Tag : covid-19

The Lilith Blog

July 30, 2020 by

Twinkle Times Two: On Vigilance and Anxiety

“Take your shoes off,” I remind my mother. “Drop your keys; I’ll clean them.” “Wash your hands and get changed. Wait, no—take off your street clothes first, then wash your hands. But don’t touch anything else.” She comes inside. I cringe as she sets her sunglasses down on the kitchen counter, making a mental note to sanitize them when she isn’t looking, and give the counter a scrub too, of course. I follow her to her bedroom, watching her undress, confirming that her shorts and t-shirt make it into the laundry bag.

Will it be enough? Is it too much?

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July 27, 2020 by

We’re Going to Witness a Surge in the Current Health Inequality

MARION DANIS is a physician and bioethicist who directs the Bioethics Consultation Service at the National Institutes of Health. The views she expresses here are her own and not necessarily a reflection of the policies of the N.I.H. or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The coronavirus pandemic feels like a throwback to an era when human capacity to overcome diseases was minimal. We revert to ageold techniques—isolation, hand-washing, masks. The novelist Orhan Pamuk, who knows a lot about how it feels to live through plagues (he’s read many of the great novels about past plagues as he has been writing a new one), tells us our experience is similar in some ways but different in others. We fear the unknown, we start rumors and blame others for bringing the plague. But unlike the experience of past plagues, we aren’t in the dark; we can know what’s going on everywhere in great detail, and we avoid the full impact of isolation by connecting virtually. We are relying on the biological sciences to eventually find more modern solutions.

In the U.S., the healthcare system will be in a sad state after we have made our way through the pandemic. This will not be solely due to the outbreak but also due to policy decisions made before the pandemic, and during it.

Millions of people will have lost their jobs and will lose their employment-based health insurance as a result. Many people who worked in the gig economy without an economic safety net will be unable to afford the basic elements needed for health, particularly safe housing and adequate nutrition, and will not be able to afford healthcare without incurring debt. Many medical practices will have faced economic hardship and even closed, and healthcare practitioners will have lost jobs because all routine, non-emergency medical care will have gone on hold. We will witness an exaggeration of health inequality because death rates from Covid-19 have been higher among minority communities. We will recognize how important maintenance of public health infrastructure is and what a mistake it was to allow a lapse in preparedness for pandemics.

It will take remarkable optimism to see much good coming out of this pandemic. But perhaps the consequences will be so dire and the urge to fix the problem will be so great that we will urge or even insist that Congress pass legislation to create guaranteed income and expand health insurance, and demand that the executive branch plan better next time. 

 

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July 27, 2020 by

Abortion for Anyone Who Needs It

STEPH BLACK is a writer, activist and clinic escort in D.C. who is passionate about the intersections of Judaism and feminism. 

Post-Corona, I want to imagine that abortion will be accessible in the ways I’ve always dreamed: The option to seek care in a clinic or self-administer abortion medication wherever a person feels comfortable. The abortion, whether by medications taken at home or by a procedural abortion done in a clinic, will be free. Information around abortion care will be holistic, demedicalized, and demystified.

At this moment, we are at a crossroads. Telemedicine options for many kinds of healthcare have spiked. Yet this has not been true for abortion: the FDA’s stonewalling on accessible abortion medication is baseless. Its refusal to relax medically unnecessary restrictions on the accessibility of these medications is life-threatening to those who need it. As an educator trained on how to self-manage abortion with pills, I know that access to these medications, and information on how to take them, is vital and urgent. Being able to manage an abortion yourself at home during Covid-19 is lifesaving.

Even as more people seeking abortion care turn to this option, I’m hoping others will understand how safe and necessary it is. I envision a time when these medications are available in pharmacies, for free, for anyone who needs it—no questions asked.

Right now, abortion is essential. In a post-Corona world, it must be freedom.

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July 27, 2020 by

Labor Activism Has New Momentum

AMELIA DORNBUSH is a former Malka Fellow at Lilith and currently works for a union in Michigan.

Labor unions in the United States have an approval rating of 64% in the US according to Gallup. Yet, union density continues to decline—currently hovering just above 10%. Clearly, there’s a gap between the wish of American workers to have a democratic say in their lives and the legal mechanisms by which they can attain such a voice.

