The Lilith Blog

July 16, 2019 by

“Failed Self-Abortion With a Wire Hanger:” A Letter from a Namesake to an Ancestor

Dear Jennie, 

Despite our shared name, your life and death were only really clarified for me  in college, when I started to develop a vocabulary for seeing the world through gender, power, class, suffering and solidarity. I began to realize that the way my family had passively glorified your story as one of dire poverty alone missed several crucial, intersecting points—your gender, the drive to control the female body, autonomy, motherhood, the value of a life, and the devastation of death and desperation. No one mentioned until recently, at least to my knowledge, that you likely struggled with depression. Me, too.

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The Lilith Blog

July 15, 2019 by

Jewish Blues Musician Elly Wininger Proves It’s Never Too Late

Elly Wininger, 2014 inductee into the NY Blues Hall of Fame, has a unique recording history among a group of versatile Jewish musicians who have wowed us with their blues singing and playing, like Mike Bloomfield of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Amy Winehouse, Dave Bromberg, and Bob Dylan. Even Bette Midler (“Long John Blues,” “Empty Bed Blues”) has dipped into the genre. Wininger went to her first audition at 16, was offered a recording contract, and forbidden from pursuing it by her mom. Five decades later, she’s finally been signed to a label, and she took a moment to talk to Lilith’s Patricia Grossman about her life as a singer and musician.

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The Lilith Blog

July 15, 2019 by

Belladonna Founder Rachel Levitsky on Poetry, Politics, and What Comes Next

Rachel Levitsky calls herself a “lesbian, commie, poet, and polemicist who makes things.” And she does: Levitsky has written three full-length books and nine chapbooks herself, teaches undergraduates, and is the founder of the Belladonna Collaborative, a 20-year-old feminist avant-garde literary salon and publisher of experimental, multi-gendered, and linguistically bold titles.

Among Belladonna’s releases are award-winning texts from writers including LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs (Whiting Award) and Beth Murray, whose posthumous book of poems, Cancer Angel, won the 2016 California Book Award. Levitsky sat down with Eleanor J. Bader in Belladonna’s office.

Eleanor J. Bader: Have you always been a poet?

Rachel Levitsky: When I was a child my dad told me not to be a poet. Writing poetry was not an occupation in the Levitsky consciousness. I did not come out as a poet until 1994.

LevitskyEJB: Do you know why your father had this attitude?

RL: My parents seemed to value invisibility. My mother had been born in Germany and came to the US as a toddler in December 1939. Her uncle survived Auschwitz, but no one in my family was willing to talk about any of this and I always wanted to know more.

EJB: Is this why you became interested in history?

RL: Maybe. I was a history major as an undergraduate at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany and got a Master’s in American Social History. My focus was labor. My thesis looked at the way the cigar industry in Binghamton, NY became segregated by gender.

EJB: But you chose to pursue activism.

RL: I wasn’t interested in pursuing further academic study in History. I plunged into activism in New York City, joining ACT-UP and WHAM!—Women’s Health Action and Mobilization.

My job at the time was with the Home Program of the Bond Street Homeless Center run by Catholic Charities. Every night, five of us would load into a van and drive around Brooklyn trying to convince mentally-ill, chemically-addicted people to come to the Center’s drop-in program.

I did this work in 1991 and 1992, until I got a job teaching adult basic education classes for the Consortium of Worker Education (CWE), an educational organization that serves union members. In 1993-94 I taught English in Mexico. When I came back to the US, I returned to the CWE and eventually got a full-time job running an English as a Second Language program at the Painters and Finishers Apprenticeship program in Long Island City.

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The Lilith Blog

July 10, 2019 Yona Zeldis McDonough

A Novelist Brings Jewish Women to the Forefront of Crime Stories

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 2.33.47 PMA Jewish woman married to Wyatt Earp? A Jewish woman cleaning up after a murder committed by her brother, a criminal with ties to the Jewish mafia? These are the kinds of stories that novelist Thelma Adams loves to tell.

She talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about how she finds her subjects and what they yield in her novels.

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The Lilith Blog

July 9, 2019 Sarah Jake Fishman

I Walked Away Furious from an Auschwitz Exhibit: Here’s Why

On June 26, my mother—the daughter of Eta Wrobel, a partisan fighter in the Holocaust—took me to the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. While many people who visit Holocaust museums and memorials leave feeling sad or moved, I walked away deeply furious.

The museum was full of artifacts from Auschwitz, photos of prisoners, and videos of survivors, all with accompanying descriptions. Many of the videos featured survivors who felt not just an urge, but a need to use their voices to ensure this type of inhumane and cruel treatment never happens again. As I heard their stories, all I could think about were the Jews that I have encountered who are anti-immigrant, pro detention center. The thought flooded me with anger. 

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The Lilith Blog

July 3, 2019 by

Thank You, AOC, for Inspiring Jews to Stand Up for Immigrants

 Let me just put it out there: As a Jew, I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s now-notorious Instagram post on June 17 comparing the border detention centers to concentration camps was brave and magnificent.

Her use of this phrase, which some Jews seem to believe belongs to them and them alone, keeps pushing the debate forward and forces us to look squarely at what is happening as the result of Trump’s unconscionable policies: crying children being snatched out of their parents arms at the Texas border, for the “crime” of trying to cross over into a better life, and held in squalid conditions in mass detention centers. 

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The Lilith Blog

June 24, 2019 Chanel Dubofksy

“My Favorite Murder” Podcast Hosts Take on Trauma and Hope in New Book

I’m not sure when, in the course of my entirely unsupervised reading and television watching as a child and adolescent, I became obsessed with murder. Nor do I remember exactly when I realized many people thought it was weird to be obsessed with murder, but I assume it resulted in an awkward social situation that I’ve since blocked out. It didn’t stop me, of course — that’s what obsession is —and as it turns out, I am far from the only person who continually consumes true crime: tv shows, documentaries and podcasts. 

 

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The Lilith Blog

June 18, 2019 by

Barbara Rubin, Who Influenced Dylan, Ginsberg and Lou Reed, Gets Her Due

Barbara Rubin introduced Andy Warhol to the band the Velvet Underground, Allen Ginsberg to the Beatles, London to “Happenings,” Bob Dylan to Kabbalah, and female eroticism to film. So why don’t we know about her? In his feature length documentary “Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground,” director Chuck Smith reanimates the young Jewish woman who challenged the men of the 60s underground–an alt-culture was known for glorifying the phallus—with her vulva images, charisma, and artistic matchmaking. 

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The Lilith Blog

June 11, 2019 Yona Zeldis McDonough

Conversation with a Curator: Avery Exhibit Features Works by Artist Wife and Daughter

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“Summer with the Averys [Milton/Sally/March],” a remarkable show at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, presents the work of american painter Milton Avery alongside that of his wife Sally and their daughter March, who were both artists in their own right.

A Jewish girl born in 1902, Sally Avery (née Michel) studied painting at the Arts Students League and met Milton in 1924; she was 22 and he was 39. They married in 1926 and embarked upon an unusual artistic life together.

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to Stephanie Guyet (who assisted Professor Kenneth E. Silver in mounting the show) about the special role Sally played in her husband’s life and career. 

Sally Michel.Swimming Lesson, 1987, Watercolor on paper

Sally Michel Swimming Lesson, 1987

 

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The Lilith Blog

June 7, 2019 Yona Zeldis McDonough

“Jade Lily” Imagines Jewish Refugees Who Found Home in Shanghai

Song of Jade LilyVienna, 1938.  It’s clear to the Bernfelds that they are no longer welcome in their city and they have to flee.  But where? No one wants or will accept the refugees…no one except the Chinese that is, and so the family, or what remains of it, heads for Shanghai.   Novelist Kirsty Manning talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about how she accidentally stumbled upon this bit of Jewish history and what she did to bring it to life in The Song of the Jade Lily.

 

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