Over a Sunday brunch of French toast and iced coffee, Shulamith High School students and their mothers explored the essential topic of girls’ confidence.

The Confidence Brunch, featuring Allison Josephs of Jew in the City, focused on empowering girls to find their voice and take pride in their Torah values. Josephs’s organization, Jew in the City, is aimed at transforming the conversation about Orthodox Judaism in the media and has reached millions of people in over 180 countries.

Josephs presented a fresh outlook on tzniyut and encouraged students to be confident in their inner beauty and grace. A ba’alat teshuvah, Allison recalled how she was always taught by the secular world that beautiful women should flaunt their good looks. Citing social media, peer pressure, and American culture, from the red carpet to fashion magazines, American girls are taught that they are prized first and foremost for their physical appearance. From a young age, girls are taught to wear substantially less clothing than boys. Allison noted that as she learned about Torah, she felt empowered by tzniyut. She retold how as she dressed more modestly, her peers were challenged to respect her for her personality and character. As another added benefit of dressing modestly, Josephs recognized that skirts easily identified her as a frum Jewish girl, and helped her connect quickly with the frum network at Columbia–giving her access to wonderful new friends and community. Josephs is smart, stylish, and fun–it was easy to see why so many were charmed by her presentation!

Growing up as a teenage girl in today’s world is hard. Girls feel pulled in many directions–from social media, modern culture, and peer pressure–to project an impossible image of perfection. Creating the space to name those challenges is an important part of teenage development. Using Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfections as a jumping-off point, mother—daughter pairs investigated the merits of authenticity and conviction, even when not perfect. The students then created their own hashtags to boldly shape their own confidence narratives.

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