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The Lilith Blog

January 28, 2020 by

Celebrating Jewish Feminism … in Serbia

 

About eighty mostly-European, mostly-Jewish feminists gathered in Belgrade, Serbia, in September for the ninth Bet Debora conference. The History of the region makes this significant.

In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union crumbled two years later. There was room for Jewish renewal and flowering in countries that had been behind the Iron Curtain. But not in the former Yugoslavia.

Instead, in the early 1990s when Rosh Hodesh groups were first gathering in a united Berlin, Yugoslavia was turning into a failed and former country. When travelers in Prague were following women-led Jewish tours, Yugoslavia was in civil war. When women throughout the former Soviet bloc were discovering they were Jewish, learning to lead seders, creating egalitarian services and studying for the rabbinate, Jewish women in bombed-out Sarajevo were, alongside men, providing food and medicine to their fellow citizens of all ethnicities.

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The Lilith Blog

January 27, 2020 by

How Family Separation in the Holocaust Affected My Life Forever

I am up watching the news on my phone, and I am fixated on the pictures of small children alone with tinfoil blankets in our own country’s detention centers. Caged like animals, they look alone. Huddled. Despondent.

The feeling in the pit of my stomach from seeing these beautiful children on the news hits me because I feel like I know. I don’t know what it feels to be torn from your parents at a young age, but I know what it feels like to be a child of someone torn from their parents at a young age. Because of my experience with my father who was on the kindertransport in the Holocaust, I not only feel for these children, but feel for their children and generations to come that will feel the burden of this horror.

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The Lilith Blog

January 22, 2020 by

I Thought I Was Jo: Revisiting “Little Women.”

1868_LittleWomen_RobertsBros_tpI thought I was Jo.

Most people thought they were Jo, it’s true, but I really did, as I inhaled Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I tucked it in between the pages of my siddur on Yom Kippur, standing and sitting as instructed by the rabbi, but frolicking in Concord Massachusetts all the while. I was so much like her: mad about injustice, messy, impulsive, bookish, bossy on the playground as I dictated to my friends what we would be pretending that day. 

Greta Gerwig’s new, much-ballyhooed film adaptation of Little Women emphasizes Jo’s journey from director of childhood theatricals and imaginary games to successful novelist. Yet it’s not a simple triumph. Jo loses her sister, the possibility of romance torpedoes her closest friendship; her other sisters face their own cares, and her writing life is often more mercenary than glamorous. The film draws out a particular current of bittersweetness from the book, rueing the onset of adulthood; for women, who face pigeonholing (but really for all children, even Laurie, a young man who wants to be part of the play-acting of his girl neighbors) the bigger story is of the gradual winnowing down of childhood’s wild potential. 

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The Lilith Blog

January 21, 2020 Ally Karpel

Roe Still Stands — But Not for Everyone

June 27, 2018 began like an ordinary workday. A recent college graduate, I was spending the summer interning at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, doing grant research.

I was sitting around a table with the staff pitching my initial findings when our phones buzzed.  A breaking news alert: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had announced his retirement.

The calls from concerned Texans started pouring in immediately. Kennedy was a decisive swing vote on abortion and other issues of reproductive health. What would his retirement mean for the future of reproductive rights?  

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The Lilith Blog

January 16, 2020 by

Return to the Garden of the Finzi-Continis

GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS 42020 marks the 50th anniversary of Vittorio De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. It’s the tale of an elite Jewish family sequestered behind the walls of their Ferrara estate, ignoring the cascade of Jewish restrictions in Mussolini’s Italy until too late. Back in 1972, the film changed my life.Now I’m reliving it just in time for anniversary screenings at the New York Jewish Film Festival (Jan. 26 and 27):   partnership of the Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center, now through Jan. 28. 

When I saw the film with my parents at the New Rochelle art film theater on Main Street, I identified with the protagonists, the aristocratic Finzi-Continis, at play on their tennis court, in their gated garden. When they, too, get deported along with the poorer Jews, I thought, “if I’m ever going to be taken away for being Jewish, I want to know what Jewish is.” So I moved to Israel. And it changed my life.  

