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The Lilith Blog

August 11, 2020 by

Black Jewish Women Artists You Should Know…Jessica Valoris

Art–whether it be dancing, painting, drawing, film–creates a space for self-examination, helping us to envision possible futures, and better versions of ourselves. And the Jewish month of Elul is traditionally an opportunity for introspection before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Recognizing the power of art to be transformative, Lilith is highlighting Black Jewish women artists in this time leading up to and through Elul. On Lilith’s platforms you’ll have a chance to experience, share, buy and celebrate their work.

You can also participate by letting us know (at info@Lilith.org) Black Jewish women creators we should include!

2 (1)Jessica Valoris is a multidisciplinary installation artist who weaves together sound, collage, painting, sculpture, and facilitated ritual to build installations and experiences that have been described as sacred, intentional, and activated. She’s inspired by Afrofuturism, metaphysics, and historical memory.

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The Lilith Blog

August 10, 2020 by

Countering Isolation with Poetry

Over the last few months, I have found myself attending fewer and fewer of the Zoom live-streamed events that keep popping up on my Facebook page. What at first seemed like an exciting way to connect to new and old faces in the age of social distancing has started to feel like more of a chore, a less-than-pleasant activity to be avoided whenever possible. Time and time again, I exit these Zoom events feeling even more isolated than before.

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“Poetry in Times of Peril,” presented by Hebrew College-Interfaith Youth Core PsalmSeason project, with co-sponsors Jewish Women’s Archive and Lilith magazine, could have added to that feeling of isolation. Instead, it addressed those feelings of isolation head-on, and as a result, actually left me feeling more connected to the rest of the world.

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The Lilith Blog

August 5, 2020 by

Nostalgia for the 1939 World’s Fair

Neither Maxine Roth nor Vivi Holden wanted to be sent to World’s Fair in the spring of 1939; Max was angling for a journalism internship at the New York Times and Vivi was excited by a starring role—her first—in the Hollywood film Every Last Sunset. But both young women do end up at the fair.  What they learn—about themselves, the nature of friendship and indeed life—are the basis for the novel We Came Here to Shine (St. Martin’s, $16.99). Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough chats with author Susie Orman Schnall about her entertaining new summer read—think of it as a perfect respite from the horror of the daily news.  

Yona Zeldis McDonough: What sparked your interest in the 1939 World’s Fair and why do you think it’s still relevant today? 

Susie Orman Schnall: The idea for the novel came to me when I was reading Esther Williams’ autobiography. She writes about her experience in Billy Rose’s Aquacade at the 1940 Golden Gate Exposition, which was the World’s Fair in San Francisco. I had never heard of an Aquacade, so I looked it up and learned that it was a synchronized swimming spectacular and the highest-grossing attraction at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. My interest was piqued and I decided that the Aquacade and the 1939 Fair specifically — taking place in NYC between the ending of the Depression and the beginning of WWII — would make an interesting topic for a historical novel. I think it’s relevant for the nostalgia, the history, the remarkable innovations presented at that fair. It was a time of great hope for the future for our country and also the realization of the frailty of our global systems. While doing talks about the book and the history of the fair, I find that readers are fascinated by what went on at the fair, the massiveness of its physical footprint, the involvement of so many governments and companies, the technological innovations introduced (television, nylons, the dishwasher). It has a certain sense of charm and can be romanticized. But when you look a little more deeply the seriousness of the time is quite clear.

YZM: Maxine Roth is a feisty Jewish girl who’s ahead of her time—she’s ambitious, smart and not content with being professionally sidelined by her male bosses; who inspired her? 

SOS: She was inspired by all the women I learned about while researching the book. There were, of course, low expectations for women to become educated professionals but that didn’t mean that women’s ambitions were completely squelched. There were plenty of women who dreamed big and I wanted to celebrate them. I’m not so sure she was ahead of her time in her desires, but she was less able to rein herself in than other women who certainly wanted what she wanted but chose instead (for a variety of reasons) to conform to the structures society built for them. 

YZM: Let’s talk about National Woman’s Party member Elizabeth Dorchester—was she a real character and if so, did she actually speak at the fair?  If not, who is she modeled after?  What was your purpose in including her?

SOS: Elizabeth Dorchester is not a real person but she was based upon the women who were part of the National Woman’s Party which was formed in 1916. Its main purpose at that time was to advocate for women’s suffrage but it evolved throughout the years after the 19th Amendment was passed and turned toward fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment. I also read through many of Eleanor Roosevelt’s speeches at the time to help shape the speeches of Elizabeth Dorchester in the novel. I included her to give a framework and a context for some of the issues that Max and Vivi bond over and feel strongly about as they try to make their way in a male-dominated society that they feel is unfair and inhospitable to their ambitions. 

YZM: Although both Max and her new friend Vivi both have love interests, you’ve chosen not to make that the focus of their stories—can you elaborate? 

