The Lilith Blog

May 23, 2018 by

A Novel Imagines F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Lesser-Known (and Jewish) Love Affair

In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise—while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze. But the once-famous author, desperate to make money penning scripts for the silver screen, is charismatic enough to attract the gorgeous Miss Graham, a woman who exposes the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own. Like Fitzgerald’s hero Jay Gatsby, Graham has meticulously constructed a life far removed from the poverty of her childhood in London’s slums. And like Gatsby, the onetime guttersnipe learned early how to use her charms to become a hardworking success; she is feted and feared by both the movie studios and their luminaries.another side of paradise

A notorious drunk famously married to the doomed Zelda, Fitzgerald fell hard for his “Shielah” (he never learned to spell her name), who would stay with him and help revive his career until his tragic death three years later.

Working from Sheilah’s memoirs, interviews, and letters, Sally Koslow revisits their scandalous love affair and Graham’s dramatic transformation in London in her new novel, Another Side of Paradise, out this month from HarperCollins.

Koslow, the former editor-in-chief of McCall’s Magazine and author of four other novels, including acclaimed international bestseller The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about how she came to uncover the secrets of Graham’s past—and why.

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May 22, 2018 by

News From Lilith: An Emerging Writer’s Program and a New Digital Editor

New York, NY — Lilith Magazine has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta to support emerging feminist writers. The timing makes the grant particularly significant, as the reverberations of the #MeToo movement in Jewish communities and in the media world underscore the importance of amplifying more women’s voices and perspectives.

Lilith—independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—is marking its 42nd year of fearless publishing as the feminist change-agent in and for the Jewish community, amplifying Jewish women’s voices, creating a more inclusive Judaism, spurring gender consciousness in the Jewish world and empowering Jewish feminists of all genders to envision and enact change in their own lives and their communities.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with JWFA to launch this needed program,” says Susan Weidman Schneider Lilith’s editor in chief and one of the magazine’s founding mothers. “Emerging Jewish feminist writers need good editing, mentoring, and a platform for their unique voices. Lilith’s goal is to provide all three.”

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May 17, 2018 Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Ruth: the Torah of Transgressive Transformation

Shavuot: When Torah Comes from Earth More than from Heaven

As we take up the Book of Ruth for its traditional reading on Shavuot (this year, from Saturday evening, May 19, through Sunday evening, May 21) we may note that it bears special significance for the role of women in our own generation, and for changes in the meaning of Torah when change happens in society at large.

ruth_gleaning

The story of Ruth brings together with almost invisible threads three seemingly transgressive women of the Bible. The Hebrew Bible conventionally assigns women to the role of motherhood, and it likes to tell the stories of how women who are denied the opportunity of motherhood seek it with great urgency.  But in three stories of such women, the urge to be conventional empowers deeply unconventional change.

When the stories are first told, they seem to have no connection with each other. But then the Book of Ruth links the three stories by threads that are almost invisible — but not quite. The gossamer threads of connection strengthen each separate story into an epic of ironic transformation.

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May 16, 2018 by

Leslie Cagan’s Half-Century of Activism

When Brooklyn for Peace named community organizer Leslie Cagan one of three Pathfinder for Peace award winners in late 2017, it was both in recognition of, and in gratitude for, Cagan’s more than 50 years of social justice activism. Whether pushing for action on climate change, peace, LGBTQ equality, feminism, reproductive choice, or fighting racism, Cagan’s voice, presence, and expertise have long been visible. 

Cagan has worn a lot of hats over the years. Among them, she was the interim board chair at the Pacifica radio network in the late 1990s; was National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice from 2002-2009; and either coordinated or played a leadership role in some of the largest demonstrations in American history—for nuclear disarmament in 1982; for LGBTQ rights in 1987; against the war in Iraq in 2003; and for climate action in 2014.

