Live from the Lilith Blog

July 6, 2017 by

A Weighty Conversation

unnamed

unnamed-1


Rebecca Katz is your average white, Jewish, twenty-something who likes to talk and draw about food, privilege, television, and her period. After six years away, Rebecca has returned home to Brooklyn and lives just three blocks away from where she grew up. Take a look at more of her comics at katzcomics.tumblr.com.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.

  • No Comments
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

July 5, 2017 by

Week Sixteen

sad leavesOn Week Sixteen of my pregnancy, my husband and I were in the Neonatal Unit of Hahnemann. We were guardedly optimistic to the point where we’d decided we would tell his daughter later that week at Christmas, and had even given the baby a name: Charlotte if it’s a girl, or David if it’s a boy. I’d figured this would be like the other ultrasounds that I’d been having regularly since conception, but it was Week Sixteen. It was a landmark.

I knew something was wrong when the technician wouldn’t tell us that everything was right. I saw the numbers: femurs in Week Fourteen range, lagging behind the body. It was not as stark a growth restriction as last time, and I tried not to let it get to me, but then she left the room to show the material to Dr. Wapner.

We sat in the darkened cubicle where the kid’s bottom was still on the monitor. A semi-circle of the light-weight curtain occasionally blew when people hurried by. I said to my husband, “I just hope he doesn’t bring the Death Nurse”. This was the nun-like woman who’d appeared with Dr. Wapner the day the blood-flow reversed with our first baby, Ella. We lost Ella two weeks later.

The technician returned to re-measure the femur, and some time after that Dr. Wapner himself came in. He articulated a few pleasantries, and scrunched up his face. “I’ll just say it.”

The growth was in the range of normal. What concerned him, really, was the blood flow. He wanted us back in two weeks. Then, he’d check growth and also get a more accurate Doppler reading.

Oh yeah. The Death Nurse was with him.

So where was I? I didn’t want to keep the ultrasound photos. That same afternoon, I said out loud, twice, “I guess if it doesn’t look good in two weeks, I’ll get an abortion.”

  • 1 Comment
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

July 4, 2017 by

The Anthology Giving Voice to the Labor of Caregivers

clift cover v6b- approved cover.inddThe numbers are mind-boggling: According to a 2015 report issued by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 39.8 million Americans—the lion’s share of them female—are providing unpaid care for someone aged 50 or older. Another two million people—again, most of them women—work as paid in-home health aides, administering medication, cooking, shopping, and providing oversight and companionship for adults needing assistance.

Writer Elayne Clift’s latest anthology, Take Care: tales, tips and love from women caregivers (June 2017, braughlerbooks.com) provides a forum for caregivers to address what it means for them—as daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, friends, wives, or grandchildren—to tend to elders and the sick. For most, it’s a labor of love, and as they outline both the joys and hardships of providing care, they are, for the most part, the epitome of grace under pressure. But that’s not to say that the job is easy.

Take Care is a slim volume—28 brief essays and poems—and while it touches numerous aspects of caregiving, it is not comprehensive. Instead, it movingly zeroes in on what it means to be there for someone else, whether for the long haul or for a shorter stint. Harvard professor Paula J. Caplan, calls the collection “a sorely needed jewel that helps and heals.”

Clift spoke to Eleanor J. Bader by telephone a few weeks ago, from her Vermont home.

  • 3 Comments
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

July 3, 2017 by

End the Anecdotes

typewriter-1245894_1920It’s becoming a trend for publications to solicit reader stories. The New York Times has recently begun to fill my Facebook news feed with requests for comments from readers. An example: “Tell us a personal story about raising feminist boys, or ask us a question. We may publish a selection of the responses, and some experts in the field will respond to them.” The resulting article featured a selection of the anecdotes the paper received coupled with responses from “some experts in the field.” Early this month, the Forward put out a call on their website, asking “What makes a college perfect for Jewish students?…The Forward wants to hear from you.” The site provides a Google Form with a survey for students, parents, and professionals to fill out, asking respondents to share what was most and least important in their college selection process.

In a vacuum, it seems innocuous for newspapers to occasionally turn to their readership to gather information about current issues. What better way to learn about feminist parenting or Jewish college choices than to ask feminist parents or Jewish college students to share their stories? These choices by the media are only clearly harmful as they accumulate over time and become increasingly commonplace.

