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July 27, 2020 by

Global Tzedakah: Save for a Rainy Day? This Is a Downpour!

RUTH MESSINGER is the global ambassador of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), where she served as president and CEO for 18 years

I am fiercely convinced a horrendous consequence of the pandemic would be for Americans to go back to “normal” life, with too many misguided priorities. Instead, we need to organize ourselves in new ways:

First: We need to pay more attention to global problems, global needs. The United States cannot continue as a global leader if we tolerate growing inequities, if we ignore poverty, hunger, oppression, land theft, and denial of human rights around the world.

Second: The Jewish community must take a lead in looking at all the systemic inequities that are being laid bare by the pandemic. We must be a voice for creating a health care system that works for all Americans; a voice for exposing the limitations of our education systems, and the ways in which poorer people and people of color are the losers; a voice for adopting immigration policies that make it possible for others to make our country stronger. If we take seriously the Jewish mandate to pursue justice, we should support the range of initiatives in the Jewish community directed against racism, for gender equity, for refugees and asylum seekers. The same goes for efforts to act globally.

Third: The funders, foundations and federations in the Jewish community must dip into endowments to take on these challenges. Many of us were raised to “save for a rainy day.” Now we desperately need leadership in our community to say this is a downpour: Those with resources should be expanding their giving now, stepping up and investing to save an environmental group or an interfaith effort to address racial hatred.

Fourth: We need to advocate for policies that advance these goals: Helping the most marginalized people locally and globally, re-involving the U.S. in shaping environmental practices to protect the planet; and championing a worldwide effort to end hunger and hatred and advance human rights.

The pandemic offers us a chance to lead the way in global tzedakah. Let’s seize it. 

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April 2, 2019 by

Are You Prepared to Listen?

Are you prepared to listen?

This issue of Lilith has revelations aplenty, some from unexpected sources, as we discovered while the magazine was in its editing stages. I’m asked about once a week—and more often than that when we’re in the process of interviewing prospective interns—how we decide what to publish, and whether there’s a theme for the issue in process. Truth is, we rarely start with one overarching idea for an issue’s content, but sometimes the zeitgeist or the current preoccupations of Jewish feminists will jump out at us as we shape the magazine. That’s what happened this time as we were led to our cover line: Unfaithful.

Listening to the writers in this issue, I’ve learned many things; your takeaways may differ. When I listened to women proposing questions for any next big survey of North American Jews, I learned what (and, importantly, who) those previous agenda-shaping demographic studies missed about how people actually live out our diverse Jewish identities. When I read the three short stories here, I became privy to lurking dissatisfactions in marriage. Although no subject was suggested to writers when Lilith announced its annual fiction contest, this year the winning works are all, coincidentally, driven by challenges to these intimate relationships. One of them, to my surprise, hints that mother-daughter closeness might be a driver.

Listening to an Other who is a stranger is part of the hard work going on at the School for Peace created by Nava Sonnenschein, as Israeli Jews and Arabs try to dissolve calcified suspicions and really hear what’s being spoken about violence, women’s issues and the obstacles to overcoming ingrained hostility.

And then there are foremothers. While I didn’t always listen attentively enough to my own mother’s life experiences, I found Alice Shalvi’s multivalent activism and Matilda Robbins’s unflinching toughness—both featured in this issue—to be exemplars of brave resiliency. Both are worth knowing better. Here’s to many more opportunities for listening, attentively, to strong women.

A change in this issue.

You may already have noticed something new on the facing page. Lilith, as a nonprofit organization, depends for its strength and survival on the generosity of donors like you. And we’re changing the ways we recognize our indispensable donors. Not only are there new (and more Lilith-like) names for our the donation categories, but we’ve also added a dollar range with these donation levels.

Why? Because philanthropy is changing. According to the Women’s Funding Network, the future of philanthropy is female. Almost three out of four donors worldwide are women. Of the impending $41 trillion wealth transfer between generations, 70% will be inherited by women. And women give away almost twice as much of their wealth away as men do.

At the same time, for many women, our philanthropy has been in the shadows. One of Lilith’s longtime fans articulated a valuable response when I asked her opinion about listing levels of support on our donor page: “My support for Lilith is not at the level of a bake sale. It takes real money for this very real magazine to do the work it does. And I’m realizing how proud I am of helping make this happen.”

Lilith is thankful to all the women and the men who make our work possible at every level of support and we proudly list our partners. There is gratitude all around—for the donors and readers, writers, artists and staffers alike who make Lilith happen. To all, we say… Thank you!

Susan Weidman Schneider

Editor in Chief

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