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May 28, 2015 by

New Morning Prayer for Women

Blessed are You, Shekhinah,
Ruler of the Universe,
Who did not make me a man.

Blessed are You, Shekhinah,
Who gave me the strength to bear children
endurance to raise them
shrewdness and fortitude to earn a living
initiative to shop for my own clothes— or start my own business
flexibility to pick up my own socks
efficiency to boil an egg and brew coffee simultaneously  
creativity to sew a quilt
stamina to cook an entire Seder—
on my own.

Blessed are You, Shekhinah,
Who has made me like the Matriarchs,
Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel,
who possessed the power of binah
intellectual and emotional insight
distinguishing between
what appears to be true
and what is actually true.

Shekhinah, save me from Nice Jewish Men.
Give me the judgment to recognize
(the chutzpah to avoid)
the Type-A man my parents adore:
who can pass the Bar Exam in three states,
but cannot shop for his own suits—
who can shoot a birdie on the golf course,
but whose underpants always miss the hamper.

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May 18, 2015 by

Excuse Me: Things People Said to Me in McGillacody, VT

Welcome to another edition of Excuse Me, an illustrated advice column about maddening things. Installments will be posted here every other Monday. Need advice? Send your questions to liana@lilith.org.

excuseme_16

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May 6, 2015 by

After Months Online, the Fun of Face-to-Face

The freezing-over of America over the long winter had an effect (in some places) of bringing people together for warming, indoor gatherings. At least that is how I see the significance of an event that took place on a recent night in icy Manhattan. It was the first in-person meeting of people belonging to a certain Facebook group dedicated to exploring the status of women in Orthodox Judaism. Or, as I like to call it, the FEDDD UPPPPP MMMMEETTT UPPPP.

 Okay, so I should probably explain the group name. When I started the group nearly a year ago, on a kind of half-whim following a long and energizing walk, I called it, “I’m also fed up with the way women are treated in Orthodoxy.” I called it that because, well, I was feeling fed up at the time. Actually, I was also really curious how many people felt the same way. The group was a bit of a sociological experiment for me. I really wanted to know how many people out there had sort of had enough. I mean, so much of public discourse in Orthodox life is dominated by men in power who have a particular agenda in labeling feminists as “marginal,” “minor” and “insignificant.” And religious feminists have never really engaged in any kind of real impact study to try and assess or measure their ideological reach. I realize that starting a Facebook group is hardly scientific. It’s also about as low-budget as you can get. But it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was really just curious how many people out there were not just identified as feminist but also really burning about it. To distort the proverb, it was like putting out some honey and seeing how many bees would show up. 

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April 23, 2015 by

Who Believes and Who Doesn’t?

faithcover

What do you believe? Why? Is faith a certainty, fixed and immutable, or is it an ongoing process, and evolution of the spirit and the soul? Who has faith and how did she get it? These are just some of the questions that began to tug at Victoria Zackheim, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and editor of five previous essay collections. As she mulled over these thoughts, an anthology began brewing. The resulting volume, Faith: Essays from Believers, Agnostics, and Atheists, showcases the work of 24 writers, including Caroline Leavitt, Aviva Layton, Benita Garvin among others, who have widely divergent views on the subject. Zackheim chatted via email with Lilith Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the winding road she took in assembling this, her sixth collection, and also about some of the revelations she experienced along the way.

YZM: How did you come to compile this book? 

VZ: I’m not sure if there was one event—perhaps it was the composite of several—that led me along this path. What I can say is this: once the journey began, there was no turning back. The early stirrings came from questioning myself about my own faith, a curiosity to clarify what I believed. The deeper I probed, the more I needed to pose questions to friends, until I found myself engaging them in long, soul-searching conversations. Finally, the awareness that I absolutely had to explore the subject of faith and the role it plays (or doesn’t play) in my life led me to the genre that has become so prevalent in my teaching and writing: the personal essay…and then the anthology. Once that was decided, and my agent gave the thumbs-up, I sent an invitation to twenty-five gifted writers who represented a cross-section of cultures, religions, and lifestyles. I was hoping that perhaps ten would accept my invitation, and then I would continue inviting. Twenty-three accepted and the project was launched. After the proposal was completed and the book was sold to Beyond Words, essays began to arrive, I was fascinated to discover that people I was certain were atheists were believers, and a few I assumed to be believers were not.

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April 20, 2015 by

She Wants to Democratize Theater Access

Dramaturg, director and theater critic Molly Marinik loves stories, so it is no surprise that finding the best way to tell a tale is one of her passions.

As a resident director at the multi-award winning Flea Theater and Literary Manager at the Barefoot Theatre Company in New York City, Marinik has directed a host of one-act and full-length plays and has coordinated numerous staged readings. But although she finds it gratifying to steer, prune and orchestrate productions, Marinik also enjoys critiquing them, which is why, in 2007, she founded Theatre is Easy, a website devoted to reviewing the Off and Off-Off Broadway shows that mainstream media typically ignores.

