The Lilith Blog

June 27, 2018 by

Why We’re Protesting the Orthodox Union Every Monday

35653804_186792092023656_5639747150087716864_nKeeping Kashrut, or kosher, is one of the most central and recognizable pillars of observant Judaism. As a child in a traditional but modern Orthodox community, I was taught the importance of keeping kosher. Even when I was a toddler, I asked my Orthodox uncle if his house was kosher before feeling comfortable eating there. For our family, food products needed kosher symbols. At the grocery store, families like ours all across the country scan products for the “OU” symbol from the Orthodox Union—one of the most widely recognized and trustworthy of the kosher symbols.

The Orthodox Union is an umbrella organization representing Orthodox synagogues and communities across the United States. In addition to telling the community what foods are permissible to eat, the OU runs programs that keeps the organization deeply rooted in Orthodox communities, including youth groups and support on campus. The OU is a significant component of the blood in the veins of the Orthodox communal world.

I didn’t even realize the OU did any political work outside of their communal support until 2014, when I noticed that they had commended the Supreme Court’s decision siding with Hobby Lobby in a notorious case regarding an employer’s responsibility to provide insurance inclusive of contraception, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. They sided with the evangelical Christian plaintiffs in that case, even though President Obama had already ensured that any company that was not comfortable paying for contraception could employ a provision so the government would pay for it instead.

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The Lilith Blog

June 26, 2018 by

If “Incivility” Makes You Sympathize with Racism, You Were Racist Already

When I was an undergrad, I sat on my Women’s Center Collective. We made decisions by consensus. All it took was one person to block something and it wouldn’t happen. So it took a while for things to happen. We had to talk about everything. And it could be super frustrating when something you cared about died in process because of the deeply held convictions (or intransigence) of some who maybe didn’t even totally understand the issue.

God, it was annoying. God, were we annoying. Believe me when I say that I fantasized more than once about a (benevolent, run by me) dictatorship of liberal ideals. Think about how much we (ahem, I) could get done! Imagine how quickly we could organize if we weren’t so minutely attuned to what might cause offense to…someone. Anyone. 

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The Lilith Blog

June 24, 2018 by

A Bold Photographer Who Captures Social Justice Movements

For as long as she can remember, photojournalist Natalie Keyssar has been interested in the causes and casualties of violence and civic unrest. But it took years for her to muster the courage to pursue this particular angle; first, she covered metropolitan news and youth culture for the Wall Street Journal and a wide array of online and print outlets. Over her career, she has covered major neo-Nazi rallies, Kosher soup kitchens, tragic accidents and Occupy protests.

As the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Emerging Photographer Award winner, her eclectic work now appears regularly in Time, Bloomberg Business Week, the New York Times newspaper and magazine, and California Sunday, and has won plaudits not only from the ICP, but from the Aaron Siskind Foundation, PDN30, The Pulitzer Center, and the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Nailing 33-year-old Keyssar down for an interview took months—she is on the road for much of the year—but she and reporter Eleanor J. Bader recently met at a Brooklyn café where they spent several hours talking about Keyssar’s career, its unlikely trajectory, and her interest in covering movements for social justice at home and abroad.

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The Lilith Blog

June 22, 2018 by

On “Disobedience:” Threesomes, Friendship and Queer Families

 Although Director Sebastian Lilio’s recent film Disobedience is about a forbidden lesbian love between Esti (Rachel McAdams) and Ronit (Rachel Weisz), the most compelling scenes are when the characters are either in solitude, or united as a threesome with Dovit Esti’s husband (Alessandro Nivola),

This oddity might be because Esti and Ronit’s queer coupling is so unrealistic; their sex, for all of the constraints they face in their frum Orthodox community, is lustless: a sequential love-making performed while the two women remain halfway-clothed. Oddly enough, the Forward published a takedown of the film by an Orthodox woman, claiming that she is sick of being fetishized. But this piece notably omits of the word queer, and similarly sidesteps any discussion of what is also fundamentally fetishized in the film: lesbian sex.

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The Lilith Blog

June 21, 2018 by

The Cloth Mother and Trauma at the Border

As you read this, more than 11,000 children captured while trying to enter the U.S. across the border with Mexico are warehoused in more than 100 facilities in 17 states. The thousands of children separated from their families in recent weeks are scattered across the country, and there is no coherent plan apparent to reconnect them with their relatives.

I keep thinking about Baby 106.

