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Letters

ARE JEWISH FAMILIES DIFFERENT?

Re your interview with Olga Silverstein ["Jewish Families are Different;' Spring 1989]: Was it concerned with families who are Jewish within a certain milieu, i.e. middle to upper-middle class New Yorkers, in order to make certain “therapeutic” assumptions?

Surely having a grasp on the ethnic/cultural background of a family is necessary to understanding family relationships but it cannot and should not be made into broad generalizations about all Jewish women, all Jewish men, all WASPS, etc. Such generalizations as Jewish males get “more depressed” as their wives become more independent has nothing to do with Jewishness but rather with shifting polarities in a family system, with gender differentiation and how it plays itself out within a specific cultural milieu.

by Karen Schulte, Oakdale NY

MOTHERS AND OTHERS

I appreciated the editorial about the decline of “mother-blaming” (Summer 1989) — and then was highly amused to see your editor commit the same error in the little blurb about my piece in the table of contents in the same issue. Using the traditional semi-psychoanalytic method, she attributed my work on anger to mother’s influence. Well, of course she influenced my thinking. But so did my father, who had a rousing, furious temper and was quick to let you know it. So did my adult experiences, with the women’s movement and with the study of social psychology. It’s the glib reduction of a writer’s work to “Mom” that Paula Caplan (see Review, p. 30) so objects to, as do I. Sorry — but I couldn’t resist pointing out how pervasive “mother-attributing” is, even when it’s meant kindly.

by Carol Tavris, Los Angeles, CA

Tavris is the author of Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion.

FIRST-CLASS WOMEN

Your short piece, “B’nai B’rith Goes Co-ed” [Spring 1989], may give an impression other than the one I hope you may have intended.

You quoted someone who implied that B’nai B’rith Women is not a humanist organization, but a feminist one, and that being so is a pejorative condition. It is unfortunate that LILITH would lend credence to viewing feminism in that light.

There also was an inference in the article that members of B’nai B’rith Women were second-class citizens. B’nai B’rith International and B’nai B’rith Women had reached an agreement several years ago (broken by B’nai B’rith International when they admitted women) that women would be members of the B’nai B’rith through their membership in BBW and could rise to high office in either organization. Neither then, nor now, was B’nai B’rith Women membership anything less than first class.

by Hyla Lipsky, Washington DC

The author is national president of B’nai B’rith Women.

TOWARD A BETTER WORLD

I am a new midwife, and I have decided that in the spirit of tzedakah and the spirit of celebration, I will donate $18 toward a better world with each child I help to be born.

This is the first, in thanksgiving for baby Mari. It seems only right that the first goes to bring connection, and perhaps hope, to a refusenik sister.

Thanks for your help and your work.

Deborah Kutenplon

Northampton MA

Editor’s Note: This donation to LILITH was for a gift subscription to a Soviet refusenik woman. Donors of these subscriptions receive a letter from LILITH with the recipient’s name and address. A gift card is sent to her. Should you wish to order refusenik subscriptions, send $18 for each to LILITH Magazine, 250 W. 57th St. Suite 2432, New York, NY 10107.

CAMPUS LIFE, CONT’D.

Largely through the efforts of a group of Jewish faculty members called together by Rabbi Yechiael Lander, who spends a great deal of his time and energy at Smith, Jewish consciousness on campus—particularly among the administration—is beginning to grow. The college is increasingly trying to take the Jewish calendar into account in planning activities and events; it has “de-institutionalized” certain traditional practices, such as an annual “Christmas vespers” ceremony, and the setting up of Christmas trees on college grounds and in each dormitory; it has established and equipped a kosher kitchen; it has established a Jewish Studies Program; and it has committed itself (as your reporter noted) to attracting more Jewish students to the school. These are small steps, but they have definitely made positive changes in the climate for Jews and Jewish students on campus.

by Martha Ackelsberg, Northampton MA

The author is professor of government and member of the Jewish Studies Program Committee at Smith College.