Author Archives: Rishe Groner

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January 31, 2018 by

A Feminist Prayer for Tu b’Shvat

May my body be strong
Made of earth
Growing as a tree 
May my limbs spread wide
May my seed sprout forth
May my fruits be tasted by all
As sweet
May the pits that lie within me
In the darkest depths of my dear heart
Serve me in my vulnerability 
May the flames of the Divine
And the body I carry
Unite to provide
A shelter of Oneness
A growing, thriving plant
Legions of seeds
For I am Human
Woman
A tree


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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January 26, 2018 by

This Week’s Torah Parsha Is Inspiration to Keep Marching

Last year, my friend Micha made her own drum.
It was painted blue, with a large wooden frame, and I’d seen the social media snaps she’d taken throughout the day as she’d crafted it with her hands. She began bringing her drum to circles where we’d sit in song and in prayer, and I watched over the months as her entire musical repertoire began to expand. Her voice opened and her beats shifted. Each time she played that drum and found the rhythms that worked for her, her soul came out in new ways.

Witnessing this made me want a drum, oh so desperately. Although I stopped at music stores and admired the beautiful specimens there, I knew I needed to undertake the work of building it myself.

So a month ago, when my friend Alex came to town and announced she’d be leading a drum making workshop, I jumped at the chance. I ordered the skin (elk) and the size (14 inch) I wanted, but deliberately did no research on how to build a drum. I knew it would be a learning curve for me. I’m a champion of embodied action but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy for me. On the contrary, hands on mechanics can be a struggle for the girl who fights her body and lives in her mind. But that’s why I work so damn hard at it.

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January 8, 2018 by

Why We Need to Talk About Circumstantial Infertility

It’s a cold night on the Upper West Side, and like most New Yorkers, I had a choice of events for the evening. I likely would have skipped them all; which is what happens when you’re spoiled for choice, but something drew me to this big old synagogue. The elevator in the building takes a while to arrive, so I listen to the singing coming from the main sanctuary downstairs and remark to the woman ushering people in that I might prefer to stay and listen to that.

I don’t know, I guess I just feel… well… nervous.

I was making an investment in a topic I’d sometimes thought about but mostly dismissed—pushed to the back of my mind along with retirement savings and lasik surgery. As long as I don’t think about it, don’t research it; don’t talk about, perhaps it’s not really there.

But elephants in the room have a way of growing, and when I finally arrived on the 10th floor thanks to the single ancient creaky elevator, I realized I wasn’t the only one nervously eyeing this particular elephant. Thirty women were already present—by the end of the evening probably closer to 50—and while I was relieved to see a familiar face, I wondered why I wasn’t seeing more.

The speaker took the podium and began.

“In the Orthodox Jewish community, fertility has become a hot topic as many couples marry later in life and struggle to conceive in their 40s. But tonight we are here to talk about another type of infertility—circumstantial infertility.”

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December 19, 2017 by

What “Maoz Tzur” Has To Do With Our #MeToo Moment

Judith with the head of Holofernes, painting by Vincenzo Catena

Judith with the head of Holofernes, painting by Vincenzo Catena

Maoz tzur yeshuati…” rings a song chanted the world over following the kindling of the Hanukkah lights, best known in its translation, “Rock of Ages.” Though it wasn’t my family’s custom to sing this seven-paragraph tribute to Jewish resistance overcoming oppression, I was somewhat familiar with not only the famous first verse, but also with the second-to-last. That penultimate verse is a tribute to opposing the Hellenist oppression featured in the Hanukkah story. It includes a phrase that’s been put to countless Hasidic tunes, and always leaves me jumping with joy inside.

Yevanim nikbetzu alay,” it begins. “The Hellenists gathered against me, in the days of the Hasmoneans.”

Then the language does more than I could ever describe, so let’s go on a journey through the Hebrew:

Upartzu chomot migdalay“—“and they breached the walls of my towers”/
V’timu kol hashmanim“—“and defiled all of the oil.”

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December 18, 2017 by

Hanukkah: Fiery Feminist Holiday or Women’s Consolation Prize?

Print, "Judith with the Head of Holofernes," 19th century, unknown artist.

Print, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 19th century, unknown artist.

Since I was raised as a child in an Orthodox community, Hanukkah was the closest thing I had to a feminist holiday.

I grew up in Australia, where I celebrated Hanukkah at summer camp with a menorah lighting that rivalled Shabbat for its beauty and community. We sang “Hanerot Hallalu” with the traditional Hasidic melody and danced around the dining room with our arms around each other. We played variations of dreidel throughout the festival and doughnuts were currency in the camp black market.

One of the ways we learned of the story of Hanukkah was through children’s story tapes. Along with catchy tunes about spinning dreidels and lighting the candles from left to right, it featured the type of song that was rare in my diet of traditionally Orthodox Jewish children’s media—a homage to women, and their contribution to the Hanukkah story.

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December 1, 2017 by

Why We Still Haven’t Truly Heard Dinah’s Story—And Never Can

We’d been steadily progressing through the Chumash in school since the first grade. We’d covered the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs, Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rivkah and now, in fourth grade, we were in the thick of Jacob’s ever-expanding family of tribes. He’d spent 21 years working for the privilege of marrying his two wives, sisters Rachel and Leah, and had just met up with—and reconciled with—his estranged twin brother.

Then our teacher invited us to close our books for this lesson.

“I’m going to tell you a story,” she said to our all girls class “And in the meantime, you can draw pictures.”

