The Lilith Blog

December 10, 2018 by Tanya Paperny

My Jewish Summer Camp Was Destroyed in the Woolsey Fires—But We Vow to Rebuild

ObservationDeckLast month, I heard the news: Camp JCA Shalom, the summer camp I attended for many years as a child, was almost entirely destroyed in the Woolsey fire that ravaged parts of Los Angeles County.

And just a few weeks earlier, I woke up to several text messages offering me condolences, full of well wishes and broken heart emojis. I checked the news to discover that a man shouting “all Jews must die” had murdered eleven people and injured seven others during Shabbat services at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

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The Lilith Blog

December 4, 2018 by Aileen Jacobson

“Do You Know What Meshugge Means?”

She was meshugge,” Gladys, the strong-willed octogenarian played by Elaine May in “The Waverly Gallery,” says lightly about a relative. Then she leans over conspiratorially to her young-adult grandson Daniel, with whom she’s discussing family history, and asks, “Do you know what that word means?”

He tells her twice—louder the second time—that he does, but she hasn’t heard him. “It means kooky, you know: a little nutty,” Gladys explains in this gentle bit of humor that helps to signal that this is a play about a Jewish family.

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December 3, 2018 by

Revisiting My Past with All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah

611rs5DDlsL._SX450_BO1,204,203,200_Several decades have passed since I encountered an All-of-a-Kind Family book for the first time. The newest installment looks different (as do I), but our reunion was sweet.

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99) follows the youngest sister of five, Gertie as she tries to help her sisters make latkes. The book is unlike Sydney Taylor’s original series in striking ways: author Emily Jenkins uses the present tense to convey a young child’s sense of immediacy, and Paul O. Zelinsky’s bold and tender color illustrations look nothing like Helen John’s original detailed ink drawings. Still, the characters were immediately recognizable, and the book retains the series’ essential New York-yness. Reading it, I was filled with the cozy longing the series has always triggered in me.

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The Lilith Blog

December 3, 2018 by

Nancy Romer’s 50 Years of Activism

Although Nancy Romer taught psychology at Brooklyn College for 42 years, she is adamant that she is not an academic. “I’m an organizer,” she says.

For the past 50-plus years, Romer has participated in, and often led, some of the most important social justice movements in the US: opposing war and militarism; fighting the increasing privatization of public education; and challenging racism, sexism, and homophobia. Her most recent work has centered around food and climate justice, including pushing pension funds to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and supporting the struggles of workers at home and abroad.

Lilith’s Eleanor J. Bader caught up with Romer a few days after she returned to New York from Ohio, where she’d spent several weeks knocking on doors and making phone calls to ensure that the state’s progressive senator, Sherrod Brown, won re-election.

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The Lilith Blog

November 30, 2018 by Yona Zeldis McDonough

From a Doomsday Church to Judaism

91TgDolbheLAngela Himsel grew up as one of eleven children in an evangelical family that lived in rural Indiana. The Worldwide Church of God informed her thinking and fulfilled her spiritual needs. Yet she eventually went to Israel, married a Jewish man and is now a practicing Jewish woman. She talks to Lilith Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about her unusual journey.

YZM: Did you know many Jewish people when you were growing up? 

AH: There was one Jewish family in my town. I was acquainted with them and knew they were Jewish but didn’t fully understand what it was to “be Jewish.” They could have been Albanian. Being Jewish didn’t imply anything to me, neither positive nor negative.

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November 29, 2018 by Rachel Tsuna

A Mizrachi Jew, from Memphis to Hillel

Zahava— with her mother who made kugel for shabbat and her father who went by Yonasan (not Yonatan); her pale, lightly freckled skin complimented by her dark, wavy hair (that was never certifiably curly but had the volume that suggested it easily could be); who had a grandfather on one side who was a holocaust survivor and a maternal grandmother whose accent was unmistakably “bubby,” especially when she tawked about her homemade applesawce—was my childhood neighbor, first best friend, and most accurate model of what it looked like to be an American Jew.

I grew up in a small, tightly knit modern-Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. My mother is half-Yemeni, half-Hungarian, and my dad is Kurdish (Iraqi Kurds). Aside from a few non-white folk that came and went during my childhood, my parents, siblings and I were the only Mizrachim in our otherwise Ashkenazi community. In my fourteen years of day-school education, I never once heard a Jewish educator utter the word mizrachi. From a young age, it was obvious to me that I was different.  

 

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The Lilith Blog

November 20, 2018 by

Lovingly Skewering The Liberal Elite

When Elly Lonon and Joan Reilly got word that powerHouse Books wanted to publish their graphic novel, Amongst the Liberal Elite: The Road Trip Exploring Societal Inequities Solidified by Trump (RESIST), in January 2018, they were absolutely thrilled. 

But then reality barged in.

91+vHyrzIOLNot only did the publisher want the book completed in just five month to peg the book’s release to the midterm elections—but the same week that they signed the contract, Reilly was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer that necessitated surgery, radiation, and chemo.

“Our mantra,” Lonon told Lilith, “quickly became, ‘don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’” She spoke by phone with Lilith in early November and covered the book’s evolution and its hilarious depiction of Alex and Michael, a well-meaning, straight, white couple who are nonetheless often clueless about their class and race privilege.

 

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November 19, 2018 by

A Final “Shoah” Installment Tells Women’s Stories

What’s left for filmmaker Claude Lanzmann to tell us about the Shoah? At his death at 92 this past July, with rare honors at Les Invalides in Paris, he had gone from teenage fighter in the French resistance to the tireless creator of “Shoah,” its 9-plus hours of interviews followed by feature-length spinoffs.

Much of Lanzmann’s work concentrates on men’s stories. Now women are getting the last words. And the telling is in the details.  Would these stories have the same impact if they were not part of the Lanzmann canon? I think not. But he showed us a different way of looking at the Shoah. As historian Deborah Lipstadt says, Lanzmann was trying to instill modesty of judgment. We don’t know what we’d do in their place.

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November 19, 2018 by

The Modest Fashionista Who Became Cutting Edge

As a fashion maven, I’ve noticed that in New York, many Orthodox Jewish women  favor modest, well-made clothing that just falls short of—or maybe intentionally steps aside from—chic or cutting edge.

Enter Batsheva Hay, nee Rosenberg, a self-styled fashionista who cultivated her penchant for mixing vintage with contemporary pieces to create her own unique look. Recent profiles in the New Yorker and the New York Times reveal a fascinating story: When she was in her twenties, and working as a lawyer in New York City, she met a photographer named Alexi Hay, a well known fashion photographer. Hay had recently become an Orthodox Jew, and he nurtured a growing interest in Orthodox clothing. Batsheva shared his interest and he even began photographing her wearing the covered up styles favored by the frum. 

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November 15, 2018 by

What Happens in the Real World Stays There

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While at summer camp, my campers aren’t allowed to have their phones on them. There are a multitude of reasons for our no-phone policy, but high among them is that we “disconnect to reconnect.” By removing internet access from our campers, we staffers create an immersive environment that can’t easily be affected by the happenings of the outside world. Even though staff members do have access to our phones, we have collectively agreed not to share with our children whatever information we learn.

If a counselor is having a bad day, that information ideally stays among the staff. This way, in the interest of allowing the campers to focus on having a fun and fulfilling summer, we create a world where news from the outside world, from celebrity engagements to mass shootings, does not penetrate.

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