Live from the Lilith Blog

December 9, 2016 by

Following Our Cycling Foremother: Spinning Fiction on Two Wheels

Karen Skinazi and her bike. Soon, her surroundings will be transformed into an alternate world through the magic of pedaling.

After dropping my three kids off at school, I hop on my bike and head to work. The ride always seems short—too short to fully work out the stress that accompanies the morning routine. The little one wouldn’t get out of bed. The middle one wouldn’t get off his screen. The oldest one couldn’t find his standard-issue gym shorts, couldn’t wear any other shorts, and was not going to school. The walk from our house to their school is no less painful: the older two fight, the little one keeps stopping (“my.feet.can’t.move”), and I’m yelling the whole way, clutching the handlebars of my bike, which I’m more than ready to ride.

As soon as I’m on my bike, however, the tension begins to dissolve. My surroundings dissolve too, in cinematic fashion, houses disappearing, asphalt road becoming a dirt path, the trees suddenly lush and tropical.

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December 8, 2016 by

Dr. Ruth Has a Dollhouse, Too.

"A dollhouse is not just a toy, it represents wishes," says Dr. Ruth. Photo by Chris Chrisman

“A dollhouse is not just a toy, it represents wishes,” says Dr. Ruth. Photo by Chris Chrisman.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is 88 years old, but you wouldn’t know it when she took the stage Monday night at the National Building Museum to talk about her incredible life, dollhouses, and of course, her career as a psycho-sex therapist, with NPR’s Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg. 

The National Building Museum has the wonderful Small Stories exhibition on display— a selection of the Victoria and Albert’s very best dollhouses and the “Dream House” installation of imaginatively crafted rooms created by American designers and artists.

But why talk to Dr. Ruth about dollhouses?

Stamberg asked Dr. Ruth that question first, and she had the answer right away (not, of course, before cracking a sex joke. She had to start the evening with a sex joke.)

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December 7, 2016 by

A Victory at Standing Rock, But It’s Not Over Yet

On Sunday afternoon, the Obama administration and the United States Army Corps of Engineers announced the denial of the easement to Dakota Access, LLC to drill under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers say they will conduct an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and explore other routing possibilities.  This remarkable victory at Standing Rock by nonviolent indigenous activists over formidable energy companies is an historic moment. 

Should we celebrate this important turn of events in the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota and simply go home? Not so fast! 

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December 6, 2016 by

Holocaust Survivor Helena Weinrauch on Trauma and the Joy of Dancing

helena

Helena Weinrauch. Photo courtesy of Karen Goldfarb.

When Helena Weinrauch was 88 years old, she found a promotional flyer from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in her mailbox. The leaflet promised a free lesson followed by a party.

Four years later, Weinrauch has become a Dancing Angel, a title given to her by the Manhattan Ballroom Society, and currently spends five hours a week doing the Fox Trot, Merengue, Samba and Tango.  

“When I dance I forget everything that bothers me,” she told Lilith reporter Eleanor J. Bader. “My fear disappears. There was never time in my life for dancing before this. There were always more important things to do, but before I say goodbye to this world I want to do something I always dreamed of doing. I think I’ve earned it.”

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December 5, 2016 by

Two Women Team Up to Revitalize Music from a Polish Shtetl

Shortly after scientist and musician David Goldfarb moved to Highland Park, New Jersey, in 1989, he joined the Conservative synagogue, where he met Milton and Frieda Frant, an outgoing older couple. Playing Jewish geography on the phone, his parents on the West Coast asked if he had come across anyone named “Milton Frant” because, he should know, their families were related by marriage.

Years later, at the outset of clarinetist Goldfarb’s first class at KlezKamp 2008, instructor Adrianne Greenbaum handed out sheet music, saying that it was from the Frand Klezmorim and naming  Milton Frant’s daughter, Sharon Frant Brooks, as her source for the historically significant arrangement. This meant that the music Goldfarb was about to play was from his family’s past.

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December 1, 2016 by

Carole Zabar—The Woman Behind the Other Israel Film Festival

Carole Zabar at home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, walking distance from the Other Israel Film Festival at the JCC Manhattan and Zabar’s.  Photo credit: Amy Stone

Carole Zabar at home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, walking distance from the Other Israel Film Festival at the JCC Manhattan and Zabar’s.
Photo credit: Amy Stone

It takes one brainy person devoted to Israel, fluent in Hebrew, with a bachelor’s and master’s from Hebrew University, and a belief in the power of film to have the confidence to create the Other Israel Film Festival. What’s becoming a New York institution began as 100 percent Carole Zabar’s baby.

