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Tag : jewish feminism

The Lilith Blog

May 20, 2020 by

Embracing “Quasi-Motherhood” With Humor and Empathy

Dani Alpert is one funny lady, and like many comics, she uses her life as a prime source for her material.  After falling for a divorced dad of two, she struggles to find a way to embrace the offspring she claims never to have wanted.  Fast forward to the break-up with said boyfriend, which comes with an unseen punch—by this time, she loves the kids and wants to keep them in her life. 

Alpert talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about her new memoir, The Girlfriend Mom, in which she gives us the skinny on how she does just that—and what she learns along the way. 

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The Lilith Blog

May 13, 2020 by

On Unorthodox: The Hasidim Are Not An Anomaly

Not long ago, I saw a young woman in Hasidic garb on the plaza outside Lincoln Center. She was sitting at the top of the steps with a cup and a cardboard sign, her long skirt spread around her. She wore a look of abject shame, her eyes trained on the ground.  

I pictured her as I watched the recent series Unorthodox. Television is aspirational, director Maria Schrader said in an accompanying documentary. Aspirational stories have a simple shape—the heroine escapes a monster and finds her way to freedom. At the end of Unorthodox, Esty fingers a compass given to her as a gift and smiles.

When my memoir about leaving Hasidic life first came out, it was held up as a banner in a number of secret online groups of Hasidic rebels. I am a Texan who joined the Hasidim as an idealistic teen and a lesbian, but no matter—some among them saw in my book something of themselves. Most of them had grown up in schools that denied them secular knowledge yet claimed to be accredited and drew government funds. They could be barely literate, and as culturally ignorant as a new immigrant. The group is sadly marked with addiction, depression, suicide. They share information, hold successes up and cheer one another—who learned to read, who got into college, who got to see their children. 

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The Lilith Blog

May 12, 2020 by

Poetry: Thirteen Ways of Looking at Life Before The Virus

I.

I remember shaking hands:

damp sweaty hands and dry scratchy hands,

bone-crushing handshakes and dead-fish handshakes,

two-handed handshakes, my hand sandwiched 

between a pair of big beefy palms.

I remember hairy hands and freckled hands,

young smooth hands and old wrinkled hands,

red-polished fingernails and bitten-jagged fingernails,

stained hands of hairdressers who had spent all day dyeing,

dirty hands of gardeners who dug down deep into the good earth.

 

II.

Thousands of years ago, a man stuck out his right hand

to show a stranger he had no weapon.

The stranger took his hand and shook it

to make sure he had nothing up his sleeve.

And that is how it began.

 

III

I remember sharing a bucket

of greasy popcorn with a boy

at the movies

(though I no longer remember

the boy or the movie)

the thrill of our hands

accidentally on purpose

brushing each other in the dark.

 

IV

I remember my best girlfriend 

and me facing each other to play

a hand-clapping game, shrieking

“Miss Mar…Mack! Mack! Mack!”

and the loud satisfying smack!

as our four palms slapped. 

 

V.

I remember high fives

and how we’d laugh when we missed

and then do a do-over.

 

VI.

I remember the elegant turn

of shiny brass doorknobs

cool to the touch.

 

VII.

I remember my mother’s hands

tied to the railings of her hospital bed

and how I untied them

when the nurse wasn’t looking

and held them in my lap.

 

VIII.

I remember holding my father’s hand

how the big college ring he wore

rubbed against my birthstone ring

and irritated my fourth finger

but I never pulled away.

 

IX.

I remember the joy of offering

my index finger to a new baby

who wrapped it in her fist

as we gazed at each other in wonder. 

 

X.

I remember tapping a stranger

on the shoulder and saying,

“Your tag is showing.

Do you mind if I tuck it in?”

She didn’t mind. I tucked it in.

 

XI.

I remember salad bars and hot bars.

I remember saying, “Want a bite?”

and offering a forkful

of food from my plate.

I remember asking, “Can I have a sip?”

and placing my lips

on the edge of your cold frosty glass.