And so I heard the story, the one we sometimes criticize our teachers for skipping, of the abduction and rape of Dinah, daughter of Jacob. I scoffed in later years at the sanitization of Jewish memory, at that decision to take one of the most troubling, disturbing and triggering stories of the Bible and sterilize it for our nine-year-old ears. It’s only now, decades later as I dig into my feelings around this story, that I recognize with some gratitude the wisdom of hearing about this rape through the ancient feminine modes of storytelling and discussion.

When I continued my studies, I found that the midrash provides layers of context – some informative, some challenging, some seriously disturbing. In Anita Diamant’s acclaimed The Red Tent, Dinah grows into a maiden with personality beyond the rabbis’ broad strokes. And yet, I sometimes regret that additional knowledge has colored my perspectives, and wonder how I personally would have perceived this story without the interpretations of others, as my teacher asked me to on that day two decades ago.

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October 18, 2017 by

#MeToo: The Shechinah Is Crying

I said Me Too, and so did a lot of women. And it’s an important conversation. And I want more than men to stop raping people. Or really, people to stop raping people. 

I want men to stop talking over me in conversation. To ask me for my opinion, actually, instead of assuming they know more than me on a given topic. Especially if it’s an expertise of mine.

For that matter, I want to be able to offer myself as an expert in a conversation without being questioned, invalidated, wondered about.

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September 28, 2017 by

A Feminist Prayer for Yom Kippur

On this Yom Kippur day
I pray
I ask for forgiveness

Please forgive me
Divine Mother
Shechinah
Spirit of the Universe
Cosmic Creator

Forgive me
For not recognizing the body You’ve given me as Divine
for disrespecting the earth that is Your body
Strewing it with styrofoam and plastic trash
As I’ve strewn my own body with self-loathing, judgment,

Dear Goddess
Please forgive me
For not embodying You
And behaving with compassion
Communicating with my heart
Instead of my head

To the Supernal Divine
Infinite Mystery
That fills the universe
Forgive my errors in judgment
Of harshness and rashness
As I’ve failed to recognize
That I too am divine
As are You
And You are within me

Forgive us
As a society
For telling boys to man up
For criticizing women who are too needy
And boys who are too emotional
For calling that girl a slut
For telling that woman to shut up
For competing with her in the workplace
For failing to articulate my own needs
For neglecting my own feelings and emotions
Or suffocating others with my need to serve them

Oh Shechinah
Feminine presence in the universe
Broken and battered
Tattered in clothing
Please forgive us

For rape culture
For gaming culture
For internalized misogyny
For corporate hierarchy
For religious patriarchy
For jealousy
For mansplaining
For homophobia
For abusing our trans siblings
For deflecting responsibility
For dieting excessively
For eating mindlessly
For trying to place a value on a body
That is already determined by You
To be divine

Forgive us
Divine Mother
and grant us all that You embody

Grant us compassion
Grant us collaboration
Grant us communication
Grant us the ability to listen
Grant us the ability to receive
Grant us the ability to feel
Grant us the opportunity to heal
Grant us the opportunity to express ourselves
Grant us the opportunity to cry, as the darkest depths move us through to the other side

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September 20, 2017 by

A Feminist Prayer for Rosh Hashanah—In Honor of Hannah

pomegranate-185456_1920-1

May we be blessed this Rosh Hashanah that all our prayers are answered, as Hannah’s were answered, with joy and with gratitude. May our words be heard, may our cries rise to the heavens and penetrate the skies, may they cause vibrations in the earth that shake the universe at its very core. May we all find a way to reach the heart of ourselves and connect to the Divine in our own way, and line up a year of joy, blessing, prosperity, goodness, health, abundance, magic and love to all beings. 


Rishe Groner is a writer and strategist living in Brooklyn. She is the founder of TheGene-Sis.com, a post-Hasidic embodied approach to self-transformation.


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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August 7, 2017 by

Why Tu B’Av Is Much More Than Just “Jewish Valentine’s Day”

grapes-1659118_1920When I was in elementary school, our Australian Jewish private school had a strict uniform, down to accessories: only navy blue knee-high socks or tights, and navy or royal blue hair bows or scrunchies. (It was 1993). Once a year, though, I remember that my sister and I whipped out the white frou frou barrettes we’d worn at our aunt’s wedding, and donned the white knee-high socks we wore on weekends. We’d get to school and there’d be Israeli dancing in the assembly area, following the steps announced by a heavily accented teacher. It was Tu B’Av, the date on the Hebrew calendar worth remembering and celebrating zestfully. With our white clothing and our dancing, we were almost, if not quite, imitating the traditions of our ancestors.

Ancestors—aka the ladies of Shiloh. The maidens of ancient Israel and Judea who each year at the grape harvest would celebrate ecstatically with dances through the vineyards and onto the wine press. As they squeezed the grapes with their bare feet, they drew the glances of young men who came to the annual festival to find their chosen wives. And with it, the most unusual mating ritual until The Bachelorette. Maidens garbed themselves in white dresses, perhaps imagining themselves as Anne Shirley’s “heroine in a white muslin dress,” looking their best for their gentlemen suitors––but with a catch. No woman wore clothing that was her own. The poorest maiden wore elaborate dresses from her rich neighbors, while the daughter of the mayor borrowed a simple shift from an acquaintance. The maidens would call out across the fields at the gentlemen spectators, shouting out their traits as if in a cattle market.

“Look not to riches, for a woman with pious deeds is worth more than rubies!” The daughter of the baker would shout.

“Worry not about the beauty of your wife, for far more important is her family and illustrious ancestors!” The daughter of the Torah scholar who did not meet conventional beauty standards might announce.

Each woman would find ways to showcase the value of her particular brand of beauty—while, the Talmud tells us, criticizing the conventional modes of beauty that might be priorities for others.

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