The Lilith Blog

The Lilith Blog

April 17, 2019 by

Golden Girls of the Silver Screen

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Well told and illustrated with charm, Renegade Women is a coffee table book for our feminist pop cultural age. It offers more than 60 informative and whimsically illustrated portraits of female movers and shakers in the entertainment field.

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough chats with author Elizabeth Weitzman about the importance of highlighting their impressive accomplishments. 

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The Lilith Blog

April 17, 2019 by

The Story of a Storyteller

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Longtime Lilith readers may remember Miryam Sivan’s name; her story Roadkill appeared in the magazine in 2003 and City of Refuge was featured in 2011.

Now she’s back with her debut novel, Make It Concrete, which is set in contemporary Israel and follows a woman who transcribes Holocaust stories. Sivan talks to fiction editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about how the past shapes and even defines the present. 

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April 16, 2019 by

Moments My Bubbe Would Hate, Part 1: My Wedding

In early 2016, my maternal grandmother, Esther, passed away in her 100th year. Her grandchildren called her “Bubbe,” Yiddish for grandmother. She was a force in life- matriarch of our family, a proud rebbetzin and social worker—and remains a force in death. During significant life moments or times of transition, I often conjure her memory. I think about how she’d vocally disagree with most of my decisions and the pleasure she’d get from explaining why I’m wrong. I know she was proud of me and truly believed that, if only I listened to her, my life would be significantly better.

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The Lilith Blog

April 16, 2019 by

A Secular Feminist Embraces Shabbat

The first time I observed Shabbat according to the laws of the Torah, it snowed in the desert.

There was a certain degree of irony there—that hell had frozen over, and now I was celebrating the Sabbath in the home of an Orthodox friend. 

I was anxious in the hours leading up to sundown, watching large, wet snowflakes blanket the cactus in my front yard. It was the kind of anxiety that comes with imposter syndrome—all my Jewish celebrations had thus far involved a wide margin of error. My partner and I didn’t worry much about saying all the right prayers in the right order, because our practices were secular expressions of our shared culture, not an expression of religious devotion.

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April 15, 2019 by

From “I Hate Everyone” to “While Grandpa Naps,” Naomi Danis on Her Fiction for Young Readers

Naomi Danis is Lilith’s resident angel/soother of souls/bridge over troubled waters. She combines a practical-get-it-done attitude with an uncommon amount of kindness and empathy and she is much-loved within the office and beyond. 

while grandpa napsDanis is also an accomplished author of several well-received picture books and as she prepares to launch her latest, While Grandpa Naps, illustrated by Junghwa Park, she talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the way she keeps so many balls spinning in the air with such effortless grace.

YZM: Tell us when you started working at Lilith and a little bit about what the job has been like.

ND: I started working at Lilith in 1988, after nine years at home raising three children, during which time I began seriously writing for kids. I had trained as an early childhood teacher, also have an MA in English, but learned from a friend at my Forest Hills synagogue who did grant writing that Lilith was looking for someone. The position turned out to be administrator, and I really wanted to be called something like assistant editor, but two friends in publishing I consulted said if you like the people, take the job. I still love it after all these years, and feel very lucky and grateful every day. I have the kindest, smartest, funniest, most caring, talented, inspiring and encouraging colleagues. 

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April 12, 2019 by

A Film About Faith… Starring Jewish Men, Men and More Men

Comparing practices across religions can provide insights into customs and beliefs, and highlight our shared humanity. I approached the film “Sacred,” recently shown on PBS, expecting to be enlightened. A feature length documentary, it’s been shown at more than 75 film festivals around the world, had a week-long run at the Rubin Museum in NYC and numerous screenings at congregations, theaters and universities.

In many ways, “Sacred” does not disappoint. A travelogue of religious practices in over 25 countries, the film is a visually rich mosaic. The diverse and pluralistic material is treated with respect and even reverence, and the overall message is solid: there are a variety of ways to approach the spiritual, that there’s no one answer and no monopoly on truth. 

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April 11, 2019 by

Can Leviticus’ Purity Laws Help Us Understand #MeToo?

The poet Galit Hasan-Rokem wrote the following poem entitled “This Child Inside Me”: 

This child inside me
Sorts my existence into elements:
Blood and urine
Calcium and iron.
In my sleep I am a quarry
Where rare treasures are suddenly found.        

Blood and urine, calcium and iron. The fluid and elements that, in part, make up the physical constitution of a human body. This is, in part, the focus of our Torah portion earlier this month, called Parashat Tazria—which is always a confounding one for the bar or bat mitzvah student. The particular section of the Torah that we read at this time of year addresses issues of ritual purity. Some of those considerations include menstruation and childbirth. This part of the Torah is, indeed, a bar or bat mitzvah student’s worst nightmare. Every year, one or two innocent and unknowing soon-to-be 13 year old finds themselves forced to find relevant meaning in rules concerning nocturnal seminal emissions and afterbirth. Meanwhile their more fortunate classmates with simchas that land in the fall are assigned Noah’s ark and the Garden of Eden.

Leviticus builds character. 

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April 11, 2019 by

A Novel Invents a Musical Masterpiece

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Lauren Belfer’s And After the Fire, is a complex, highly textured novel that moves easily between past and present to tell the converging stories of musicians and those in their orbits, centering around one imagined musical masterpiece through the centuries.

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Belfer talks to Lilith’s Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the inner melody that led to this highly original and haunting story. 

Yona Zeldis McDonough: What inspired you to write about a fictional piece of music?

 

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April 10, 2019 by

A Feminist Takes on the Constitution—Live on Broadway

The easiest word to overlook in the title “What the Constitution Means to Me” is the “me.” The exceptionally moving and surprisingly entertaining play by Heidi Schreck now running at the Helen Hayes Theater on Broadway is about the Constitution, of course.

But it is also about Schreck—who plays herself, the central character—in resonant personal ways: Consider the story she tells of her own great-great grandmother, brought to America when she was purchased for $75 through a matrimonial publication, later placed in a mental institution and dead at age 36 of what the death certificate called “melancholia.” Domestic violence may have been part of the cause. 

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April 9, 2019 by

A Jewish Beauty’s Journey, in Fiction

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Entertaining and witty, Susan Dworkin’s novel, The Garden Lady—chronicling a woman of notable beauty—nonetheless asks some penetrating questions about the lies we tell ourselves in order to keep going.

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to Dworkin, a feminist who worked at Ms. in its early days, about what Gloria Steinem called her “new dreams of justice” and how she’s pursued them both in this novel and elsewhere. 

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