Local social media sensations to watch

Meet Chicago Jewish women making a name for themselves on social media

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Tamar Fasja Unikel (left) and Elena Vasquez Felgueres, co-owners of Masa Madre, with a tray of ruby macadamia espresso chocolate cookies. (Photo credit: Lucy Kronzer, The Hatchery)

Alyssa Goldwater began posting on social media as a social outlet, but then she noticed an unmet need for new moms. "I thought there was a gap missing to support young moms," she said. "Everyone paints this really rosy picture, but it really isn't." So, she started sharing some of her personal stories about being a mom. Before she knew it, her number of followers kept climbing. 
Then, four years ago, Goldwater left her fulltime job as a Jewish communal professional and was able to pivot--and monetize--her blogging hobby into a full-fledged lifestyle brand called A Glass of Goldwater. In this digital space, she offers frank talk about motherhood and other challenging topics facing women. To date, Goldwater has 60,000 followers. 
As an Orthodox Jewish woman, Goldwater attracts many of her observant Jewish peers--but her site has also become both a community and support network for women of many religions around the world. "We have hard conversations about difficult topics such as mental health, the dangers of diet culture, and the unspoken struggles of motherhood," she said.  
Goldwater not only "keeps people laughing with her sarcastic take on life, but also helps women feel part of something bigger--and that they aren't alone in this crazy world," she said.  A plus-sized influencer, she often posts about body positivity, plus-sized tziniut (modesty in dress) fashion, anti-diet culture, and being a mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes. 
Follow Goldwater on Instagram and on TikTok @alyssagoldwater. 
Tamar Fasja Unikel is co-owner of Masa Madre Bakery with Elena Vazquez Felgueres. "We are a Mexican Jewish Bakery, so we take breads and pastries from both cultures and infuse them with flavors from our youth, from our grandmothers' kitchens, from things that remind us of home," Unikel said.  
Both women emigrated here from Mexico and were living in Pilsen when they took their love of baking and turned it into a business. "We opened our Instagram and Facebook accounts and people started ordering through those platforms." They now have over 10,000 followers. "We also started partnering with local Chicago businesses, so people can order our products and can select one of our pickup locations."  
They are currently in the process of building a production facility and first retail location which should be completed in the spring.  
Their Instagram account is filled with gorgeous photos of their mouthwatering breads and pastries. Not surprisingly, Tamar said they receive the most likes on the posts with photos and videos that include them. "Since we don't have a storefront, people really like to know who's behind the brand and that's been something that has connected people with us." 
Follow Masa Madre on Instagram @hellomasamadre or @masamadrebkry or on Facebook at Masa Madre. 
Melissa Rafson Friedman is passionate about children's literature--and she loves to read children's books to her small students and to her own young daughter. When she was a new mom, she began working as an ambassador for JUF Young Families' jBaby Chicago, "which was the best job ever," she said. But when her daughter was about to turn three, Friedman was looking to pursue something new. 
"I was trying to think about what I would do next. I'm a preschool teacher but I wasn't quite ready to go back to the classroom," Friedman said. During the pandemic, Friedman kept her daughter home from preschool and homeschooled her. "One of my favorite things to do was taking children's books and planning my lessons around that. It became my hobby during the pandemic. I would create these activities and lesson plans for us to do together."  
These creative lessons became the basis for her Instagram account. They were incredibly helpful for new moms also unexpectedly stuck at home during the pandemic. 
Now, Friedman has taken her love of children's books to a whole new level. She has written several of her own children's books, and is in the process of working with an agent to get them published.  
Follow Friedman on Instagram @storytime_mama.

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