Author Archives: Amy Stone

The Lilith Blog

July 5, 2018 by

Muslim and Jewish Women on a Southern Civil Rights Road Trip

Reaching across the aisle – Cyndy Wyatt (left) and Dorene Alama discovered they both attended the same Catholic school in upstate New York. Cyndy, now living in Stowe, Vt., converted to Judaism. Dorene, in Charlotte, N.C., converted to Islam. Photo credit: Amy Stone

Reaching across the aisle – Cyndy Wyatt (left) and Dorene Alama discovered they
both attended the same Catholic school in upstate New York. Cyndy, now living in
Stowe, Vt., converted to Judaism. Dorene, in Charlotte, N.C., converted to Islam.
Photo: Amy Stone

Back in April, a busload of white and brown Jewish and Muslim women, some in hijab, headed south along the civil rights trail from Georgia to Alabama to Tennessee. What could go wrong?

We’re riding with Brenda, a third-generation female bus driver from Asheville, North Carolina, and Todd, our African-American civil rights expert. We’re a world away from the 1961 Freedom Riders aboard Greyhound buses attacked by violent mobs for attempting to integrate southern bus terminals. But this is also far from a Disneyland outing. We’re in the Trump era of hate with his Muslim ban and war on immigrants.

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The Lilith Blog

January 16, 2018 by

At the NY Jewish Film Festival: “The Impure”—Yes, nice Jewish girls and women were prostitutes in Argentina

More timely than ever—think trafficking and violence against women, think Time’s Up‑ “The Impure” (New York Jewish Film Festival Jan. 16) digs into Argentina’s subculture of Jewish prostitutes and pimps in the massive immigration from Eastern Europe starting in the 1880s.

the impure lilith article photo

Argentina’s legal prostitution attracted Eastern Europe’s Jewish underworld, riding the wave of 100,000 Jewish immigrants, mostly male. “Impuros” was the term created by the respectable Jews of Argentina to distinguish themselves from the similar-looking immigrants in the sex trade.

What opens as workmanlike documentation–shots of neglected headstones, black-and-white stills of 1880s Buenos Aires, soulful music–gets interesting as the film’s director discovers his own family connections to the sex trade.

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The Lilith Blog

January 10, 2018 by

Where Are the Women Directors? Very Few at the NY Jewish Film Festival

Fresh from the #MeToo / Time’s Up show of unity at Sunday night’s Golden Globe awards, how could we not do a count of the number of women directors at this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival, opening today (January 10)? Natalie Portman’s words at the Golden Globes are still ringing in my ears. Co-presenter Ron Howard: “We are honored … to be here to present the award for the best director.” Portman: “And here are the all-male nominees.”  (FYI, the only woman ever to win a Golden Globe award for Best Director was Barbra Streisand for “Yentl” in 1984.) 

Certainly the NYJFF has a world of directors to choose from. A partnership of the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the 27th annual New York Jewish Film Festival is truly an international event, bringing films and filmmakers from Israel, North America, South America, North Africa and Europe to the Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center. 

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The Lilith Blog

January 5, 2018 by

Meet Maysaloun Hamoud—Fearless Female, Palestinian Filmmaker— Director of “In Between”

In Between's director Maysaloun Hamoud. Photo credit: Joan Roth.

In Between’s director Maysaloun Hamoud. Photo credit: Joan Roth.

By Maysaloun Hamoud’s tattoos you shall know her—her film’s title on her arm in Arabic transliteration and English, “BAR BAHAR” “In Between.” Then an unexpected choice, the John Tenniel illustration of Alice in Wonderland, key in hand, pulling back the curtain to a tiny door. And at the nape of her neck, the surprise of a little head, looking just like her, peering out from the basket of a brightly striped hot air balloon.

At 36, Mayasloun Hamoud, a Palestinian Israeli filmmaker, is savoring international success with her first feature film, which she wrote and directed.

In Between,” which opened the Other Israel Film Festival at the Manhattan JCC in November, starts a commercial run today (January 5) in New York, then January 12 in Los Angeles. The feature, in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles, has already garnered international film festival prizes. In Israel, its popularity soared after Hamoud was issued a fatwah for depicting young Palestinian Israelis in the Tel Aviv nightlife scene of drugs, sex and all-out partying. 

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The Lilith Blog

November 1, 2017 by

This Director Got Death Threats. Her Work Will Open the Other Israel Film Festival Tomorrow.

in betweenWhat better film to open the New York JCC’s Other Israel Film Festival than “In Between” – the first feature by a 35-year-old Palestinian woman, with scenes triggering death threats and a fatwa. 

With the slogan “Film. Change. Action,” the 11th Annual OIFF opens at the JCC Manhattan tomorrow evening (Nov. 2). Director Maysaloun Hamoud will appear in conversation with other filmmakers after the screening. (“In Between” has already won numerous international film festival awards and opens commercially in the U.S. in January.) 

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The Lilith Blog

June 19, 2017 by

On the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Trail

What’s a Jew to do?

