The Lilith Blog

The Lilith Blog

February 13, 2019 by

A Novel Satirizes Jews and India

mother indiaMother India is a novel that offers a rich, kaleidoscopic view of both the titular country and its multi-faceted culture. The religious Jews who populate the novel add yet another layer of complexity. Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to author Tova Reich about how the India-Jewish connection has shaped her thinking and her work. 

YZM: Tell us something about your own relationship to India.

TR: One of my major preoccupations, I’ve always felt, is religion (and not only Judaism), its ultimately tragic human quest for meaning, and what seems to be its inevitable apocalyptic thrust toward extremism and zealotry. I’ve written about seekers in Israel in my novel Master of the Return, about political fanaticism in my novel The Jewish War, and what might perhaps be called social extremism played out in the marginalization/suppression of women in my novel One Hundred Philistine Foreskins

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February 11, 2019 by

Remembering Rela Geffen

Lilith magazine mourns the death of our longtime friend and contributing editor Rela Geffen. A respected sociologist, former president of Baltimore Hebrew University and fearless examiner of gender issues in Jewish life, Rela was also known for her warmth, humor and resilience.

As a result of her doctoral research, she became convinced that for women, birth order was extremely important in predicting career success and accomplishment. Several years ago, before giving a talk to a meeting of high-powered executive women, she came to the podium and asked, “How many of you are first-borns or onlies? Or come from all-girl families?” Almost every hand in the room went up.

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February 6, 2019 by

The German Girl Who Was Executed for Resisting the Nazis

German teenager Sophie Scholl went from student to resistance martyr after the Nazis took over her country. As member of the White Rose resistance group, Sophie and two other students distributed anti-Nazi pamphlets. They were arrested, and less than a year later, all three were condemned to beheading by guillotine. 

Scholl is the subject of a new historical novel, told in verse— White Rose, by Kip Wilson. Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough spoke with Wilson about her quest to find out what made the exceptional young woman tick and fictionalize her life.

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February 6, 2019 by

Raised on Intersectionality, What’s a Teen to Do?

Screen Shot 2019-02-06 at 12.59.18 PMAnd’ is the most important word in the English language. It’s the linguistic equivalent of coalition building. It can build on an existing sentence, and more importantly, it can glue opposing truths together in one sentence, allowing messy realities to coexist. I’m Jewish and bisexual and feminist and Zionist, and I support Palestinian human rights, and I believe Black Lives Matter. All of these identities are central to who I am, and no single one undermines the other. 

It makes sense, then, that over the course of my high school career, I fell in love with the concept of intersectionality. I attended Seeds of Peace International Camp where I engaged in raw and emotional dialogue with Palestinian and Israeli teens, and thought critically about my community’s role in oppressing Palestinians. I learned about Zionism with nuance in my “Dual-Narratives of the Middle East” history class. I attend a high school named after Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, which celebrates his commitment to Civil Rights and his work alongside Dr. King. I learned and wrote about Jewish Feminist history with the Jewish Women’s Archive. I used my 11th grade research project to explore the role of Black women in the Feminist and Civil Rights Movements.  These combined influences forced me to see the necessity of a theory for social organizing that embraces the plurality, the “and-ness” of an identity.

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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 31, 2019 by

My Tía Adelaide at the End of Life

“The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.”  Mary Oliver in “Our World.”

My tía Adelaide, 102, was holding herself with such poise that I almost didn’t notice the clear, oxygen tubes draped around her ears and into her nostrils. Her voice was faint, but she looked resplendent in a turquoise Mumu with coral flowers that reminded me of the watercolors she painted not so long ago.

“I’m on my seventh Jeffrey Archer book,” she had said on that rainy day. We sat at her balcony overlooking a sea of buildings in Panama City, where I was born. The attendant had placed my tía’s wheelchair next to the caged periquitos; and, as we talked, tía Adelaide’s freckled fingers would reach into the wire cage for one seed and then another that she placed expertly into the birds’ tiny beaks. I noticed a large, mean-looking bruise on her calf from a recent fall.

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January 30, 2019 by

From Yesterday’s Institutions for the “Feeble-Minded” to Today’s Prisons

Anne E. Parsons was a teenager when her mother told her that her grandmother had had a sister named Ruth who’d spent 40 years at the Delaware Colony for the Feeble-Minded at Stockley, an enormous residential hospital in Georgetown, Delaware.

“Aunt Ruth was not a secret, but, at the same time, the family did not speak openly about her,” Parsons told Eleanor J. Bader in a recent telephone interview. “It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood the weight of what it must have been like for both Ruth and for my family.”

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January 29, 2019 by

Hedy Lamarr: The Only Woman in the Room

 Most people know Hedy Lamarr as an uncommonly beautiful actress with a vaguely European background and a lot of ex-husbands scattered in her wake. More recently, we’ve begun to learn about her keen interest in science and the impressive invention she masterminded in an effort to help her adopted country defeat the Nazis.  

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to author Marie Benedict about how and why she decided to research and fictionalize the other life of this alluring Hollywood star. 

YZM:  What drew you to the subject of Hedy Lamarr?

MB: Since childhood, I’ve been intrigued by the hidden voices in history, particularly the otherwise invisible narratives of women. Over time, I feel as if I’ve developed an antennae of sorts for the unknown stories of historical women. So when an anthropologist friend of mine mentioned to me that there was a famous Golden Age of Hollywood star who was also an incredible inventor, I added her name to the list of women about whom I might write. Bit by bit, I accumulated information about her while writing other women’s stories, and when I learned that aspects of her “secret communication system” — which she hoped would help the Allies in the war effort — led to the creation of wi-fi, I knew Hedy Lamarr’s story needed to be told, particularly since her background and the reason behind her invention are so important.

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January 24, 2019 by

5 Classic Novels for Jewish Feminists

The distinction between female and feminist stories seems to blur sometimes. “Strong female leads,” while catchy, aren’t as important as complex, well-developed protagonists.

For your reading pleasure (and edification), I’ve selected fiction written by women of different feminist eras, all of whom set out to depict women in historical moments ranging from Biblical to 70′s suburbia. Their visions of womanhood are honest and thoughtful, and I bet that even the ones you don’t like at first will prompt fierce thought and discussion. Don’t see your favorite books here? Tell us what they are in the comment section!

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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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