Two years ago, when Matthue and I decided to launch Hevria, we had a specific vision: we wanted to inject a sort of open, energetic, and idealistic creativity into the Jewish world. A big part of that, we believed, was in creating a home where people would feel safe to say the things deep in their hearts without feeling judged or attacked.
As things evolved, we noticed the power of safety. The way people, when they feel they are part of a community (even only on its fringes) that accepts them will open up like a budding flower. We’ve seen it happen with the regular writers on Hevria, thank God, we’ve seen it on Hevriabook, our Facebook group, and we’ve seen it among the guest writers who have graced our pages.
But we noticed something underneath the surface that was happening, something we didn’t expect: part of the outpouring of hidden secrets, some beautiful, some incredibly painful, also came because people didn’t feel this very acceptance in their own lives. Either because of their own judgments of themselves, those around them, their community, or some mix of all three.
There was an energy being pushed into our world, one that almost overwhelmed us: it was that of the anonymous writer. The person who had something welled up inside them that was so powerful, they felt the need to share it but were too afraid to go public. And despite the best efforts of Matthue and I to convince many of them otherwise, we couldn’t help but acknowledge that the people who wouldn’t provide names to go with their pieces often had something incredibly powerful to share.
I remember speaking on the phone with someone who had submitted a guest post to us about the time she was raped. She was distraught because we had rejected her piece and asked to speak with me. It felt bizarre to explain something as an editor when someone had something so raw and important to share with the world. It felt ridiculous to turn her down, but I was trying to think about it objectively: what was it bringing that was different than the other pieces? What happened if we became a confessional site instead of a site that was constructive?
And as I could hear the pain in her voice, the feeling of betrayal, of “But you said that you’d provide a platform for this,” I understood that something else was needed. Hevria was not enough.
There are voices around you: unheard, but whispering. They want to yell. They want your attention. And they deserve it.
This is why Matthue and I decided to launch a new site: Neshamas. A site just for anonymous submissions. One that doesn’t base its decisions on editorial considerations, quality of work, or even its own identity. It is a platform: one where, as long as a piece follows some basic rules, the piece will be accepted. And Asher Lovy, an abuse survivor who knows how important giving the unheard a voice is, will decorate your piece with loving care: with a gorgeous image, a share on social media, and all the other things you’d expect from a publication. All pieces are completely anonymous and do not even require an email in order to be submitted. There are no comments because we want the pieces to be read without commentary: to only have the voice of the writer, with no interruptions, even supportive ones. If people want to comment, they can do so on social media.
In other words: the anonymous deserve a voice. The unheard need to be heard. The hidden need to be seen. Neshamas is our attempt at making that happen.
One last thing: although this site will be open to writing both positive and negative, I’d like to warn read readers that much on this site will be heavy and dark. Part of dealing with the voice of the unheard is allowing their pain to be unmasked. And that means accepting negativity into our lives. It is by doing so that we are able to uplift that negativity.
So if you wonder why Neshamas is so dark, so intense, as I promise you it will be, please remember this: it is in darkness that we find the greatest light.
Time to shine.