Being Jewish can be complex.
Being a Jewish woman can be even more complex.
Throw in work, dating, parenting, and, well, life in general, and it’s really, really complex. And also you have a plethora of things to talk about, and even more specifically, to write about.
Jewish women who have chosen to bare their souls, both emotionally and literarily, now have a new place to do it. 70 Faces Media — the new name for the organization that grew out of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which now styles itself simply as JTA, when it merged with My Jewish Learning— offers several websites that give them the chance and the freedom to do so.
The creative energy the company exudes is practically palpable at its Manhattan office.
Kveller, from the Yiddish word “kvell,” meaning feeling happy or proud, is a site where Jewish moms can literally kvell about their children — and also talk about issues surrounding parenting with honesty and compassion. Of course, as every parent quickly learns, it isn’t all about the kvelling — those issues are also brought forth with honesty and compassion. Kveller was launched back in the fall of 2010, as a project of My Jewish Learning.
The founding editor was Deborah Kolben. Molly Tolsky came on as an intern that summer while she was in graduate school studying writing. According to Ms. Tolsky, “I was able to play a big role in shaping the voice of the site and I watched it grow from nothing to a robust, engaged online community of parents, mostly women.”
In 2015, when the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and My Jewish Learning became 70 Faces Media, Deborah Kolben became the COO and editorial director of all its brands. Those include not only JTA, My Jewish Learning, and Kveller, but also the Nosher, Jewniverse, and now Alma. Ms. Tolsky went on to become the editor of Kveller.
The job was great, she said, but not quite a perfect fit for her. “While I loved everything about editing Kveller — working with amazing writers, helping women share their personal stories and connect with others who have gone through similar things — I’m not a parent myself, so my own personal connection to the content was always lacking,” she said.
So Ms. Tolsky and Ms. Kolben put their heads together. “Debbie and I had been very casually throwing the idea around for a website like Kveller, but for younger Jews, for a few years,” Ms. Tolsky said. “But it was during a mid-year review in 2015 when I broke down in tears over feeling stuck in my career — and let’s be honest, my life — and the idea for Alma really came to fruition.”
The Hebrew word Alma means a woman of childbearing age who hasn’t yet had kids. It also describes the website’s target audience. “We’re looking for millennial Jewish women who aren’t super affiliated with organized Judaism — they probably don’t belong to a synagogue or keep kosher, but they do take pride in being culturally Jewish,” Ms. Tolsky said. “The goal is to form an online community for these women, where we can talk about all aspects of our lives —building a career, dating, relationships with our family, travel, fashion, and so on — while also talking about how our Jewishness fits into the rest of our identity.
“Alma’s message is that young Jewish women have opinions and things to say, and this is an online forum for those thoughts to be shared in a communal, safe space,” she continued. “These women can benefit from connecting with each other and hearing each other’s voices.”
She hopes that Alma’s content will attract millennial women of all backgrounds, from Orthodox to Reform and even to the unaffiliated. Everyone has a story; some of those stories are intertwined with their faith, while others are not. But in both cases, those stories are important and readers can learn from and empathize with them.
Ami Eden is 70 Faces Media’s CEO and executive editor. “We are constantly looking for new ways to engage different audiences,” he said. “And we are consistently analyzing what is and isn’t working.
“To that end, we realized a few important lessons from our parenting site, Kveller. It was something about a niche site, aimed at women, with a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish content that didn’t necessarily put the Jewish first, because we realize that that isn’t how many people lead their lives. For many readers, being Jewish is part of their life, but not their whole life.
“We are already hearing from Alma readers how much they are enjoying and appreciating the site. And for us, this is an opportunity to expand our reach and develop a product that’s aimed specifically at a younger demographic.”
Alma did a soft launch on social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Medium, in March. According to Ms. Tolsky, we “launched our website this past June. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with a lot of women reaching out to say how long they’ve been waiting to see a publication just like this for Jewish women.”
Ms. Tolsky has been receiving several emails a week from readers who would like to write for Alma, or who are really enjoying what the site has offered so far.
Alma is at heyalma.com. Anyone who is interested in becoming a contributor should write to firstname.lastname@example.org with their ideas.