists to push a certain repressive agenda. Tznius, modesty, is a very complex topic and beyond the scope of a publication like Yaldah. But that would be already assuming that Yaldah was primary about tznuis, and it isn’t. Yaldah is about celebrating Jewish girls through the things that are relevant to their lives. The article I wrote about eating disorders was not about modesty, it was about healthy attitudes towards food, avoiding excessive worry about one’s body, and the idea that seeking medical treatment for a mental illness is deeply necessary and should not be stigmatized. But the author did not choose to focus on these aspects of my article, presumably because in omitting them she was able to highlight Yaldah’s supposed obsession with tznius. And if she read the rest of the magazine, she might find that far from pigeonholing girls into “traditional” roles, Yaldah celebrates Jewish women from all walks of life and occupations and holds up their accomplishments as examples for young girls. Why? Because Yaldah exists to represent Jewish girls with all their talents and interests, not to tell them who they can or should be. Ms. Carmon only does her readers a disservice by claiming otherwise.

Andie R. says:

Cover of Yaldah Spring Issue:
What does Your Jewish name mean?
Make you own DreamBoard!
How to Stay Positive
Organize your Bedroom
Meet the 2011 Editorial Board

Full page ad on the back cover: TrekkerGirls–Amazing hiking experience for Jewish girls in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Inside: Finalist in National Jewish Essay Contest
Get Started Volunteering
Yaldah Mailbox: “…even though I’m a catholic girl, I like your stories more than other magazines…” 9 year old girl from the Philippine

It’s all good to me!

Gil Y. says:

Irin,

You missed the story here. You focused on what the magazine is not, not on what it is. As a result you convey much more about you and what you think should be published. That’s not particularly good reporting.

Yaldah is not Jezebel, and that’s the point. There are plenty of Jezebel-like media publications targeting young girls that promote sexuality, fashion, and flirtatiousness. And there is enough of a marketplace to continue to sell that stuff to young girls. Had Leah created one more — who would care?

The real story here is that rather than accepting this reality as an acquiescent wallflower, or bitching about what isn’t out there — this one girl did what no one expected. She created the reality she wanted to see in the world, and self-published a magazine that she and her readers love. If there was ever a girl-power story — this is it.

And to boot — this modest girl from a religious environment breaks the stereotype of conformity, without crossing her boundaries. Breaking a stereotype is a story, but you cast her as merely an example of one. Really, how did you miss this? I’ve met her too and she is anything but a stereotype. She’s a role-model of someone who is both grounded in what she believes in and courageous to make real changes in people’s lives.

Yes, she did not see herself as a feminist — but why? Probably says more about the backlash image that feminism has created for itself, than about her. You should have responded to her “No Leah, You didn’t acquiesce, you didn’t bitch about it. You did something about it. That’s what Feminism should be. You go girl!”

I don’t understand how such a great magazine can be the focus of such negative attention. Yaldah is an informative magazine with many diverse topics, including recipes, fashion, health, a Q&A forum, fiction stories, and many fun contests and programs. Yaldah has ALL sorts of readers, ranging from a spectrum of religious to modern orthodox to non-Jewish- like Audrey said “We even have non-Jewish subscribers who just like learning about Jewish life, as one subscriber put it, ‘Jewish girls rock!’”.
It’s laughable to say that the slight modesty emphasis which is an undercurrent in ANY jewish magazine, is a problem. We are, after all, Jewish Girls! Modesty is one of our mitzvot! We don’t want to read about prom, or write an article about how bad drugs are- these things don’t pertain to most of the girls reading the magazine, so they don’t interest us.
Irin Carmon, I don’t know what your mission here was/is. Is it to put a bad name on Yaldah, through way of the many affiliated people who probably read this?
Is it to inspire controversy?
All I know is that Leah Caras-Larson is the sweetest person I’ve ever met, and, as a former editorial board member, I can say that she created an opportunity for us all to shine in what we do best.
Yaldah is safe, APPROPRIATE way to express your dreams, desires, talents and thoughts. Many parents appreciate the fact that their young daughters can read all the articles with about being brainwashed by the type of junk that cosmo, seventeen, or even newsweek, can feed them.
We value our innocence and modesty. Is that so wrong?

I’m the mother of the girl who made the ‘Find the Hidden Chometz’ puzzle.
My daughter’s year on Yaldah’s Editorial Board was just what Leah promised – a year to express your creativity while working with a team of Jewish girls around the world.

It was a valuable, eye-opening life experience for my daughter. She stretched a bit beyond her comfort zone, and learned how to work on a team, with all the good and bad that entails. I’m so grateful that she had the opportunity to do this.

Re: the article above…

I have found that it is almost impossible to get an accurate perspective of our complicated lives from someone who is not an insider. When reading articles by those who do not live this life on a daily basis, I find that there is just a certain level of glibness, an artificial feeling, if you will, a sense that something is missing and incomplete.

I am a single mother, and I am raising a daughter of today’s generation. As an intelligent woman, a mother as well as a high school teacher, I have taken a good, hard look around at our world, as well as the world out there. Let me tell you a secret… I prefer our world. The attitudes and behaviors of teenagers in the world today leave much to be desired. The magazines and music are not influences I want to bring into my home.

I love Yaldah. I also love American Girl. I am able to hand both magazines to my daughter with no qualms. However, when it came to being involved, we picked Yaldah, because it meshed well with who my daughter is in her daily life.

