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The Lilith Blog

February 5, 2019 by

A Decalogue for Women

commandments-49012_960_720I have had a deep connection to last week’s Torah portion (Yitro, Exodus 18:1–20:23) for the past 14 years because it’s my older son’s bar mitzvah portion. Well, it is the Ten Commandments, so that connection truly began a lot longer ago. 
 
But one night, the year before his special day, we started to really delve into what these Big Ten were — and couldn’t. We were out to dinner and could rattle off five, maybe six rules, off the tops of our heads. That’s all. 
 
Since we couldn’t resort to the internet to fill in the gaps, our attention turned to other realms appealing to three guys — two of whom were preteen — that might require a set of rules, like… the Planet of the Apes. And so, the Monkey Commandments were born.
 
And, no, I don’t remember any of them…I just remember that, for a time, they were a symbolic stand-in suited to a particular group. So I thought that I would do the same for women.

The Lilith Blog

January 24, 2019 by

Why Anti-Semitism on the Left Hurts Me More

Someone asked me incredulously if the anti-semitism on the left really upset me more/made me feel the need for a Jewish state more than the Pittsburgh. (And then went on to describe the evils of Israel.) Oh yes, yes, the anti-semitism on the left does hurt and scare me more. Not that it’s worse. Just in terms of how I feel able to function in the world, it is much more impactful.

Trump-types’ hatred of me means there are people I do not identify with who don’t want me. But when the people who are my refuge, who I want to make a home with me (meaning a home in the world), who I long to celebrate for and with when they succeed–when these people see me, Israel, Jews (except their approved Jews, maybe, relishing this potential division from each other?) as uniquely evil and worthy of being pointed out as so, Haman-style—whether we are relevant or not to the issue at hand—I fear that I have no home in the world at large. 

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The Lilith Blog

January 4, 2019 by

It’s Not Prom Queen. It’s President.

 It is not about running for prom queen, it is about running for president,” political strategist Jess McIntosh recently had to say on CNN. Why? A Politico article published a couple days ago−just as the first woman presidential candidate of 2019 was announcing her exploratory committee−asking the question: but is she likeable?! The piece likened Elizabeth Warren’s potential “likeability” challenges as a woman seeking power in public to the one Hillary Clinton supposedly faced that allegedly caused her defeat.

(But, oops, and oh-by-the-way, Clinton wasn’t defeated. She won almost three million more votes than President Trump did. Tens of millions of American men and women liked her quite well enough.)

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The Lilith Blog

December 20, 2018 by

An (Almost) Christmas Carol

 Christmas was not an important day for me. As a Jewish child, growing up in a small Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 5.49.58 PMConnecticut town, I was certainly aware of the holiday and of its significance, but early on I knew that it was not my holiday and that my role in this season was that of onlooker. To say that I didn’t envy my friends’ excitement and anticipation every December, or that I didn’t wake up on Dec. 25 feeling somewhat empty and isolated would be untrue. But, like every other Jewish child from that era, I became something of a philosopher at an early age. That was theirs, not mine. It was a bit sad but not tragic. I would enjoy this holiday vicariously, admiring my friends’ trees and lights, and helping them play with their new toys.

At the same time, Hanukkah was not widely celebrated. Where today many parents treat Hanukkah as a Jewish substitute for Christmas, in those days, in  poor rural towns, it wasn’t directly compared to its Christian counterpart. It is a minor Jewish celebration, important in its affirmation of freedom of thought and religion, but not the occasion for massive gift-giving modern American parents have made it today.

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The Lilith Blog

December 19, 2018 by

A Teen Learns to Look Deeper at “Perfect Girls”

 This article was originally published on Jewish Women, Amplified, the blog of the Jewish Women’s Archive, and was written as part of the Rising Voices Fellowship.

I have come across many girls in my life who seem to be blessed with every gift imaginable. They are kind and honest. They are beautiful and funny. They are somehow talented at anything they try their hand at and they are clever. They shine so bright, no one can hold a candle to them.

I know that these girls are just girls. I know they are struggling with a lot of the same stuff I struggle with, but even if their outer personalities are just façades, these people are the sorts of girls that society would deem “perfect.”

The one attribute I have consistently noticed in “perfect girls” is that they must be humble and quiet. Every “perfect girl” I have ever met has been so humble, that they turn a compliment into self-deprecation.

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The Lilith Blog

December 17, 2018 by

How High School English Class Turned Me Into a Feminist

 This article was originally published on Jewish Women, Amplified, the blog of the Jewish Women’s Archive, and was written as part of the Rising Voices Fellowship.

The transition from eighth grade to freshman year is a rough one. Especially if you’re going from a small Jewish school to a large public school and especially if most of your friends are going to other schools and especially if you have the notoriously difficult English teacher™ (yes, you know the one).

Going into English class, I was scared out of my mind. I had no idea how to handle the level of work (both in terms of quality and quantity), and my teacher’s infamous reputation didn’t help calm my nerves in the slightest. My goal at the beginning of the year in English was to do my best, complete the work, and hopefully get good grades.

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The Lilith Blog

December 10, 2018 by

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

November 29, 2018 by

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 14, 2018 by

12 New Books About Contemporary Jewish Identity — All by Women!

The cover of the New York Times Book Review this weekend features a review of 5 recent books detailing the American Jewish experience — all of which were written by men. As illuminating as each of those books may be individually, and as deeply as the review engages with them, their aggregation egregiously leaves out the experiences and perspectives of approximately half of American Jews (if not more!).

Critics on Twitter immediately noted how unfortunate it is that the piece didn’t at the very least call attention to the cutting-edge academic scholarship and writing by many Jewish women, including feminists.

But the debate goes beyond academic (specialized) vs. trade (general audience) dichotomies. In 2018, it’s simply not enough to throw up ones hands and say, “There aren’t enough trade books by women!” The critic’s job is, in part, to wrestle with why trends in an industry exist, and to therefore, in this case, ask what truths five books by white Ashkenazi men might all be missing about contemporary Jewish identity.

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The Lilith Blog

August 2, 2018 by

What the Lilith Staff is Reading Now

Welcome to another installment of this occasional recurring feature in which Lilith staffers reveal what books are on our nightstands, our e-readers and tucked in our bags for the commute. Share your own summer reads in the comments!

Kira Yates, Intern:

This summer I’ve decided to read two books at once: The Guide for the Perplexed by the Rambam himself, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Though one was written in 1190 Spain and the other in 1940s Georgia, the theological treatise and the novel explore God and the actions of human kind. In his investigation of Jewish philosophy, ben Maimon seeks to prove that God does not have a body–an assertion that became a scholarly sensation across Europe. McCullers, on the other hand, tells the story of four struggling people in a small Georgia town, a reminder of what it feels like to be forgotten and in search of human connection. Published 750 years apart, these books present parallels about the human need for understanding and unity with something greater than the self. 

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