Q & A with Alma’s Molly Tolsky
Molly Tolsky is the editor of Alma, senior editor of No Tokens, and a writer of short fiction (and sometimes other things). Originally from Chicago, she currently lives in Brooklyn (but also on Twitter, Instagram, and her website).
So, we’re big fans of heyalma.com at OneTable (we even hosted a Shabbat dinner together in NY). How did the site come about?
I had been the editor of Kveller, a Jewish parenting site, for several years, and really loved that job: I got to work with amazing writers, help women share their personal stories, and create an online community that felt supportive and engaged. Only thing is I’m not a parent, so I wasn’t personally connecting with the content. I thought about how great it would be to have a platform like Kveller but for millennial women — those of us still sort of figuring things out when it comes to careers, dating, and what it means to be Jewish when you’re not necessarily part of the “organized” Jewish world. 70 Faces Media, Kveller’s parent company, was really receptive to this idea and worked with me to research, fundraise, and ultimately make Alma a reality.
And what about you, how’d you get your start in the Jewish professional world?
I definitely never thought I’d find myself in the Jewish professional world. While I grew up Jewish and it was always a part of my life and culture, I hadn’t really done anything particularly Jewish since my bat mitzvah.
I started at Kveller as an intern when I was in graduate school studying writing, and honestly, the main draw for the gig was that it paid. But I quickly found myself surprisingly very into it — in large part thanks to my supervisor Deborah Kolben, who’s still my supervisor today. She really gave me the opportunity to have a big role in creating the voice and vision for Kveller, and I got to make all these ridiculous circumcision jokes and weird Photoshop mash-ups, and next thing I knew I looked up and I’ve been here for over 7 years. Damn.
At OneTable, we’re all about Shabbat dinner. What is your dream Shabbat? Who’s hosting/attending?
I’m definitely not hosting because that makes me very nervous, but I would also want to feel comfortable in the space (and perhaps be in control of the music) — so let’s go with one of my BFFs as host. I’m still really close with four girls from Chicago where I grew up (our group text name = Homies4Eva), so I’d want them all there, and then maybe I’d throw in some writers I admire, like Grace Paley (who is not alive but this is a dream, right?) and Joy Williams, and then let’s add some Joni Mitchell in for good measure (and my mom because she loves Joni Mitchell, too, and she wouldn’t want to miss that, and also I love my mom!) and then one of my nieces or nephews because I find kids extremely entertaining (but not all four because then they get crazy). And there would be a lot of dessert. Like Thanksgiving-level amounts of dessert.
Do you remember your first Shabbat dinner? Or the first one you hosted? What made it special?
I’m thinking my first Shabbat dinner must have been at Jewish summer camp, natch. (Camp Chi, what what!) It was always super fun to get “dressed up” (i.e. jean skirt and one of my nicer halter tops). We’d eat challah and chicken, and they’d even roll out the white (paper) tablecloths to class up the dining hall. Also, singing the Birkat Hamazon after we finished eating was actually a blast (we did a version that began, “It’s the Birkat, baby, Hamazon… a little bit of rock and a little bit of roll…”).
Worst/Best Shabbat dinner experience?
My co-worker recently hosted a Shabbat dinner (through OneTable!) for some ladies who work on Alma and that is where the Official Dreidel Drinking Game Rules were born. You’re all very welcome. (If not clear, this falls under the Best category.)
The one food that should never be served at a Shabbat dinner:
I’m a little offended by cold soups. Soups should be warm, that’s why they’re so good.