Live from the Lilith Blog

December 30, 2014 by

Sheltering Those at Risk—Rabbi Linda Holtzman and a Jewish Sanctuary Movement

tumblr_ncomckRoJD1sw9peyo8_1280When Philadelphia Rabbi Linda Holtzman hears that a person has risked life and limb to cross a border into the United States, she immediately thinks of her maternal grandmother.

“She came to America early in the 20th century, before World War I,” she begins. “The rest of her siblings, five brothers and sisters, stayed in their small town in Poland. Years later, when they wanted to leave, they no longer could, and all five of them were killed by the Nazis. Today, when I hear someone say that they don’t feel safe in their homeland, I feel an imperative to do something. As a Jew, I hear the word unsafe as a call to action, a mandate to err on the side of welcome.”

Holtzman is part of Philadelphia’s New Sanctuary Movement [NSM], a growing faith-based network of religious leaders and congregations dedicated to changing an immigration system they see as badly broken. And despite recent promises by the Obama administration to go after “felons, not families,” the 120 congregations that presently comprise the NSM nationwide believe that deportations from the U.S. – 368,644 in fiscal 2013, or nearly 1100 a day – must stop.

Toward that end they not only support immigrant rights more generally, but also support efforts to shelter people who are about to be removed — a strategy predicated on the belief that Immigration officials will not enter a sacred space and forcibly take someone from safety. The strategy has led NSM members to provide sanctuary to nine undocumented immigrants, not only in Philadelphia, but also in Chicago, Denver, Portland, Oregon, and Tempe and Tucson, Arizona.


Live from the Lilith Blog

December 25, 2014 by

May Her Brisket Be for a Blessing

IMG_20141211_203033Grieve. Cook. Bond.

By the time my buddy Susan’s father died, the parental East Side Manhattan apartment was getting to look like an assisted living center, housing Susan’s elderly father, mother and aunt, assisted by the team of helpers.

This was the long goodbye to a once powerful man.

Not exactly your traditional Jewess, Susan knew she had moved beyond immediate grief when she turned to Jerusalem A Cookbook. The gorgeously complex recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi are our psalms. Preparation is all consuming and the results must be rejoiced over with friends.

A single Ottolenghi recipe is a major commitment. Three dishes are a triathalon. The recipes: baby spinach salad with dates and almonds, mejadra (lentils with spices) and roasted chicken with lemon and Jerusalem artichoke (forego that last ingredient, unfindable even on the Upper West Side). Susan gathered together buddies who go back to sleep-away camp and Fieldston then Volunteers of America and more recent buddies of the current century. We ate. We drank. We summarized our life stories. And Girls’ Night In was born.

  • No Comments

Live from the Lilith Blog

December 24, 2014 by

Know This Already?

Gloria Steinem said it well: ”Lilith offers scholarship for argument and women’s personal voices for enlightenment; and it does all of this with anger and delight, good writing and humor.”
But you knew that already.
On every page, Lilith boldly explores the lives of Jewish women and men: from Jewish feet to why Beyonce matters to how to do justice with our money to mikveh rights to what our clothes signify about us.


In Lilith you encounter the life stories of women like–and decidedly unlike–yourself. 
Lilith illuminates paths to a female-friendly Judaism:
  • One former Lilith intern says she never would have spoken at her grandmother’s funeral if not for the permission she received from Lilith’s articles.
  • A culture-shaper in her 30s writes that “Reading Lilith I knew that I didn’t have to leave the Jewish world to be a feminist.
  • A well-known painter tells Lilith, “Thank you for provocative, sensitive stories. I find inspiration for my imagery in your words.”
  • A literature professor says she can introduce her students to Israeli women writers because Lilith translates and publishes their short stories.
And Lilith does this on a bare-bones budget, with a small and devoted staff.
Be part of this exciting work. 
Make your tax-deductible contribution to Lilith online at 
or by calling (888) 2-LILITH.
Since 1976, Lilith has been sustained by people like you. You make this possible. 
We thank you deeply for you support, and so do the thousands of readers and thinkers who appreciate the magazine as you do. 