  • 1 Comment
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

June 30, 2017 by

If Jews Are People of the Book, Why Aren’t We Studying Intermarriage?

ring-2407552_1920Jewish sages teach us: “Carve out a time for learning” (Pirke Avot, 1:15). Jews pride themselves on high rates of post-baccalaureate educational achievement, professional degrees, and the associated prestige and success that go with them. Yet when it comes to Jewish intermarriage and interfaith families, we think personal experience or what we read in the Forward is sufficient intel. The uptick in news coverage about intermarriage and officiation at interfaith nuptials in just the past few weeks, the proposal by LabShul’s Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie and related rebuttals, including one by the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly executive vice president Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, tell us that there is a great need in the Jewish community to fully understand this social phenomenon in a deep and meaningful way. But understanding requires education and education is, unfortunately, socially constructed and gendered.

The gendering of Jewish education extends to education about intermarriage. Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, asked in a recent Facebook post what people knew or thought about the relationship between the rabbinate and attitudes towards intermarriage, wondering aloud in cyber space why in his estimation “the loudest anti-intermarriage voices are men.” The query netted dozens of responses, many of them insightful about the role of generation, denomination, sexism, power, misogyny, otherness, conversion, and more, which in turn spawned more replies. According to the 2015 survey of Conservative rabbis by Big Tent Judaism (now closed), more female than male rabbis have attended an interfaith wedding, would officiate if the Rabbinical Assembly changed its policy against doing so, and accept patrilineal descent. This survey, while limited to one denomination and those who participated, suggests that men may outnumber women among anti-intermarriage advocates. Although the question about whether there is a gender bias in the rabbinate about intermarriage is worthwhile, more important for the sake of the Jewish future is to look at who is actually educating themselves (mostly women), and to ask: why?

  • No Comments
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

June 29, 2017 by

Celia Dropkin: No Mere Yiddishe Mame

unnamed-1

Steamy love. Sex. Forbidden affairs. Rebellion. Outrage.

This is what Burning off the Page, a documentary in-the-works by filmmaker Bracha Feldman and director Eli Gorn, promises in examining the work and life of Yiddish poet Celia Dropkin (1887-1956). Born in White Russia, Dropkin studied in Warsaw before immigrating to New York in 1912. She gained a reputation for her ability to capture erotic energy in her poetry through explicit imagery, and also wrote frankly about motherhood and experiencing love and death as a woman. Feldman shows something other than the nostalgic world of Jewish New York by looking into Dropkin’s poetry, and her story. 

  • No Comments
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

June 28, 2017 by

Memorials versus Modern Jewish Life in Poland

poland-1829199_1920In May I visited Treblinka with a small group of Global Leadership fellows. We arrived at the extermination camp in the evening, the only people there, to silence and swarming mosquitos. 

Treblinka was a gravel mine before the Nazis took it over in 1940. The pits and mounds of the tunnels are still visible, though now covered by grass. As are the train tracks that transported the gravel away, and then the humans towards. The vast field of grass is ringed with trees and interrupted every so often by enormous, right-angle stones, nearly as tall as a person. They’re jagged and imposing, seemingly placed at random along the path. 

Then all at once you turn a corner, the only corner past the trees, and the full scale of the memorial comes into view: 17,000 more stones, standing in clusters, with an eight-meter high monument of flat grey stone at the center. Carved across the top are terrified faces, eyes open, surrounded by other forms left featureless. Above them two hands reach upwards to the sky; a final impression of being buried alive.

In the summer of 2015 I worked full time at a Holocaust Education Centre. I listened to and summarized over 120 hours of recorded witness testimony, gathered from survivors living in Canada. It was my job to find each story’s unique qualities and identify them for possible exhibitions. Polish testimonies were the most horrifying, with the most time dedicated to the camps. I would avoid transcribing them for weeks. It would take me over a year to write about the experience for Lilith’s Spring 2017 issue.

  • 1 Comment
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

June 23, 2017 by

Flying While Female on El Al

aircraft-1679200_1920Jewish feminists are celebrating the ruling that El Al airlines can no longer ask women to change seats in order to accommodate Haredi men who believe it is their religious prerogative not to sit next to women. The suit arguing that such religious accommodations are gender discrimination was brought not by a young upstart but rather by an 81 year-old Holocaust survivor, Renee Rabinowitz, with the support of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center. According to the Times of Israel, Rabinowitz changed her seat at a flight attendant’s request but the wrongness of the request rankled her.  

Dana Cohen-Lekah, Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court Judge, was unambiguous in her judgment: “Under absolutely no circumstances can a crew member ask a passenger to move from their designated seat because the adjacent passenger doesn’t wasn’t [sic] to sit next to them due to their gender…. The policy is a direct transgression of the law preventing discrimination.” Hopefully, this ruling will end the disruptions and delays that often attend demands for gender-segregated seating.  

