Live from the Lilith Blog

February 20, 2017 by

A Jewish Therapist’s Tips for Surviving in the Trump Era

sleeping woman“The air I’m breathing feels different,” a friend said after the inauguration. Clients report waking from dreams screaming at Trump and his supporters. I, myself, wake through the night, agitated. 

The confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, arrests of immigrants who have lived productively here for decades, Mitch McConnell silencing Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor—these are troubling times. I sign petitions daily, call my state and federal Congress people weekly. When I couldn’t get through to his Washington office, I even mailed a handwritten full-page letter to my Congressman detailing my concerns. Anxiety makes for activism. How do we sustain our commitment, hold steady in the midst of chaos? 

Deep breaths, sleep, healthy food, exercise—these are necessities. Mani-pedis, bubble baths, hot showers, massages and vacations are wonderful but not sufficient. I need more. How do all of us nurture our souls knowing we’ve signed not for a sprint but for a triathlon? 

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February 17, 2017 by

Let’s Stop Romancing the Jewish Womb

Photo Credit: David Lisbona

Photo Credit: David Lisbona

Born to two Jewish parents, I have enjoyed the privilege of engaging with Judaism in whatever way I see fit. It wasn’t until I took a non-Jewish surname that my Jewish identity was ever truly questioned. Upon learning that I’d married the name McGinity (and kept it after I divorced), people usually shrugged their shoulders as if to say: “Well, you’re still Jewish and your children will be, too.” Wow. If coming out of a Jewish womb is all it takes to be Jewish then perhaps I should identify as a Jew-by-chance. Just as I explain that I was born in Madrid because my parents happened to be living in Spain at the time, my being Jewish and my daughter’s being Jewish seem likewise unintentional. This inadvertent byproduct is the legacy called matrilineal descent.

Jewish women have the advantage, provided they are biologically endowed, with having the right womb. If they intermarry, as many non-Orthodox Jews do today, they can join synagogues where their children will be deemed sufficiently Jewish to become bar or bat mitzvah without any additional measures necessary. Not so for intermarried Jewish men whose wives lack the Jewish womb. Is it any wonder, then, that intermarried Jewish men are currently less likely to raise children to identify as Jewish than are intermarried Jewish women? (It is also worth noting that this fixation around wombs is both cisnormative and heteronormative.)

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February 16, 2017 by

Ivanka Trump Is No Woman of Valor

Photo Credit: Michael Vadon

Photo Credit: Michael Vadon

Ivanka Trump knows what her father is. How could she not? When she was nine, he jubilantly dumped her mother, Ivana, in front of all the tabloids for another, younger blonde, Marla Maples. He discarded Maples five years later (and perhaps discarded their daughter, Tiffany, as well), six years after that married Melania, and all along the way grabbed pussies, insulted women because of their looks, called a breastfeeding mother “disgusting,” and so forth. The man’s boorishness knew no bounds. So how can Ivanka, the self-proclaimed feminist daughter, not have contempt for him?

On the contrary: she craves his approval. She co-hosted “The Apprentice” with him. At the Republican convention last summer, she told the whole world that Trump is “a man I have loved and respected my entire life.” 

So what is the real story here? Is she afraid of him? He’s a nasty guy: look at all those Republican men who hate him but don’t have the guts to stand up to him. Or is she afraid that if she doesn’t act the obedient daughter he’ll take away all those perks that go along with being Donald Trump’s daughter? But Ivanka has her own business—her clothing line doubles as vehicle to promote herself as the voice of working mothers everywhere—and her own income. Plus, she married into the wealthy Kushner family. So she doesn’t need her father any more to keep living her glamorous life. 

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Live from the Lilith Blog

February 15, 2017 by

“Fat Talk”: Then and Now

I had always believed that my numerical weight was also a measure of my professional dignity, my diligence and my self-control. I’d struggled with my weight since early childhood and had landed my first senior cantorial position immediately after having lost 40 pounds. That was back in 1976.  

I assumed that losing weight and gaining a pulpit were connected. 

Since I thought about my weight constantly, I figured that, despite my best intentions, my young daughters did, too.

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February 14, 2017 by

Upstanders

"We Stand for Refugees," photo by Amy Stone

“We Stand for Refugees,” photo by Amy Stone

Rain, sleet, slush under foot, lower Manhattan’s tall buildings cloaked in fog.

