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Leah Larson

Creating a voice for girls in America and around the world

Do you play a musical instrument? Have you ever thought to use your talent to raise money for a charity or two? Stephanie "Kira" Dye has been playing the cello since she was 5-years-old. For the past few years, she has raised thousands of dollars for charities in her home town of St. Louis, MO! Read her interview and find out what else this future soloist does for fun.

How old are you, what grade are you in, and where is your hometown?

I am 15 years-old, in the 9th grade, and live in Sharon, Massachusetts.

What prompted you to start your magazine?

I had always wanted a magazine for Jewish girls like me. I enjoyed reading American Girl magazine but wished that there was something like it with articles on Jewish topics. I was skilled in writing, digital photography, using the computer, etc. so I had some preparation for it. One day I just sat down and wrote out the table of contents for the first issue. After that I got to work and I haven't stopped.

What does Yaldah mean?

Yaldah is the Hebrew word for 'girl'.

Once you got the idea, how long did it take until the first issue was ready?

It took a full year before the first issue came out. That involved getting a Post Office Box, opening a bank account, making a Web site, and of course, making the first issue and learning all about that.

Who helped you launch the first edition?

I had guidance from many people. Yael Resnick, who lives in the same town as me and publishes her own magazine (Natural Jewish Parenting), gave me advice on starting a magazine. My mother is a writer so she helped me with some of the editing. My father works with computers so he was there to help when there was a computer problem, and my grandfather works for the IRS so he was able to answer my questions about taxes. My friends and family really supported me, and some of them wrote for that first issue. A lot of it was real hands-on learning and just trying new things.

What kinds of things do you write about in the magazine? Who does most of the writing?

We write about topics relevant to Jewish girls. Some articles might have to do with a Jewish holiday or a Jewish idea, but a lot of articles are about things that interest all girls, like babysitting tips, what it's like to be a twin, or how to deal with moving. We'll write it with a Jewish slant or include relevant quotes from the Torah. Each issue has fictional stories, true stories, crafts, recipes, quizzes, and games. We also have interviews with Jewish girls doing interesting things: a Jewish girl who acted in a video, a girl who raised money for diabetes, a popular Jewish author. Any Jewish girl can submit to the magazine, but our Editorial Board of 26 girls from around the world does a lot of the writing.

What is your role with the magazine?

I need to work on delegation because I play a lot of roles! Mainly I'm the founder, editor, and publisher. I'm also the Web master, design all the pages of the magazine, get advertising, and coordinate the Editorial Board. I'm the photographer and sometimes the writer or illustrator when that's needed. I answer hundreds of emails each week from our readers. I also do public relations: I send out press releases, participate in interviews, and speak about the magazine. I coordinate the subscriber’s list and mail out new orders. Generally, I just do what needs to be done.

How are girls involved with Yaldah?

There are lots of ways to get involved! Our Editorial Board members are on our Board for a year. After that, they are very closely involved with what goes on with the magazine. We also have a 'contributors club' where members answer questions about the magazine, what they'd be interested in reading, what ideas they have, etc. Any Jewish girl can submit a story, poem, photograph, article, interview, puzzle, drawing...there are so many ways to get involved.

How do you spread the word about Yaldah? How many people subscribe now?

So far, word has spread all through word-of-mouth, newspaper, and magazine articles (such as American Girl, New Moon, and the Jerusalem Post) about YALDAH. We haven't done any paid advertising yet, but we probably will start soon. We have about 700 subscribers now.

Besides Yaldah, what other things are you involved in?

Yaldah takes up a lot of time, but I also enjoy writing and taking photos (not for the magazine). I also manage the Web site for my synagogue, and I do some graphic design for people I know. As busy as I am, I belong to a local health club and make time to exercise regularly.

Tell us what it is like to be home schooled.

This is my first year being home schooled. There are lots of different styles of home schooling, and each family's style is unique. At the beginning of the year, I decided what I wanted to learn. I looked through curriculums that other schools used, and decided what material I would cover. I learn both regular subjects and Jewish subjects. I went over the curriculum with my parents, and they said it was okay. Then we worked on how I would learn each subject. I take some classes online, some I learn with a tutor, and others my parents help me with. I also take an art class. I have a lot of input in what I learn—like choosing what type of reports I'd like to do. But, my parents make sure I get all my work done! I have a flexible schedule which allows me to work on YALDAH more. Some days I won't start school until the afternoon and then continue into the nighttime.

What do you want to do when you are finished with school?

I hope to continue with YALDAH, although I don't know what it will be like by then. Hopefully, I'll have a lot more helpers! At some point I'll have to hand over the Editor job to a girl who is in the age range of 8-14 so it will truly be a magazine 'for Jewish girls, by Jewish girls' but I want to stay involved. I'll see what the future brings, but I hope to continue writing too. But mainly I want to be a mother! That's the best job.

What is your family like? Do you have brothers or sisters?

I have a sister who is 8 and a brother who is 12. My sister is a big fan of the magazine and she makes sure to give me her input. My brother is really cooperative, even when our dinner conversations revolve around an issue at the printer or something. He's been a great sport.

Do you have a role model?

I have many role models, many of whom are Jewish women working to keep the flame of Judaism alive.

Content last reviewed April 01, 2006
Page last updated April 01, 2006

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.