In early April, I was struck by a headline in the publication Labor Notes that read: “Will Covid-19 be Our Triangle Fire?” In 1911, over a hundred workers (many of them Jewish women) burned alive in a shirtwaist factory because of unsafe conditions that were entirely preventable. The protests that followed led to the establishment of numerous worker safety protections.

The parallels to our current moment are unmistakable. Tens of thousands of Americans have died of Covid-19. Essential workers are especially at risk, all the more so because the protections that workers won over a century ago have gradually been eroding.

Historically, an interplay between shop-floor action and legal changes have led to the growth of workers’ rights and democratic expression. Given the antilabor Labor Board and Supreme Court, it seems unlikely that legal avenues will offer much solace now.

That leaves direct action. And during the pandemic, worker organizing is on the rise. A strike map has shown over 200 walkouts since March, many of them happening at not-yet-union facilities.

It is genuinely impossible to say what the future of organizing will be after the pandemic—unemployment is rising and union members have been hit hard with layoffs. Corporations have ruthlessly fired workers who organize, even hospitals short-staffed during a pandemic. In many ways, the future could be grim.

We have to hope we can build ourselves a new world from the ashes of the old. The labor movement at its core is about democracy and connections among workers. A virtual world makes it harder to attain those things—but the labor movement has adapted before and will adapt again.

During this pandemic, we have seen glimmers of what that new world could be. From anecdotal evidence, it looks like unions have been fielding an increased number of calls from workers seeking to organize. Even without a formal union, workers have been winning demands through collective action. So there is hope.

Following the Triangle Fire, Rose Schneiderman delivered a speech to the Women’s Trade Union League. She said: “Public officials have only words of warning to us—warning that we must be intensely orderly and must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.

“I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.”

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The Lilith Blog

June 25, 2020 by

“We’re All Nervous About What’s Coming”—A Michigan Nurse on the Covid Crisis

Melissa Boals is a nurse at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Michigan. She serves on the board of the Michigan Nurses Association, which represents approximately 13,000 nurses, and her hospital recently won its fight for unionization in 2017. In early May, she spoke to Arielle Silver-Willner about her experiences during the Covid crisis, as well as Jewish identity in the predominantly non-Jewish Traverse City.

Arielle Silver-Willner: I’d like to begin by thanking you for your hard work, bravery, and the sacrifices you’ve had to make during the last few months (I heard that you had to be separated from your daughter for safety reasons and that today is the first time you are able to see her again). All of this could not have been easyhow are you?  

Melissa Boals: I’m happy right now. When I picked her up I teared up. I know that I only have so many days with her and then we’ll see what happens because we’re having a lot of tourists coming, not social distancing and not wearing masks and it’s very concerning. According to the Grand Traverse Health Department website we had two out-of-state travelers test positive. Both were symptomatic. They had traveled to Grand Traverse County to visit family, so we’re all nervous about what’s coming.

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The Lilith Blog

May 29, 2020 by

I Told Our Son He Can’t Come Home

He asked to borrow the car. 

Just two weeks earlier, he’d been sheltering with us in our Hudson River town, where he’d stayed for the first two months of lockdown. Despite our pleas, he returned to Manhattan. On a whim before leaving, he took the antibody test and learned that, like 30% of people infected with the coronavirus, he’d had it asymptomatically. Considering himself safe, he asked if he could stay overnight before taking the Honda. I reminded him that no antibody test is highly reliable and that nobody knows yet whether a true positive test means a person is immune. I had to say no. 

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The Lilith Blog

April 29, 2020 by

When Home is Not a Shelter

Looking at me, you wouldn’t have guessed. I was a smart, outgoing, well-nourished, girl from a secular Jewish home, a top student at the school where I never missed a day. 

I was also a battered child.

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April 20, 2020 by

From the Editor

I wrote a very different version of this editorial many weeks ago. Then, my anxieties (yours too, perhaps) were fixed on elections in the U.S. and Israel, the trial of Harvey Weinstein, the rising and ugly challenges to our reproductive freedoms.

That was then.

Now, other questions about survival are our urgent preoccupation. 