Undeterred, hundreds of men, women and children turned out for the Day of Jewish Action for Refugees called by HIAS this past Sunday (Feb. 12).  The rally was one of some dozen across the country.

I was unprepared for my emotional response – unlike anything I felt at the Women’s March in Washington. Tears triggered by the middle-aged woman silently holding a sign with the childhood passport picture of her mother – it could have been Anne Frank. And the message: Donald Trump, This is my mom, with her swastika covered passport. Germany 1937. Would you let her in? Jewish Values. American Values. We stand up for refugees.

The rally in Battery Park was just across the harbor from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the anchoring landmark was Castle Clinton, where HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) welcomed Jews to America in 1881. HIAS has gone on to help settle newcomers to America regardless of where they come from or what they believe.  

In the words of HIAS VP Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, “For the first time in history, the Jewish people are not refugees. We are a free and empowered people in America and around the world. And we have a role to play – a responsibility we must live up to. We are called by our mandate to welcome the stranger and to love the stranger. In cities across the country today, Jews are holding rallies, vigils and actions. Together, we are raising our voices up to say that we must keep our doors open to people who are fleeing for their lives.” 

For more information: http://www.hias.org/day-of-action. 

Check out these powerful images. 

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February 13, 2017 by

My IUD: A Story of Revolution

Prologue

Birth control and I have a sticky history.

The first (read: only) time I brought up birth control pills with my dad—in high school, years before I’d actually have sex with a male-bodied person—he responds,

“Well, you know the side effects, don’t you?”

I listed the typical suspects: weight gain, hormonal fluctuations… He cut me off.

“No. You can’t get pregnant.”

To use one of my people’s favorite expressions, Oy.

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February 10, 2017 by

Recipes for Solace

cooking

There are many ways to respond to our current political moment—phoning your representatives, protesting at airports, screaming into a pillow. But sometimes, we just need to decompress and eat comfort food. Here, four Lilith contributors share what they cook up when in need of emotional sustenance. Have your own recipe for solace? Tell us about it at info@lilith.org.


When I had my first inklings on election night of what the outcome was going to be, I abandoned the TV in my living room for my kitchen and made myself pancakes to sustain me to watch through to the bitter end.

Here’s the current iteration of my Whole Grain Pancakes.

1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
⅓ cup coarse cornmeal
¼ cup oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
a sprinkling of nutmeg
1 or 2 mashed bananas
3 eggs
½ cup oil
1 ¾ cups water

As needed, I make three pancakes on a hot seasoned griddle, tuck a bit of butter on top of each, pour on a spoonful of real maple syrup, slice the stack like a pie into eight, and fork the triangles off one by one, using the middle layer pieces to mop up any maple syrup that might have dripped  onto the plate. The batter lasts me, covered in the fridge, for a few days, needing only a little stirring up, and the occasional addition of a little water if it has gotten too thick.

One morning I couldn’t find the batter anywhere. Turned out that after I’d emptied the leftover batter into a small pitcher the day before, I’d accidentally stored it in a closet instead of the fridge. I was a little worried about myself. (The torrent of political news coming at all of us obviously has me pretty distracted.) And I was so disappointed. I couldn’t bear the thought of not having pancakes, so I made three anyway. But by the time they were cooked I came to my senses and for the sake of my physical–if not mental–health, tossed them in the trash. I had some carrot soup and toast for breakfast instead.

—Naomi Danis


When I find myself in the Slough of Despond, I turn to the comfort food of childhood and evenings spent playing Scrabble with my mother. She would have rye whiskey (Seagram’s, of course, since we were in Canada after all) and I would drink Postum with milk and sugar—a beverage that, I’m told, is really an acquired taste. Accompanying our drinks would always be my mother’s unsurpassed komish bread (a variant of mandelbread, full of roasted almonds and sprinkled liberally with cinnamon and sugar.) In my grown-up years, I no longer need the Scrabble for solace and distraction. But I’m drinking Postum again this season, along with the komish bread.