I can talk to her about puberty all by myself, thank you very much.
And for the record, my daughter’s life is not limited.
Right now, her dreams are to be an archeologist and a famous actress.
She also put in a request for a pair of jeans.
As she approaches her bas mitzvah, I am keeping the lines of communication open so we can have all of these discussions.
I will tell you one thing, though… I know that I am already proud of the adult she will be.

Rebecca Berlin says:

Hi,
I am the current Editorial Board Coordinator for Yaldah.
After reading over this interview, I feel as if the point wasn’t made clear. Yaldah Magazine is a magazine for all Jewish girls, despite what their background is. We have subscribers who are on all different levels, and Yaldah unites them all together. It is one of those few projects in which I’ve come across that really speaks to every single girl.
As a subscriber for over 5 years now I have only been pleased with the work which I have seen in Yaldah. The girls on the Editorial Board work very hard to write their articles and I feel as if this article failed to mention any of that.
If you aren’t already a regular subscriber to Yaldah, I highly reccomend looking into it.

Shades of Gray says:

I’m trying to take a middle path.

Yaldah is a wholesome, fun-filled, magazine,and is fine, exactly the way it is! I also understand the post Leah Caras wrote on the linked blog, that this article seems to not have emphasized this enough, or not have given a complete and acccurate picture of Yaldah. Yaldah is anything but “preachy”, even though it’s based, or sourced in Torah values; also, and to its credit, it can appeal to a very wide spectrum and range of readership.

Nevertheless, there are some children in the Orthodox community, of both genders, who could have benefited from discussions of sexuality(I think this is where “Frei Frem”, above, is posibly coming from). I sense this could have helped some of those Hasidim who have rejected Orthodoxy, which I think is a shame. While this is not the role of a magazine like Yaldah, Dr. David Ribner, an Orthodox expert has written about the need for improvement, and perhaps for parental-training:

“All too often we have justified our reluctance to actively help our children cope with their emerging sexuality by raising the banner of tziniut[modesty]. With this convenient shield, we have protected ourselves from our own discomfort. It’s not that we don’t want to touch this touchy subject, it’s just that nice people don’t talk about such things, and certainly not to their children. By conducting ourselves in this manner, however, we have firmly placed sex in the realm of secret information, creating a new generation who at best will suffer their own discomfort and at worse will, in this familial vacuum, fashion sexual norms antithetical to those of their parents.

I know – at some point you had “The Discussion” with your children. So now they know some basic biology. But what about attitudes and feelings, doubts and anxieties? Frequently the true message, unstated, nevertheless comes across loud and clear, sex is not to be discussed in this family…”

yehudis says:

I think it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when relationships within the family have broken down to such an extent that we leave our children’s emerging sexuality to be formed by TV, the Internet, hyper-commercial magazines, and other equally poorly-formed friends. But it’s a lot easier than being a parent!
Good parents, no matter what community they are from or their level of observance, are connected with their children and aware of their needs. This is as true in Meah Shearim (my community) as it is in Park Slope. The provision of a girls’ magazine that speaks to girlhood and emerging young womanhood, that assumes a consensus among readers that sexuality is something intimate that goes beyond the bounds of a magazine, sounds about right to me.
Remember, yaldah means girl.

Shades of Grey and others: I think it is impossible that in a free society, that some children wouldn’t grow up and decide to not be orthodox. If the orthodox community were to all of a sudden embrace secular mores with respect to teen sexuality, who is to say that even a larger group of kids wouldn’t abandon orthodoxy. I prefer the orthodox apporach to puberty: don’t associate with the other gender until you are ready for marriage and get married at a young age. As I read in another article; after marriage, how many secular people, especially women, regret not having had sex with one more partner? How many wish they had more sexual partners?

My blog is focused on frum chic fashion.

Shades of Gray says:

“If the orthodox community were to all of a sudden embrace secular mores with respect to teen sexuality…”

I agree with your point(my argument was that some of those leaving could benefit from better parental discussion, not that the Orthodox community should embrace secular mores).

Aquamarine says:

I think Yaldah is a wonderful magazine, period. I don’t understand all this controversy.

EB '11 writer says:

I few years ago, my friend gave me a copy of Yaldah Magazine. I had never seen it before, and I was pretty curious to know what this was. On the front page, there were all sorts of title that I had never seen on any other magazine before. Opening up to the table of contents, I noticed that this magazine was in fact different. It wasn’t all that gossip and lies that seemed to be on everybody’s mind; it was something new. Something everyone could read. There were stories, and drawings, and crafts… This was something I could read. Nothing about strangers. It was all by girls like me. I immediately wanted to subscribe. My first issue was the fall, 2010 issue. Inside, there was something that caught my eye. It was telling about how to be on the 2011 Editorial Board. I didn’t really understand what this meant. What was the Editorial Board? Then I learned. Many of the pieces in Yaldah were by the Editorial Board. I was so surprised. I never thought that an opportunity would come to ME. I sent in a drawing, and some writing, and waited to see what would happen. One day I got a call. I was told I get to be a writer on the 2011 Editorial Board!
I am telling this because I want to give a point. Yaldah Magazine helped me realize what I can do. It teaches me from other girls’ views.
I feel that Yaldah Magazine is meant to be what it is. Not what it isn’t.
YALDAH is truly inspiring.

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I got what you wish, thanks for putting up. Woh I am gladsome to gestate this website finished google. Thanks For Share Leah Caras Created Yaldah, A Magazine for Orthodox Girls – Tablet Magazine.

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Young and Modest

Growing up in an observant home, Leah Caras loved reading magazines but felt that none spoke to her or her fellow Orthodox Jewish girls. So, when she was 13, she started her own: Yaldah.

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