Renee Rabinowitz’s legal triumph reminded me of the Jewish feminist anguish that I experienced on an El Al flight several years ago.

  • No Comments
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

June 21, 2017 by

Being Jewish In College. It’s More Complicated Than They Think.

architecture-1122359_1920The Forward recently published a survey that asked, “What makes a college ideal for the Jewish student? Is it the presence of pro-Israel clubs? Kosher food options? Jewish fraternities and sororities? Something else altogether?”

The question inspired a second glance, and then a more critical investigation. I asked a few of my friends what they feel has been most important to them as Jewish college students. A constant theme in their responses? Pro-Israel clubs, Kosher food options, or fraternities and sororities are not what they cite as defining forces in their religious lives.

I began to think about my own experience. I grew up in a largely Jewish community but for most of my life had put my faith on a back burner. Since coming to college I have become much more spiritual than I was before, finding new solace in the idea of God, but I still have not joined up with many Jewish student groups. I began to wonder—do I count as Jewish without being part of a community? And where do I belong amidst debates about Jewish identity?

I am sure I am not alone in my position on what feels like the fringes of the Jewish community. The only conclusion I can come to is that being the college experience is a complex experience for a Jewish student, one that refuses to yield easy answers. But this space of ambiguity can be a productive one, undoing stereotypes and producing questions that I believe can sometimes be more fruitful than answers.

  • No Comments
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

June 20, 2017 by

Dear Sophie: The Art of Reproduction in the Age of Ecological Catastrophe

earth-2113664_1920 “Even the most perfect reproduction … is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”
—Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

“The melody of mothers’ speech carries through the bodies and is audible in the womb.”
—Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct

“‘No!’ I said instantly and at once.”
—Imre Kertész, Kaddish for an Unborn Child

 

Dear Sophie, 

Writing prose is like giving birth. The sentence exits the womb reluctantly; it screams as it leaves the body. I’ve never given birth but I can imagine. I’m writing these sentences because I don’t want children. Dear Sophie, this is for you. 

Everything about children is repugnant to me. Their shrieking in the park on what would be an otherwise peaceful afternoon. Their wailing on planes where I’m stuck with them thousands of miles in the air and somewhere west of Chicago. Their whining as they trail behind their parents on a beautiful path to the beach. The schmutz of a cookie still lingering on their faces. The pitch of their voices asking their incessant questions. A puddling infant who looks for all intents and purposes like my obese grandfather. I don’t feel what I’m supposed to feel—a sensation in my ovaries, I presume. No joy, no desire, no longing. I feel nothing but a wave of repulsion, and gratitude I’ve made it childless this far. 

I thought I’d say this at the outset, so you know where I’m coming from.

However, regardless of this all, I must say that I feel you waiting, as it were, in the wings. Even as I ignore you, rage against you, push you away, you are still there. A deep, still presence, patient, expectant. Sometimes I wonder if I have any say in the matter at all. When you want to enter the world, you will, and I will just be the door you came in by. 

Why do you want to live in this world, here in this time and place? By the time you are 30 you may live a daily catastrophe beyond my ability to imagine. You may live on a hot, drought-stricken earth as countries battle over what is left of its water. You may mourn the loss of the last animal species. You may be steeped in a culture so anxious and digitized that the human capacity for empathy, for connection and community, will be as obsolete as the rotary telephone. During your lifespan, even if I train you to live mindfully and simply, you will produce over one hundred tons of trash. It will cost me $200,000 to send you to college, or you will be saddled with a debt you will spend many decades paying. Over the course of your life, you will leave behind a mountain of coffee cups, thousands of plastic bags, hundreds of discarded shoes and jeans and cellphones. You will contribute to the Pacific gyre with your water bottles and toothpaste caps. Your existence will add to child labor, fracking, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, factory farming, and climate change. As a native speaker of American English, you will write, sing, recite poetry, and make love in the language that is overtaking the world like a virus, endangering cultural and linguistic diversity. Even if I raised you, as I would, to be conscious of your ecologic footprint, to live simply and work for the earth, to eat grassfed beef and grow your own vegetables—even if, in the best case scenario, you grew up to be an artist, a peace activist, a human rights lawyer, a teacher, a homesteader—your very existence would add stress to a much overburdened earth. And that’s the best case scenario. You might vote Republican. You might be a software engineer. You might not care for the earth at all.

  • No Comments
  •