In the 1950s, American psychologist Dr. Harry Harlow used baby rhesus monkeys for groundbreaking research on childhood attachment. One of his subjects, Baby 106, was taken from its mother at birth and placed in a cage. Eventually it was introduced to two “mothers,” that were actually wire cylinders. One had a protruding nipple connected to a bottle of milk. The other, with no nipple, was covered in cloth. The baby monkey initially went to the wire mother and suckled. Then it went, and stayed, with the cloth mother, the one that offered some tactile comfort.

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The Lilith Blog

June 20, 2018 by

Stop Arguing About Holocaust Analogies and Do Something

Refugee Children in Immigration Detention Protest BroadmeadowsPlease, let’s not lightly throw around Holocaust analogies – but perhaps equally important, let’s not argue about whether or not we need to throw around the Holocaust analogies. The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy which has led to internment camps for children is truly horrifying. On this point, thankfully, many, many people seem to be in agreement.

But are they “concentration camps” “just like the Nazis had for the Jews”?

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The Lilith Blog

June 20, 2018 by

At the Border, We’re Seeing Exactly What America Is

It’s impossible not to see the pleas plastered on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: “We are better than this.” “This is not who America is.” “This is not the America I know!”

But it is who we are: what the United States is doing to families and children, specifically families and children of color, by ripping them apart at the U.S. border is part and parcel of an ongoing history. It is horrific and unbearable and inhumane. But it is exactly what America is and continues to be.

We do not like when these injustices become so evident. We prefer our cruelty to remain in the shadows. You know, like lack of access to safe and legal abortion. Or barring women, especially low-wage workers, from paid family leave, or perpetuating a medical system that continues to allow Black women to die during pregnancy and childbirth at three times the rate of White women. So, yes, this new policy is an emergency, but the oppression is definitely not new.

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The Lilith Blog

June 20, 2018 by

The Bitches of the 1990s Weren’t Villains After All

90sbitch“Jews are really good at knowing our history,” says Allison Yarrow, author of the new book 90s Bitch, which casts a critical eye on the gender politics of the Clinton years, from Monica Lewinsky to Marcia Clark, examining how the rise of the 24/7 media landscape turned them into villains, pushing sexism and silencing into the air we breathe today.

“We need to know the real history of what happened in the 1990,” Yarrow told Lilith, during a chat that covered Bill Clinton’s non-apology, the limits of nostalgia, the Sex and the City anniversary and of course, the word “bitch.”

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The Lilith Blog

June 19, 2018 by

Dispatches From an Anxious Life

Little Panic CoverThe world never made any sense to Amanda Stern–how could she trust time to keep flowing, the sun to rise, gravity to hold her feet to the ground, or even her own body to work the way it was supposed to?

In her memoir Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life, Amanda describes this feeling. Deep down, she knows that there’s something horribly wrong with her, some defect that her siblings and friends don’t have to cope with.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s in New York, Amanda experiences the magic and madness of life through the filter of unrelenting panic. Plagued with fear that her friends and family will be taken from her if she’s not watching—that her mother will die, or forget she has children and just move away—Amanda treats every parting as her last. Shuttled between a barefoot bohemian life with her mother in Greenwich Village, and a sanitized, stricter world of affluence uptown with her father, Amanda has little she can depend on. And when Etan Patz, the six-year-old boy down the block from their MacDougal Street home disappears on the first day he walks to school alone, she can’t help but believe that all her worst fears are about to come true.

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The Lilith Blog

June 19, 2018 by

Who Is A Radical Feminist?

The radical feminists were giggling at the images of their younger selves on screen: holding signs that demanded equality and pay, the youthful leaders projected at the front of the auditorium exuded power and hope.Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 1.50.43 PM

Decades later, these same women were onstage and in the audience, celebrating the release of Joyce Antler’s book, Jewish Radical Feminism: Voices From the Women’s Liberation Movement. The book itself, referred to by Antler as “an excavation” of Jewish women’s history, reads as much as a vital encyclopedia as it does a narrative history. It tells the stories of the dozens of Jewish women whose “participation in [the women’s liberation] movement has been hidden for several decades.”    

In the front row, the Jewish women who ushered the women’s liberation movement into the future—Blu Greenberg, Judith Plaskow, Letty Cottin Pogrebin and others—sat in the audience and made comments on their past glories. From behind them, the feeling of friendship was palpable: these women, in the business of pursuing freedom for decades, and found solace and camaraderie with each other. They asked about grandchildren and reminisced about the protest lines.

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