In the last 24 hours, two brutal attacks on Muslims made the news: on Sunday, the bludgeoning death of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen after leaving a Virginia mosque with friends; then Monday, a van driven into a crowd leaving a mosque north of London, one man dead at the scene, eight hospitalized. The attacks make calls for Muslim-Jewish solidarity even more compelling. 

But just a little over a week ago, I answered the call to action with hesitancy—“NY ♡ Muslims” rally and march Saturday, June 10. A gathering of love in response to the nationwide rallies of Act for America, a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group, against sharia law (read “Muslims”).

Photo credit: Amy Stone

Photo credit: Amy Stone

First my quibble over the name – “NY ♡ Muslims.” Sounds so condescending. Would anyone say NY ♡ Jews? NY ♡ Women? Beyond that, does a rally reacting to racism only increase the attention?

But I decided to put my body where my mouth is—and show up at the Manhattan rally at City Hall, just a few blocks from the Foley Square court buildings where the Act for America March Against Sharia was taking place.

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The Lilith Blog

February 14, 2017 by

Upstanders

"We Stand for Refugees," photo by Amy Stone

“We Stand for Refugees,” photo by Amy Stone

Rain, sleet, slush under foot, lower Manhattan’s tall buildings cloaked in fog.

Undeterred, hundreds of men, women and children turned out for the Day of Jewish Action for Refugees called by HIAS this past Sunday (Feb. 12).  The rally was one of some dozen across the country.

I was unprepared for my emotional response – unlike anything I felt at the Women’s March in Washington. Tears triggered by the middle-aged woman silently holding a sign with the childhood passport picture of her mother – it could have been Anne Frank. And the message: Donald Trump, This is my mom, with her swastika covered passport. Germany 1937. Would you let her in? Jewish Values. American Values. We stand up for refugees.

The rally in Battery Park was just across the harbor from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the anchoring landmark was Castle Clinton, where HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) welcomed Jews to America in 1881. HIAS has gone on to help settle newcomers to America regardless of where they come from or what they believe.  

In the words of HIAS VP Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, “For the first time in history, the Jewish people are not refugees. We are a free and empowered people in America and around the world. And we have a role to play – a responsibility we must live up to. We are called by our mandate to welcome the stranger and to love the stranger. In cities across the country today, Jews are holding rallies, vigils and actions. Together, we are raising our voices up to say that we must keep our doors open to people who are fleeing for their lives.” 

For more information: http://www.hias.org/day-of-action. 

Check out these powerful images. 

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The Lilith Blog

February 3, 2017 by

Film: ‘Heather Booth: Changing the World’ Don’t Despair. Organize!

Photo credit: Shira Gorelick

Photo credit: Shira Gorelick, taken at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Filmmaker Lilly Rivlin hit it right on this one.

“Heather Booth: Changing the World”—the final film in Rivlin’s trilogy of activist Jewish women (Grace Paley, Esther Broner) premiered in New York at the Manhattan JCC just before the Trump inauguration. The documentary of a woman whose lifelong work has been organizing for progressive change ends with the date November 9, 2016 (11/9 – the eerie reversal of 9/11) filling the screen, the date of Trump’s electoral college victory. Then Trump’s face fills the screen, and we hear Booth’s voice: “We will organize. We will stand up.”

The three-year project was a collaboration between filmmaker Rivlin (hard to believe she’s now 80) and Booth, now 71. Booth insisted that the film be a tool for organizing. And it is.

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The Lilith Blog

January 11, 2017 by

Keep Your Breasts Behind Locked Doors!

Exterior of Mamava freestanding pod for “privacy for pumping or breastfeeding.”  It locks from inside, with a space larger than an airplane lavatory. Photo credit: Amy Stone.

Exterior of Mamava freestanding pod for “privacy for pumping or breastfeeding.” It locks from inside, with a space larger than an airplane lavatory. Photo credit: Amy Stone.

En route from the illy coffee concession to the Virgin America boarding gates at Newark Airport, I spied the pod. With my cascading fears of a new administration’s erosion of women’s freedoms, I felt alarm. Will women feel pressured into never breastfeeding their babies publicly? Are breasts only for grabbing in public by men newly freed from restraint by a power-tripping president-to-be? 

My bias in favor of female visibility and freedom is obvious. But I am not beyond fine-tuning. What about women from traditional backgrounds—Orthodox Jewish women, traditional Muslim women—might they welcome a privacy pod? Maybe I should slow down my rush to judgment, be a bit more sisterly.

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The Lilith Blog

December 19, 2016 by

We Were Really Jewish. And Had a Christmas Tree.

Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 2.58.06 PMIt’s been more than 65 years, but through the mists of time. I remember its smell of evergreen as if it were yesterday. 

Our apartment living room on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  A tiny blue wooden table where, to the joy of my tiny brother and me, my mother had placed a tiny Christmas tree. 

Eventually we moved to the suburbs, where we had a bigger Christmas tree with presents underneath.

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