“I want audiences to be smart consumers of the amazing plays in New York and have access to information to make informed choices about what to see,” she begins. “If one of our reviewers is really excited about a show that has no celebrities or glitz, we try to blast the review on social media. Obviously the advertising power of commercial productions is a lot higher than that of Off or Off-Off Broadway, so we try to even the playing field by promoting and publicizing this work.”

Theasy also tries to promote diverse voices – plays written by, starring, or directed by women, people of color, and ethnic minorities. “We’re totally independent so we don’t have to cater to anyone’s expectations,” Marinik continues. “This means we don’t need to prioritize big shows starring high-profile, Broadway actors. For example, we’ve featured the work of cultural organizations like LABA, which operates out of the 14th Street YMHA, the Irish Repertory, and the MA-YI Theater Company,” groups whose work tends to be off the radar of the New York Times, Time Out New York and Broadway.com.

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April 13, 2015 by

Excuse Me: How to Get Over Someone

Welcome to another edition of Excuse Me, an illustrated advice column about maddening things. Installments will be posted here every other Monday. Need advice? Send your questions to liana@lilith.org.

excuseme14

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April 9, 2015 by

Money Matters!

I’ve always maintained that I don’t like talking about money because it’s crass, but the real reason is that the topic has always overwhelmed me. Despite my reticence, I recently talked about demystifying this taboo subject as I co-facilitated, with Lilith editor in chief Susan Weidman Schneider, a sold-out Lilith salon, “Money Matters,” at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC. About three dozen women came in from the rain for an honest, smart conversation about money.

I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t the only one who feels shame about having what feels like an unhealthy relationship with the dollar. Lisa Yochelson of Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood, Sixth and I’s women’s programming arm for 20s and 30s, introduced the evening by asking each of these accomplished, professional women to say one word they associate with money. Some of the angst-ridden responses: stressful, overwhelming, necessary, disorganized, illiterate, relevant, complex, and socially constricted.

A few women said they’d come to the event because they wanted to expand their knowledge, but even more of them described a chasm between their substantial professional accomplishments and their ignorance about the basics of money management. So I found myself asking them: Despite our professional advances, do we have any more financial agency than our mothers? “My mother used to hide clothing bills and shopping bags from my dad,” one participant said, and we laughed—partially at the subterfuge, and partially, shamefacedly, out of recognition too. (I confessed to hiding parking tickets from my husband, but kept silent about the Banana Republic bag I recently slid into the recesses of my closet).

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April 2, 2015 by

She Was Famous Almost 200 Years Ago—and Still Is!

Carol Ockman

Carol Ockman

On March 19, 2015, Sarah Bernhardt came to town. Or at least her magnificent, outsized spirit did, channeled by art historian Carol Ockman, who participated in an illuminating conversation with Jens Hoffmann of the Jewish Museum in New York. The conversation was part of an ongoing series in which the subjects of Andy Warhol’s Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century (1980) will be “interviewed” by prominent experts. Ockman assumed the persona of Bernhardt (1844-1923), who was arguably the most famous actress of all time; she also sculpted, painted, and generally lived her life on a scale most spectacular. (For more about the Divine Sarah B., see “When She was Good, She was Very, Very Good and When She was Bad, She was … Jewish.”) Using slides to augment her remarks, Ockman spoke from the inside out about fame, film, a woman’s role and Jewish identity. Later, Lilith Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough asked Ockman about her long history with the fabled diva.

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April 1, 2015 by

A Feminist’s Guide to Israel’s Next Government

The results of the Israeli elections are depressing, period. I’m trying to find glimmers of hope to hang on to, trying to remember the optimism that I felt at intermittent moments during the campaign as coalition negotiations begin in the struggle to form a new government of Israel in the coming weeks.

The hardest part of the campaign result is not just that Netanyahu won, but also how he won. He campaigned exclusively on a platform of fear and hatred. When people screamed about socio-economic issues and the housing crisis, he said, “But Iran.” When hospital workers went on strike because of outrageous budget cuts and patients lying in corridors, he said, “But Iran.” When the president of the United States threatened to severely damage ties with Israel, he snickered and said, “But Iran.” And the worst part was that it worked. People bought it – lots of people. The fear-mongering survivalist talk that effectively silences any and all meaningful discussion about the quality and character of Israeli society brought out throngs. Bibi won because on the day of the votes he got on television with all his cocky hate-filled fear-talk and yelled, “The Arabs are running to the polls!” If we ever doubted that Netanyahu and the Israeli right consider Arab Israelis to be lesser citizens and lesser beings, here is the proof. Bibi created a clear “us” and “them” among the citizens of this country, and that sentiment won him the election. It is repugnant, embarrassing and chilling.

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