 

XII. 

I remember passing around the kiddush cup,

each of us taking a small sip of wine.

I remember passing around the challah,

each of us ripping off a big yeasty hunk.

I remember picking up a serving spoon

someone had just put down

without giving it a second thought.

XIII.

I remember sitting with a mourner

at a funeral, not saying a word,

simply taking her hand.

 

–Lesléa Newman

Copyright © 2020 by Lesléa Newman. First appeared in New Verse News. Used by permission of the author.

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The Lilith Blog

May 11, 2020 by

When the Clapping Stops

I may no longer know what day it is, but I can set my clock to the nightly applause that rumble in my neighborhood at 7:00 PM sharp.  A time reserved for New York City residents to step outside (if they can) and bang on pots, whoop, or clap wildly to show their appreciation for the healthcare workers who are tirelessly on the frontlines combatting the deadly Coronavirus.  What will happen when the clapping stops?

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The Lilith Blog

May 6, 2020 by

Reducing Waste By Reusing Flowers

I’ve been hunting for, buying, and wearing second-hand schmattes for decades. So when I learned about ReVased, a new company that devised a way to re-use flowers, I had to know more. I tracked down the founders, Aviva and Arielle Vogelstein, and we chatted about their ingenious plan to reduce waste while creating and spreading joy. 

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The Lilith Blog

April 30, 2020 by

What Carrying the Torah Taught Me About Faith

My daughter’s bat mitzvah took place on Purim, March 10, right as the country was introduced to social distancing and mere days before we were encouraged to stay home. The weekend before, my family went to shul together for Shabbat services. My son has been volunteering as a bimah boy since his bar mitzvah last year, so he’s there regularly with my husband, but my daughter and I often stay home.

Being in shul fills me with conflicting emotions. I love the community, the warmth, and the sense of connection amongst a group of people that large. But I have issues with some of the actual tenets of the religion itself, and a very uncertain relationship with G-d. It’s my love for the clergy and fellow congregants that keep me coming back. I spend my time there in reflection upon myself, my actions, and how I can be better in the future. I rarely follow along in the Siddur, feeling those words so separate from my own.

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The Lilith Blog

April 27, 2020 by

Abortion Under Threat: What You Need to Know

While many of us are at home, anti-choice politicians and their supporters are exploiting the anxiety around COVID-19 by attacking access to abortion rights. (Here’s a great graphic from NARAL Iowa depicting the intersection between the politicians who tried to ban abortion in 2019 and those trying to do so now.) 

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The Lilith Blog

April 25, 2020 by

Beyond the Ghetto Gates: The Liberation of Jews in Italy

In the late 18 century, French troops invaded the Italian port city of Ancona, liberating the Jews from the ghetto where they’d been forced to live. This new freedom had consequences both cultural and personal. Novelist Michelle Cameron’s Beyond the Ghetto Gates (She Writes Press, $16.95) is set in this bracing moment and she talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about why she chose this particular time and what she hopes her readers will learn from it. 

Yona Zeldis McDonough: You selected an atypical chapter in Jewish history on which to focus; what drew you to it? 

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The Lilith Blog

April 24, 2020 by

A Nanny Reflects on the Pandemic and the U.S. Labor System

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I am sitting on the couch, in my PJs. I should be walking to the elementary school; pick-up is at 2:40. But everything is different now.

I work part-time as a nanny, and like many of the jobs that comprise the so-called “gig economy” and the domestic workforce, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought my work to a screeching halt. 

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The Lilith Blog

April 23, 2020 by

Mourning During a Period of Self-Isolation

My online college class was interrupted with three missed calls from my father, two from my mother, and a supplemental set of urgent texts saying “call me ASAP.”

I knew without even calling back that my maternal grandmother had passed. I called my parents to see when I would have to fly to Houston to attend the funeral. I had just been kicked out of school because of the coronavirus and wanted to make sure I had all I’d need to continue my schooling from Houston, where my grandmother had been living. 

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