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. 

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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?

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Live from the Lilith Blog

December 2, 2014 by

Merry Christmas! Love, Bubbie

It’s the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and I have spent a chunk of time wrapping presents, which I’ve been collecting for months, in red paper with green polka dots. I also went next door to give my neighbors’ puppy, Penny, the candy cane squeaky toy I scooped up for her in early November. (Penny obliged me by racing around joyfully with the toy in her mouth—running, leaping, squeaking.) Christmas time is here; Chanukah time is here; and I love it all.

I was not raised with Christmas in my Jewish home. However, I was raised with Christmas all around me. My small town was predominantly Protestant, and it wasn’t easy to grow up there feeling left out of the holiday’s festivities. I asked for a Christmas tree and was denied. I knew a tree wasn’t really mine to have, but I wanted one anyway.

Somewhere along the way in my early adulthood, I began to realize that though I don’t technically observe Christmas, I can participate in it in ways that are true to my beliefs. I don’t have a tree, but nothing says I can’t gather with friends to drink eggnog and help decorate theirs. On a more spiritual level, “Christmas giving” and the spirit of tzedakah feel very similar to me. In fact, my favorite Christmases as a child were when my family went to volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas day.


Live from the Lilith Blog

December 1, 2014 by

Excuse Me: Change at the Counter

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


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?

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Live from the Lilith Blog

November 25, 2014 by

Fabulous Hair!

leah lax photo w grey hair us“Fabulous hair!” That came from a neighbor I barely knew while I was out walking our Airedale Gracie through our neighborhood lined in old live oaks, their bent branches arching the street like the protective arms of old crones. Her hair was short, straight, and unnaturally blonde, and she was a little older than me, with a determined look on her face as she strode past carrying a tall cup of Starbucks. I just shook my head. This had been happening ever since I started letting it go gray.

I do not have fabulous hair. I have unmanageable Jewish hair with waves in all the wrong places that tends to frizz in humid Houston, where I live. A hairbrush or blow dryer just makes it worse, so I resort to getting out of the shower and raking it back with my hands, then letting it fall where it falls, which is often in my face.

I used to dye my hair back when I was a covered Hassidic woman, even though I had to keep it hidden at all times. I would clip it short so it wouldn’t be a nuisance under the scarves and wigs I wore day and night, then I avoided the mirror except when I was wearing my very-expensive wig, as if that way I would only see who I was supposed to be.  

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Live from the Lilith Blog

November 21, 2014 by


An author talks about her fascination with Mel Gibson, and how it became a novel.

DOWN_UNDER_COVER-330When a Jewish author, daughter of Holocaust survivors, writes a novel inspired by the life of Mel Gibson, there must be a good story attached. And there is. In fact, there are two parallel stories, one concerning the notorious international superstar, and one about his fan, that daughter of Yiddish-speaking, Orthodox, Lithuanian immigrants. The child of survivors of Stutthof and Dachau.

Let’s start with the second strand. The child, of course, is me – author of a recent memoir called The Watchmaker’s Daughter, which told of my life as the daughter of heroes. My parents met at a Lithuanian Survivor’s Ball in New York City. At the moment they took to the floor in a Viennese waltz, they’d already endured the ghetto, the camps, four years in Germany as DPs, and the arduous process of starting anew in America. My mother had been about to debut as a pianist when her world fell apart. Her father and two brothers were killed, and her mother sent to the “bad” line, marked for death. My mother heroically got her out, keeping her alive until liberation. My father had a similarly valiant tale. Years before the Nazis invaded, his father was killed by the Cossacks.  This tragedy had forced him, at 13, to apprentice as a watchmaker — and that trade saved his life at Dachau.  Germans needed someone to repair their timepieces. My father, by that time a master watchmaker, did that, and more. He saved lives as a prisoner in pajamas, bringing other Jews into his workshop whether they could fix watches or not.

These were my parents, people who could walk through hell, and do it helping others.  They were also people who could really dance. When they fell into each other’s arms at the Survivors’ Ball, when they sailed across the floor to Strauss, or flew in the air in a polka, they recognized each other. Kindred spirits who could live like that and hope like that and dance like that must marry.  Soon after, they did.  And not too long after, they had a boy and a girl – a New World family dream come true.

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