Opening comments from Leslie Cagan, a leader in the Peoples Climate Movement NY - Peoples Climate Movement 2018 Kick-off event is a city-wide organizing meeting on learning how you can get more involved in climate campaigns. Followed by brief updates on the exciting work of several campaigns and breaking groups focused on how we can strengthen and expand climate action in New York City and NY State, as well as nationally. (Photo by Erik McGregor)


Opening comments from Leslie Cagan, a leader in the Peoples Climate Movement NY – Peoples Climate Movement 2018 Kick-off event is a city-wide organizing meeting on learning how you can get more involved in climate campaigns. Followed by brief updates on the exciting work of several campaigns and breaking groups focused on how we can strengthen and expand climate action in New York City and NY State, as well as nationally. (Photo by Erik McGregor)

She is presently involved with the Peoples Climate Movement (PCM)—NYC, as well as PCM nationally, and is part of an effort challenging the corporate saturation and over-policing of the Heritage of Pride parade held annually in NYC to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall rebellion. 

Cagan recently spoke to Eleanor J. Bader about her history, ongoing work, and the personal challenges of caring for life partner Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, who has advanced Parkinson’s Disease.

Eleanor J. Bader: Let’s start with your personal history. When did you become involved in progressive political activism?

Leslie Cagan: I grew up in the Bronx, in a Jewish, leftist community. My parents were hardcore activists. I have an older brother and a younger sister and family outings growing up would often involve going to a demonstration. My grandmother was active in the textile workers union so I guess you can say that politics has always been in my blood. Their example was important and impacted all of us. Both of my siblings are activists. 

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May 11, 2018 by

A Grandmother’s Mindfulness

street-3336763_960_720When my granddaughter is peaceful, I can sometimes see words making their shapes behind her face. Her eyes dart here and there, and they stop. Words spill past her ruby lips. “…that other fruit, the one that’s not an orange… pomegranate… like my party dress…”

 I try to coast along on her reverie.

Penny is seven. She’s figured out that I exist when she’s not around. I come and go. I will go; she knows this too.

“Grandma, you are going to die because you’re old.” I am on my way up the stairs and Penny hurls this thought at me across the railing. Then she hesitates and adds less brightly, “If you eat healthy and do your exercise, you won’t die so fast.”

At seventy-two I am one year older than my mother when she died. I think of this most days as my life rushes by, a job, a husband, and self-imposed obligations. Hours are whizzing by, and I can’t unspeed the clock. 

When we play “Just Spit It Out!” and Penny gets to go first being the youngest and is asked to name two breakfast foods served at Wendy’s, Penny pulls her shoulders up, tight up to her neck. Her eyes open big, and she lifts herself high on her tippy toes. “Eggs and bananas!” She laughs and runs into the kitchen.

In a tub full of rubber ducks Penny lets me wash her thick hair that is almost black and rinse it many times, as long as I hand her the slip-on terrycloth mitt to squeeze against her eyes. My own hair is thinning; the color is quickly fading. Who will wash my thinning hair?

Will I be trusting?

Penny has become a little sharp. I can no longer bite her arms in jest. Turns her head with a frown; she lets me know.  She will show me her painting when she is ready. She is the youngest of two, pushed by a now-bossy sister.

I pay attention.

This is what I do.

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May 4, 2018 by

Why We Need an Alternative to the Nice Jewish Boy

As a young Jewish boy, Jeffrey Tambor loved to read books. He would ask his father every night to take him down to the local library, and he would stay there until it closed. But, he told The New York Times in March last year, “I kept it a secret from my friends, as I don’t think it would have been considered the ‘coolest’ habit.” Tambor also freely describes another thing his childhood friends wouldn’t have approved of: crying. In the Times interview, he repeatedly tells of crying and weeping, both as a child and an adult.

It was this apparent intellectual resolve, emotional sensitivity, and countercultural sensibility that Tambor brought into his most recent and successful work. He became a critical darling and beloved progressive icon for portraying Maura Pfefferman, a character who transitions, on Amazon’s groundbreaking show Transparent. As the show’s star, he became something of a spokesman on trans issues, patiently explaining concepts of gender queerness to Stephen Colbert in 2014, and declaring at the 2016 Emmys that he hoped he would be the last cisgender man to play a trans character.