Zora Weidman’s Komish Bread

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/8 tsp. salt
¾ cup roasted almonds, chopped coarsely
3-3 ½ cups flour, sifted
1 ½ tsp. baking powder

Mix and pat into flattened logs (an elliptical shape on top, not a semi-circle) on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake 25-30 minutes at 350°.

Remove from cookie sheet with spatula, cut into slices approx. ½ inch thick.

Sprinkle both cut sides of each slice with cinnamon sugar.

Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure they do not get brown. (You can also return them for longer to the still-warm oven for a longer period so that they dry.)

—Susan Weidman Schneider


This recipe was contributed by Rebbetzin Ruth Waxman to the Temple Israel Sisterhood Cookbook (Great Neck NY), circa 1959. My mother made it often on Friday nights, and her mother, my grandma Sarah Braun, loved it so much that she plagiarized it for a recipe book that her Hadassah chapter published.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

2 lbs chopped meat
2 eggs
1 tbsp mustard
salt
garlic powder
(adding 4 tbsp matzoh meal, my mother wrote in the margin of the gravy-splattered page, “gave excellent consistency”)

Mix together and make small balls. Drop into boiling stock made of:

2 onions, minced and browned
1 can cranberry sauce
1 can Rokeach Tomato Mushroom sauce
1 bay leaf

Cook for one hour. It’s better the next day.

—Alice Sparberg Alexiou


A freshly made batch of brownies doesn’t do it for me.

For deep despair: Gin on the rocks

For everything else: Baked Potatoes Slathered in Butter.

—Amy Stone

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February 9, 2017 by

The Wig Over My Eyes

It was a sliver of a moment, one that slipped away before I realized how much it mattered.

It was 9:30 at night. My writing workshop had just ended. I’d read bits from my memoir about loss and soul and faith in God. I was slipping my laptop back into its case, when a few of the women in the group came up to me.

“Are you Hassidic?” “Yes.” I said.

“Don’t Hassidic women cover their hair?” 

And all I had to do was say, “Yes. I cover my hair. I’m wearing a wig.”

Instead I smiled without saying anything. The moment passed. We all went home.

It niggled at me — the question and the blank space before my non-answer. I’d let the opportunity go. I’d let the woman who asked the question assume that while I was Hassidic, I didn’t cover my hair. I thought about it all the way home, and then for days afterwards. Why hadn’t I told her that I was wearing a wig?

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February 8, 2017 by

What Do You Wear To Get Divorced?

hand-83079_640I stood in front of the mirror talking to my father and my grandmother, debating what to wear.  

Grandma Ruth said, “You need pearls with that, dear.”  

Dad reminded me to put on lipstick.  “Look like a million bucks! What about an elegant black suit?” 

I argued, “I can NOT wear black!” 

It was a remarkable conversation since both my father and grandmother are dead.  Yet it was as if they were standing with me that morning, in front of the full-length mirror in my linen closet.  And thank goodness for Dad and Grandma’s guidance, because no one tells you what to wear to get divorced.

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February 7, 2017 by

What Kashrut Taught Me About Being an Atlanta Falcons Fan

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons

I am fifth-generation Jewish Atlantan. My great-grandmother was a child when Leo Frank was lynched. My grandfather was sent to Christian school and converted to Christianity as a young child, actively working to make sure no one discovered his Jewish roots. To his then-chagrin, my father did, and began attending synagogue in the same place that past generations of Dornbushes had. The Temple, whose walls are full of old photographs of my family members who died well before I was born, was where I officially converted.

I love Atlanta. The city is in my muscle memory and in my subconscious. It’s been five years since I lived in Georgia, but I can still walk through the backroads around Emory without getting lost. I sometimes wake up craving cheese grits from Georgia Homegrown. My nightmare—a recurring dream of driving off a highway overpass—was spawned by Atlanta’s heavily congested interstates.

Atlanta builds and rebuilds, constantly reinventing itself, never quite acknowledging or healing the scars of its past. I know the city not just by its current places, but by the places it used to have. Ponce City Market I know also as City Hall East. For my Dad, it’s the Old Sears Building. He told me that the shopping center across from Ponce City Market/City Hall East/The Old Sears Building, which I know as The-Place-That-Used-to-Have-a-Borders-and-Still-Has-a-Whole-Foods was home to a minor league baseball team, called the Atlanta Crackers, when my grandfather was a child.

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