  • No Comments

Live from the Lilith Blog

December 22, 2014 by

Excuse Me: A Guide to Planning and Cancellation

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

excuseme7 more color _1

Liana Finck’s graphic novel is called A Bintel Brief. She writes and draws a monthly column for The Forward and her cartoons appear irregularly in The New Yorker. She often thinks about the age-old question: fight, or flight?


Live from the Lilith Blog

December 22, 2014 by

Lilith Author and her new Sarah Silverman Film Deal!

15314-1-1100I always read the Lilith slush pile with a kind feverish, burgeoning hope—maybe this is the story that will make the hair on the back of my neck rise up. Or this one. Or this. Well, back around 2001, I had one of these longed-for experiences when I read a story by an emerging writer named Amy Koppelman. The story was too long for our pages and uncommonly dark, with its depiction of a young mother suffering from post-partum depression who accidently kills her infant and then intentionally kills herself. But I shared it with Lilith’s editor-in-chief Susan Weidman Schneider and she agreed with me about the story’s stark, stinging power, even as she acknowledged that it would not readily fit into our format. I couldn’t give up on it though, so I contacted the writer and asked her if she perhaps had another story we could consider. She did, and Lilith published Koppelman’s story “The Groom” in 2002. It was her first publication and I don’t know which of us was more thrilled and proud. That story that we couldn’t use? It turned out to be the final, harrowing chapter in an altogether harrowing novel, A Mouthful of Air, which was published to critical acclaim by MacAdam Cage in 2003. Koppelman credits the publication in Lilith with giving her the confidence to pursue the agent who led to the sale. Since that time, I have stayed in touch with Koppelman, and was once again thrilled when I learned that her second novel, I Smile Back, has been made into a film starring Sarah Silverman and will be shown in the Sundance Film Festival.

The protagonist of I Smile Back is haunted by demons both psychological and chemical; she is addicted to risky, extra-marital sex and cocaine, in equal measure. But Koppelman’s treatment is ever tender, ever humane; though she walks on the dark side, she sees the faint light glowing in every ruined, ravaged heart. We at Lilith could not be more proud of her, and we can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. 

  • No Comments

Live from the Lilith Blog

December 18, 2014 by

No Blessings, No Curses—Jill Soloway’s “Transparent”

transparentIf you missed Jill Soloway’s series dramedy,“Transparent. that’s because it was never on TV. And it wouldn’t be. Rather, you’ll find “Transparent” on the subscriber-only Amazon Prime service, where the media giant can “narrowcast” content that appeals to some (if not necessarily all) of the viewing public without pitting shows against each other for limited primetime slots. Amazon bet on veteran writer Soloway (“Six Feet Under,” “Afternoon Delight,” as featured in Lilith’s ”Why L.A.? Why Women? And Why Now?” Fall 2013). Soloway also bet on Amazon, a brand new but untested platform where her story could unfold in all of its complex and boundary-crossing beauty—without having to cater to the tastes and sensitivities of a broadcast audience. On the internet, you can swear! And, apparently, chant Torah.

“Transparent” follows the Pfefferman family, three adult kids and their adult parents, through a host of personal transitions including divorce, shifting sexual identity, abortion, Bat Mitzvah, death, and most centrally the gender transition of parent Maura (née Mort), played by Jeffrey Tambor. Maura’s revelation, being a transgender woman, organizes the 10-episode arc. Abundant commentary about the celebrated show has largely explored the important and complex identity politics of representing trans people. But gender identity is not the only primetime-unfriendly theme that Soloway explores. Religion is baked into the world of the show, and so is sexuality.

