Maddie Nowack of the ’26 cohort had two unique experiences that allowed her to learn more about the intersectionality of identity.
She was a representative for her high school at the National Association of Independent Schools Student Leadership and Diversity Conference (SDLC), where she discussed current events with fellow student participants. She also participated in the Rising Voices Fellowship as a blog writer for the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA).
She answered some questions about her experiences in these two programs:
What made you want to participate?
I became involved in both because I wanted to explore the different parts of my identity and see how they related to me.
What were some of the activities you participated in?
In SDLC I participated in a lot of open facilitated discussions, and I also listened to speakers. There were break out rooms based on affinity groups, and you could choose which one you wanted to go to (keep in mind this was peak covid so the in-person part was canceled). In the affinity spaces there were prompts given, and some prompts needed journaling and some were discussions. The conference did a privilege “walk” on zoom, we did fishbowl talks in bigger groups, and we listened to authors/poets speak as well.
In JWA, I attended webinars and wrote blog posts every month. There were two prompts listed each month, and you had to choose which one to write about. Most of the articles printed were about identity and Judaism based writing. It was a lot about exploring, like feminism within Judaism and how you chose to participate in that community.
What have you learned from your experience?
I got to meet other transracial adoptees at SDLC. I have always had friends who were adopted by white parents just by chance, but to be put into a formal setting where the point is to talk about your experience and learn about other peoples allowed me to really reflect on my experiences. I am pretty comfortable with my identity, and always have been since I was young, but it was really cool hearing other people’s stories and seeing the similarities in our lives. Being a transracial adoptee is a specific experience and, even though I always have been appreciative of my story, I think I learned that the unique lens I have on the world truly is a blessing.
In terms of the JWA website, I think that I learned what parts of my religious identity I wanted to keep and other parts I felt I could move on from. I think it was a really important growing experience because through them I discovered what I am interested in. I think that I learned that some parts of Judaism I am not so in touch with compared to others, but I also learned that embracing my Judaism doesn’t have to include the traditional standards of what one might think embracing Judaism is — ex: services.
I am really fortunate to have gotten to experience both of those opportunities because I genuinely think they helped me mature as a person and become more in touch with aspects of my identity.
You can read Maddie’s published blogs on the Jewish Women’s Archive website: https://jwa.org/blog/author/nowack-maddie