Tag : judaism

The Lilith Blog

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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January 10, 2019 by

Mizrachi in Memphis

I grew up in a small, tightly knit modern-Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. My mother is half-Yemeni, half-Hungarian, and my dad is Kurdish (Iraqi Kurds). Aside from a few other people who came and went during my childhood, my parents, siblings and I were the only Mizrachim in our otherwise Ashkenazi community. In my 14 years of Jewish day-school education, I never once heard a Jewish educator utter the word Mizrachi. Still, from a young age, it was obvious to me that I was different.

When I got to college, I decided it was best for me to avoid Jewish spaces as a general rule. Not just the Orthodox ones, but all of ‘em. Still, there were certain special occasions during which, against my better judgment, I found myself in the Hillel House. Without fail, every time I entered that building I was asked, tersely, What are you doing here? or Who are you here with? The speakers’ confused and accusatory expressions suggested a deeper question: are you sure you meant to come here? You can’t be Jewish if you’re not white. Regardless of the denomination, “Jewish spaces” are almost certainly “Ashkenazi spaces.”

I never feel comfortable in those places.

Instead, I felt at peace with the shape of my eyes, the texture of my hair, and the color of my skin at a religious function in the United States only once. It was at an Eid event on campus. Nobody asked me who I was there with, even though I was really only there to accompany my friend Aisha; though everything I was seeing was new to me, nobody asked me if I was lost. The first time I would have been at a loss of words if someone asked me to justify my presence, I was not questioned: I could just be. For Mizrachi Jews (or any non-white Jews), I don’t think this feeling is possible in Jewish spaces in the U.S. right now.

RACHEL TSUNA, “A Mizrachi Jew in Memphis,” The Lilith Blog, November 29, 2018.

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The Lilith Blog

July 17, 2014 by

In Wartime, a Surreal Modesty Contest

PICTURED: The #1 existential threat to Israel's safety.

PICTURED: The #1 existential threat to Israel’s safety.

Political pundits of the world, pay attention: while you’ve been trying to make sense of the bloody conflict in Israel and Gaza, an unidentified group of women in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has identified its cause—and laid out a solution.


Project EDEN (standing for, bizarrely, “Eat ice cream, while helping Defend Eretz Yisrael Now) is a local initiative with grandiose goals: inspired by “talks of the Rebbe,” the Chabad-affiliated project aims to single-handedly “influence the safety of the Yidden [Jews] in Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel]” and provide “sure-fire protection.”

So how, exactly, do these dairy-product enthusiasts plan to hold Hamas missiles at bay from faraway Brooklyn?

By policing women’s bodies, of course. 

The unidentified brain trust has begun a “Tznius [modesty] campaign for girls” – and don’t worry, it has “great prize incentives, in the merit of the safety of Israel.”


“Every girl who comes to day camp dressed in Tznius attire (i.e. clothing which keep necklines, elbows, knees and feet covered at all times) will receive an EDEN card,” according to COLLive.com, a Chabad-affiliated community news website.

Eight EDEN cards are redeemable for ice cream and entry in a $100 raffle—and, of course, the eternal knowledge that flashing your elbows has not caused Jews to die in the Middle East.

The group is soliciting donations to spread this project to as many summer camps as possible, lest even a single prepubescent girl in Crown Heights be unaware of the lethal power of her knees, feet, and collarbones.

It’s kind of an ingenious system, once you accept the premise that female bodies are capable of such massive destruction. (No wonder governments worldwide have such a vested interest in controlling them.) It combines ice cream and summer fun with punishing modesty standards and a veritable blitzkrieg of collective guilt.  One wonders, if this were implemented more widely, what the next Iron Dome defense system would look like: perhaps a series of opaque, but breathable, literal iron domes for females to wear from the moment of birth? (The dimpled elbows of toddler girls have long been underestimated in their potential for causing death.)

Clearly, as Israeli troops enter Gaza, modesty is needed as never before: not prayers, not kindness, not good deeds or mutual understanding, and certainly not carefully considered compromises from politicians in positions of power. The way to “help our brothers in their time of need,” apparently, is to suppress every inch of skin their sisters possess.

And then give them some ice cream.

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