SOS: This is a woman’s story. I wanted to include their love lives to some degree because that is certainly part of a woman’s life. But I didn’t want it to be the whole story or even the main focus. Vivi and Max are “enough” in their own stories and I wanted to emphasize that. I didn’t want them to be defined by the men who they love. There were too many other men in their lives trying to tell them who to be and how to act.

 

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The Lilith Blog

August 4, 2020 Tahneer Oksman

Discussing the Holocaust… at Comic-Con

The Holocaust might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Comic-Con—the annual international convention that usually takes place in San Diego, California, and that spotlights comic books and related popular arts. But as Stephen D. Smith, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation, explained when he recently introduced the panel, “Art and the Holocaust,” as part of this year’s Comic-Con@home programming: “One of the things that I have noticed over the years is just how many witnesses of the Holocaust have turned their experience not only to testimony in words but also in art.”

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The Lilith Blog

July 31, 2020 by

Is Rape a Crime? A Conversation with Michelle Bowdler

Is Rape a Crime: A Memoir, an Investigation and a Manifesto (Flatiron, $27.99) ought to come with a warning: parts of this book are so harrowing that I frequently had to put it down for a spell before picking it up again, avid to continue. Long after the fact, author Michelle Bowdler returns to the home invasion and brutal rape she suffered as a young woman.  As one might expect, the attack both branded and shaped her.  When she was finally ready to explore the subject in print, she was able to go deep into her own experience but also wide, to place it within a historical and cultural context.  Bowdler talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about what this literary exploration has meant for her—and what she hopes it will mean to others. 

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The Lilith Blog

July 30, 2020 by

Twinkle Times Two: On Vigilance and Anxiety

“Take your shoes off,” I remind my mother. “Drop your keys; I’ll clean them.” “Wash your hands and get changed. Wait, no—take off your street clothes first, then wash your hands. But don’t touch anything else.” She comes inside. I cringe as she sets her sunglasses down on the kitchen counter, making a mental note to sanitize them when she isn’t looking, and give the counter a scrub too, of course. I follow her to her bedroom, watching her undress, confirming that her shorts and t-shirt make it into the laundry bag.

Will it be enough? Is it too much?

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The Lilith Blog

July 30, 2020 Makeda Zabot-Hall

Why My Hair Falls the Way it Does

When I was 11 years old, my father sat me down on a broken, four-legged stool that had been in our apartment for years. Facing me, he began to hum the tune of a Tracy Chapman song. As I sat staring at him, I noticed his long dreads and the scar he had from when he was a boy in Jamaica. I prayed the song would never end.

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The Lilith Blog

July 29, 2020 Shira Gorelick

AOC, Ted Yoho and The Origin of Vulgarity

Last Monday, Republican Rep.Ted Yoho, from the steps of the Capitol, called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez disgusting, crazy, dangerous, and a “fucking bitch” insulting and harassing her in front of colleagues and reporters.  On Wednesday, Yoho offered a non-apology on the House floor, stating that despite regretting his “abrupt” manner of conversation, he could not apologize for his passion. He couldn’t apologize for being a God-loving patriot and “family man,” using the all-too-common tactic of deploying his daughters and wife as shields for his misogynistic behavior. 

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The Lilith Blog

July 28, 2020 Adi Reicher Alouf

Why We’re Doing Public Teshuvah to Fight White Supremacy

Photo by Hannah Roodman

Photo by Hannah Roodman

Heading to Grand Army Plaza at 7:20 pm. Seeing a group start to gather, forming a circle. Picking up the protest sign that speaks to me from the middle of the circle. Finding a place in the circle to stand and hold up the sign. Stepping into the center to share what aspect of systemic racism I am mourning that day. Or, stepping into the circle to confess how I myself have participated in and perpetuated racism and anti-Blackness. Actively listening. Turning my body East at 8:00 pm. Blowing the shofar for one long breath. Hearing those around me cry out to the Heavens. Standing silently for a moment. Turning back to face the circle. Stepping into the circle again, this time to share a specific way that I will be actively anti-racist moving forward —my commitment to this community. Actively listening. Putting the protest sign back in the middle of the circle. Saying hello to friends and community members. Returning home. 

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The Lilith Blog

July 27, 2020 Susan Barocas

Get Your Chill On

The first cold soup I ever tasted I hated. For years. 

How unfortunate that it was introduced to me (dare I say pushed on me?) by the two women I admired most, my mother and my small-but-mighty Russian grandmother. Imagine walking seven long blocks home from elementary school for a tasty lunch, only to be met by a bowl of beet borscht from a jar. Yes, jarred!  Two women who made from scratch the hit parade of Ashkenazic food– chicken soup, brisket, tongue, sweetbreads, both potato and noodle kugels, even gefilte fish– loved their industrial borscht, adding sour cream to complete the dish. I gagged trying to get it down, rarely succeeding.

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