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The Lilith Blog

January 15, 2020 Laura Beatrix Newmark

Laughter As Medicine for Resistance

I had my first real MS flare following the 2016 election, 10 years after my diagnosis. Once I had recovered, I realized that I would need a way to cope with a changed landscape: the news, the politics, the tension.

And for me, they only way to manage the scary reality of a Trump presidency was through comedy. The importance of living in a country that could jeer at the President without being offed or poisoned—mixed with the sheer release of laughing—provided a certain catharsis needed to process a way forward. I also appreciated the importance of comedians tearing apart the Trump Administration’s lies, policies and hypocrisy and making a huge mockery of the people in power. 

I knew this particular President was watching—and it would irk him. 

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The Lilith Blog

January 14, 2020 Diane Tepfer

Edith Halpert: A Pioneering Dealer and Promoter of American Art

The Jewish Museum’s current major exhibition, “Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art,” has brought renewed interest to the Downtown Gallery and Halpert herself, a remarkable woman whose department store marketing methodology and relentless promotion of contemporary American art and folk art expanded the artistic landscape throughout the United States. Born Edith Gregoryevna Fivoosiovitch in Odessa, Edith immigrated in 1906, arriving in New York City at age 6.

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The Lilith Blog

January 14, 2020 by

Rabbi Susan Silverman on Adoption, Jewish Leadership and That Famous Bat Mitzvah

Last month I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rabbi Susan Silverman to speak about adoption, foster care, Jewish leadership—and of course, officiating Tiffany Haddish’s Bat Mitzvah. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

MKW: Let’s start at the beginning. What drew you to work as a Rabbi? 

SS: I was raised completely secular. The only Jewish thing my family did was on Rosh HaShanah, we would climb a local mountain and when we’d get to the top our dad would say “if there’s a God we’re closer to him up here than those schmucks are down in Temple.” Once in a while my mom would pull out these candlesticks that were her mother’s that her grandmother brought from Poland and we would light them—my mom knew the prayer. So I really had no Jewish education, but I was raised in a very progressive family. 

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The Lilith Blog

January 13, 2020 mada anne

Feminist Farming: Learning Teshuvah from the Earth

13984398011106We dig a trough for garlic, bury the seed, and I invite the volunteers working alongside me to bless the garden bed. We often bless our work with a simple prayer that the people who eat this food are nourished by it, and that through our hands we can help heal the land we are on. I say a Shehechiyanu under my breath every time someone new joins me in this.

I farm on twice-stolen land in the Central District of Seattle, Washington, unceded Coast Salish territory. I am a white Jewish woman, and I farm with a white-led nonprofit. And often well-meaning white workers from Amazon and Microsoft come to the small parking-strip-turned-garden-beds that we call a farm, and it is my role to slow everyone down to the pace of the plants, and to be like the plants: to listen, to get to know a place by being shaped by its soil.

At the beginning of each set of community gardening hours, I tell the parts of the story of the Central District that I know. About how Black and Jewish people were redlined to this area. About how the Jews left in their own white flight. About how developers are eating up the land like they won’t ever get enough. I ask volunteers to be sensitive to the fact that people’s lives have been turned upside down, to walk with humility. I explain that we are doing our gardening inside of a wound, and if they can’t fully understand, that’s okay, but to respect that there’s a painful process going on. And that to the people who live here, some of us white folks, whether we like it or not, are the faces and bodies of that process.

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The Lilith Blog

January 11, 2020 by

Otherness and Family Secrets—Stories from the Borscht Belt

Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 4.23.44 PMFloating in the Neversink (Black Rose Writing), a wistful novel-in-stories, evokes a particular moment in American Jewish culture–the Catskills and New York in the 1950s and 60s. Author Andrea Simon talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about her journey back to the past. 

YZM: This is a coming-of-age novel in which Mandy’s family is front and center.

AS: The 1950s and 1960s were a unique time in New York for many Jewish families, before they dispersed to faraway areas for settling and travel. In many cases, families provided the pivotal gathering framework for socialization. This was particularly true for New York’s Catskill Mountains, also known as the Borscht Belt.

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