Pray that the lessons this pandemic is teaching us—about shared social responsibility and empathy and appreciation for resilience—will remain with us as we shape a reality dramatically different from what we’d anticipated for the year 2020and beyond. In the weeks since Lilith’s winter issue, we have all entered a very narrow place, physically and emotionally. In the midst of this crisis, Lilith, like so many of you, continues moving forward, though the path and pace have altered. The staff, working remotely, join for a daily lunch meeting by video, sharing ideas, distributing the work load, acknowledging the presence of children, pets, and uncertain video connections. Lilith has a long, strong history of creating community—in print, through our blog, in the magazine’s robust salons, and with the interns and emerging writers we continue to nurture and engage, albeit at a safe distance now. And Lilith is continuing to strengthen connections with our readers by creating on-line video programming for pleasure, learning and support at this time of estrangement from our old normal.

 

I’ve been thinking of my maternal grandmother—my Baba— as I try to imagine what it felt like to be caught in the influenza pandemic of 1918. She saved the family from contagion, so my mother said, by hanging sheets soaked in bleach in the doorways of their house. Who knows what really helped? But in her stolid practicality, I see a precursor to the behaviors of so many of my friends and colleagues right now, women forced to make inventive and hard decisions we’ve mostly not faced before, as we move from a promise of abundance to a reality of scarcity.

 

Much of this spring issue was prepared before the virus struck. In those long-ago February days before the extent of the coronavirus crisis was fully upon us, I was measuring change over time using this issue’s series of first-person ruminations on hair, which in my mind would mark a shift from 25 years ago when Lilith last tackled the subject in a cover story. Entitled “Jewish Hair!” that special section in spring 1995 was described as “20 pages on Ethnicity, Gender, Power, Sex, Shame, Secrets, Independence, Laws, Identity, Sensuality, Courage.” (Hair, like money and food, is a topic uni-versal in its magnetic ability to draw out people’s personal experiences.)

 

This time around, Lilith’s editors predicted we’d perhaps see stories from trans people about hair as a liberating indicator of gender identity, or from women using their locks as a colorful

index to fashion trends. Maybe a guilty confession that covering graying middle-aged hair is “bad hair politics.” But no; we got one of the above. What you will read here surprised us. Hair as a valuable intergenerational connector, with unrecognized potential to express tenderness. The mores that dictate social interactions in a hair salon. Acceptance of body hair. Racial prejudice that punishes Black hairstyles. And, movingly, the brave and powerful words of an 11-year-old girl, losing her hair from the ravages of her cancer treatment.

 

A subject that seemed radical more than two decades ago has with Lilith’s coverage matured into a growing respect for the diverse ways we mark our identities and our emotions. A similar tone—let’s name it mutuality—appears in other sections of this issue. Raising misogyny-free boys today is a responsibility not only of their [feminist] parents, but is also shared by a society

trying to shift expectations so that all children are unshackled from constricting gender norms. And in Lilith’s section on wages, it’s clear that addressing poverty and inequity can’t fall only to calls for tzedakah or tikkun olam.

This crisis has shown us that we are more dependent on many different forms of labor than we may previously have realized, and we are called to treat all workers with the highest ethics—as Jews, as women, as vulnerable, interwoven human beings on this planet. I hope we’re all able to keep that sense of mutuality in mind as we eventually step into a world forever changed. 

In our eerie, shared present moment, I hope you’re able to stay safe, and as comfortable as possible.

 

Susan Weidman Schneider

Editor in Chief

susanws@lilith.org

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The Lilith Blog

April 14, 2020 by

All-of-a-Kind Seder in the Time of Covid-19

 In the unfolding of COVID-19, while some friends were frantically dashing back to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or Ling Ma’s Severence, I reached for All-of-a-kind Family, by Sydney TaylorIt’s an old children’s book, doubly old—published in 1951 and set in 1912—about the five all-of-a-kind sisters, dressed alike and running around in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, surrounded by their fellow Jews. It was the confluence of two events that brought it to mind—quarantine and Passover.

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The Lilith Blog

April 6, 2020 by

Turning Days of Distancing into Days of Reflection

Progress is an American value. We are acculturated to propel—socially, professionally, economically—which makes sheltering in place excruciating. For me, not moving forward is as good as moving backwards. 

So, how can we navigate this temporary suspension of life as we know it? Some folks are turning this time into an opportunity to begin exercising, bond with family and pets, clean closets, or garden. Others are re-hanging holiday lights. I am reliving the Days of Awe.

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