Like many, I sat through “Transparent” in a single bleary-eyed day, promising “just one more” until the series was spent. But it wasn’t until days later that the haunting impact began to sink in. It wasn’t the heimish and pitch-perfect dialogue, the exploration of the gender transition, or the family dynamics that pressed my buttons and kept them pressed. It was the entire cosmology, where justice and retribution aren’t tied up with expressions of gender and sexuality, so refreshing for any series but in particular a story about families and growth.

  • 1 Comment

Live from the Lilith Blog

December 15, 2014 by

Excuse Me: Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Food

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

excuseme6_1 excuseme6_2

Liana Finck’s graphic novel is called A Bintel Brief. She writes and draws a monthly column for The Forward and her cartoons appear irregularly in The New Yorker. She often thinks about the age-old question: fight, or flight?

  • No Comments

Live from the Lilith Blog

December 9, 2014 by

Kaddish for My Uterus


Exalted and hallowed be Surgery’s great name
in the world where none of my gynecologist’s earlier ideas—
not the differently-dosed birth control pills, nor a specific intrauterine device,
nor a D&C—put an end to the mischief of those four fibroids,
to a daily life constrained by the mess, the pain,
the sheer weariness of endless blood and clots.
May Surgery’s majesty be proclaimed all the remaining days of my lifetime,
joyfully, energetically,
to which I say: Amen.

Blessed be Surgery’s great name.

Equally blessed, praised, honored, and exalted
be my gynecologist’s skill with a scalpel
once she yielded to my entreaties and accepted
that even if I met my soulmate the very next day
(which was unlikely, given the percentage of my waking hours
spent trapped within the four walls of my bathroom)
I’d long since passed the point
of seeking to preserve my fertility, such as it may yet have been,
my having already crossed the rubicon into my fifth decade
without any concerted effort to make use of it.

May there be abundant gratitude, too, that I opted for
the old-school, traditional approach.
Not for me the ultra-modern robotics, or something called “morcellation,”
the cancer-spreading and other consequences of which
you can read about these days in The New York Times.

May the freedom from those four freakingly frustrating fibroids,
the immeasurable improvement in my quality of life after Surgery,
bring peace to me, my loved ones, and everyone else with whom I interact.

To which I say: Amen. 

Erika Dreifus writes poetry and prose in New York. Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter @ErikaDreifus, where she comments on “matters bookish and/or Jewish.”


Feminists In Focus

December 5, 2014 by

‘She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry’ – The women’s movement gets a kick-ass documentary

sbwsa_poster“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” is the women’s movement film we’ve been waiting for. We just didn’t know it.

With outrage and humor, the 90-minute documentary brings back the revolution in living color and black-and-white, with torrents of music from the ‘60s and ‘70s. If you were there, it’s the turn-on of reliving the Great Awakening. If you weren’t yet born, hopefully you’ll get what an exciting, life-changing time it was.  And–guess what?–it’s not over.

Producer/director Mary Dore, 63, started the project more than 20 years ago, before her twin sons, now 21, were born. With producer Nancy Kennedy and many, many women and some men, and support, which included Kickstarter funding, the film is finally OUT!

  • 1 Comment

Live from the Lilith Blog

December 4, 2014 by

Finally: Relief from GivingTuesday Emails

SUPPORTERS-artYou’ve been bombarded with GivingTuesday emails. We know. 

At this point, they’ve all started to look the same. In fact, you haven’t opened one all week.

We get it.

And we won’t bore you with more of the same. Instead, we offer you Lilith’s guide to Giving Tuesday: a selection of articles to help you think about how to give, what to give, and to whom you should give.

A ninth-grader derives tzedakah lessons as she sorts through her family’s philanthropy.
Susan Weidman Schneider on learning value from a New Orleans street performer.
Why is women’s charity undervalued in the Jewish community? Is it because women tend to give differently than men?

Feminist Philanthropy
Female philanthropists are putting their tzedakah right where their personal politics are. 
Philanthropy Begins at Home

What if you’re Jewish and you don’t have any money to speak of?

  • 1 Comment