Jeffrey Tambor was a progressive, intelligent, sensitive man. He was the very model of the kind of man parents want their nice Jewish boys to become. He was also fired from Transparent this year for sexually harassing and assaulting three of his colleagues.

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May 2, 2018 by

“The Heirs” Asks For How Many Generations Can Guilty Carry On?

TheHeirsCoverAfter breaking her hip in a serious accident, Eleanor Ritter’s mother, Rose, a Holocaust survivor now living in New Jersey, suddenly starts talking about her harrowing childhood in Poland and the taboo subjects she has refused to discuss for half a century—even speaking in long-forgotten Polish. Around the same time, Eleanor learns that the parents of her nine-year-old son’s soccer teammate, Tadek, are Catholics from Poland.

As Eleanor becomes fixated with digging into the histories of both her mother and Tadek’s family, her obsession strains her already difficult relationship with Rose, as well as her marriage to Nick, an IT technician who is himself caught up in preparing for the feared Y2K turn of the millennium.

Eleanor starts flirting with the soccer coach, ignoring her 12-year-old daughter’s growing rebellion and her son’s misery when, messing up several games, he becomes the team pariah. Meanwhile, the “sure-fire” tech stock that Eleanor bought behind Nick’s back is losing money. Even as her quest nourishes an odd friendship with Tadek’s mother, it forces Eleanor to face the unavoidable questions: For how many generations can guilt carry on? And: What did your grandparents do to my grandparents?

Hawthorne, the author of the award-winning Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love and seven other books about business, consumers and social issues, talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about her journey from fiction to fact and then back again.

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May 1, 2018 by

7 Jewish Feminist Ways to Celebrate May Day

Illustration by Julia Alekseyeva.

Illustration by Julia Alekseyeva.

May Day is International Worker’s Day and probably the greatest holiday of all time. As has been previously been written on Lilith.org, it should also be considered a Jewish holiday. And what is a Jewish holiday without rituals to observe?

Here are 7 Extremely Jewish Feminist ways to celebrate the first of May.

1) Don’t work. It’s a chag. It’s yontiff! Join the general strike. But if the men are not doing as much labor as everyone else to prepare for the holiday, shun them all.

2) Talk your synagogue into flying a red flag. Take a picture. Tweet it at us. I know one of you can do it.

3) Publicly call out the shondas fur di goyim. The list of contenders right now is really long, so be discerning and don’t just go for the obvious choices like Ivanka and Sheldon!

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April 30, 2018 by

Hello Anxiety, My Old Friend

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.

 

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April 27, 2018 by

What Is a Feminist Audience to Make of Albee’s Anti-Semitic Matron?

Glenda Jackson in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, directed by Joe Mantello, at the Golden Theatre. Photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe.

Glenda Jackson in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, directed by Joe Mantello, at the Golden Theatre. Photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe.

Edward Albee often said that he modeled the main character in “Three Tall Women” on his adoptive mother, from whom he was estranged and about whom he never had anything good to say.

If it’s a revenge play, as some people have speculated, then he failed, though he presents the old woman with all her failings, including an anti-Semitic (and racist) streak. But the two-act drama now at the Golden Theater on Broadway is far more nuanced than that.

First of all, it is a terrific play and a terrific production, often bitterly funny about the indignities of aging. (I don’t recall laughing much, or hearing much laughter, during its 1994 Off-Broadway debut.) 

The play is also, it turns out, far more forgiving and understanding about the flinty, demanding and frequently imperious central character played by Glenda Jackson than the playwright perhaps intended. Or, more likely, he did intend, as he explored the reasons for his mother’s extreme discontent, to come to terms with how she treated him. And to allow audience members to come to their own conclusions.

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