When the OIFF opens Thursday night, Dec. 1, at the JCC Manhattan, it will mark the 10th year of Carole Zabar’s vision – a festival that shows Israel’s minorities, including tensions between Jews and Arabs, in features, shorts, documentaries, Israeli TV shows.

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November 25, 2016 by

Ruth Gruber – Unstoppable to 105

Gruber head shot JOAN ROTH

Photo of Ruth Gruber by Joan Roth

One of the last things Ruth Gruber did, slowed but unstoppable at 105, was to vote for Hillary Clinton. To observe the obvious, born in 1911, before women had the right to vote, she didn’t live long enough to see a woman president of the U.S. But she did help bend the arc of history with her camera, her words, and her passion for justice – most dramatically, by involving herself in Jewish rescue.

Ruth Gruber’s funeral, Sunday, November 20, filled B’nai Jeshurun synagogue on New York’s Upper West Side, near her long-time home on Central Park West, the twin towered, art deco Eldorado. (“El Dorado”—the legendary city of gold—seems an appropriate departure point for a fearless and adventurous woman.)

At the funeral, friends, family, and Rabbi Sally Priesand (America’s first ordained woman rabbi and the rabbi who officiated at Gruber’s second marriage) drew plenty of inspiration from Gruber’s life. In references to the current politics of fear, Gruber’s rescue of refugees was singled out as a challenge to all of us.

If this indefatigable woman had a role model, she or he went unnamed.

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November 23, 2016 by

NPR’s Leah Donnella on Being a Biracial Jew

Photo Credit: Caitlin Sanders

NPR’s Leah Donnella wrote a short personal essay entitled “Black, Jewish And Avoiding the Synagogue On Yom Kippur.” Photo Credit: Caitlin Sanders

Shortly before the world’s Jews welcomed year 5777 earlier this fall, National Public Radio’s Leah Donnella published a short personal essay entitled, “Black, Jewish And Avoiding The Synagogue On Yom Kippur.” In it, she described several unsettling incidents that left her feeling unmoored, a biracial Jew without a place in established Judaism. As the 25-year-old daughter of a white Jewish mother and an African-American Catholic father, Donnella says that she hopes the article will prompt American Jews to take stock of their assumptions and treat Jews of color not as strange, out-of-place, curiosities but as members of an increasingly diverse and vibrant spiritual community.

And although Donnella makes clear that she speaks for no one but herself, the fact that there are approximately 200,000 Asian, Black and Latino/a Jews living in the US further shows that her voice needs to be heeded and taken seriously.

Donnella spoke to Eleanor J. Bader by telephone two days after the Presidential election. Both interviewee and interviewer did their best not to dwell on the upsetting outcome.

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November 22, 2016 by

Shiva Ribbons, Not Safety Pins

Taking a cue from those coping with Brexit across the pond, political fashionistas are sporting safety pins as a sign of alliance with those feeling even more vulnerable than usual after the election: immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women of all colors, lgbtq folks, to name just a few.  As Bex Taylor-Klaus tweeted, “My #SafetyPin shows I will protect those who feel in danger bc of gender, sexuality, race, disability, religion, etc.  You are safe with me.” 

The safety pin movement is, of course, well-intentioned.  It seeks to acknowledge diverse forms of privilege.  Although those who view a vote for Trump as a hate crime against the republic are all in this together, the safety pin police rightly affirm that some are more immediately affected by a Trump presidency than others, that we’re not all feeling the same sort of terror.  Yet this show of solidarity strikes me as misguided and even offensive for many reasons.  It’s not only “embarrassing” and fastens over the fact that white people overwhelmingly voted for Trump, as Christopher Keelty has argued.  It’s also paternalistic and presumptuous.  Individual promises to protect one another are largely empty when it comes to mob and state-sanctioned forms of violence against classes of people.  As history teaches us—over and over again—the kindness of strangers simply isn’t adequate when a cozy band of puppeteers that includes the likes of Stephen Bannon take control of democratic institutions and allow them to run amok.  

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November 18, 2016 by

This Jewish Woman Heads the Nation’s Only Mathematics Museum

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 12.50.14 PM

Photo Credit: National Museum of Mathematics

“MoMath wants to be the symphony of mathematics,” says Cindy Lawrence, founder and executive director of the National Museum of Mathematics, North America’s only mathematics museum. Lawrence notes that a child can hear a symphony and become inspired to be a musician, and that before this museum came into being, there was no way to generate this kind of enthusiasm about mathematics. Now, Lawrence tells stories of parents dragging crying children out of the museum because they don’t want to leave. Often, these same children didn’t want to go to a math museum in the first place. 

Lawrence became involved with MoMath after meeting Glen Whitney, a fellow founder of the museum, at her temple.

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