CELEBRATING 40 YEARS
Exploring and disrupting the terrain where feminism and Jewish life intersect
With 40 years of riches to choose from, selecting classics from Lilith’s archives to t the space constraints of a single issue of the magazine proves a nearly impossible task. Not so much because we love all our “darlings,” as William Faulkner called writers’ favorites—though we do—but because Lilith’s range has been so vast. The magazine’s writing both bears witness to change and spurs change, and we hope we reflect this fullness here. Ritual and celebrations. Social justice. Holocaust history and its generational traumas for women. Poignant personal observations. Hilarious dating memoirs. Food as a map to our memories. Tender probings of violence, loss, addiction. Gender conundrums. Mah Jongg. The particular experiences of Jews of color. The quotidian concerns that bind us all (hair, food, money, therapy).
Stories of doubt, glee, love, transformation. In other words, the works.
With honesty and nuance, Lilith’s writers have bravely tackled dif cult subjects. Some of them are too complex to be represented well by an excerpt, like Sarah Blustain’s deep reporting, in 1998, on “The Paradoxical Legacy” of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, where the sympathies and the narratives were so strong, the paradox so vivid, the boundary issues in powerful relationships so compelling that trimming was not possible.
And the stories evolve. Our reactions as Jews and as feminists change over time. When Karen Propp revealed how she, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, re exively checks out escape routes in a new situation (“How to Hide,” Winter 1994–95), readers understood this as a generation-speci c re- sponse. Now, the next generation is getting their grandparents’ histories tattooed on their arms.
Anthropologist Riv-Ellen Prell explained that even a 10-year span can mean different perspectives on how we hallow life’s landmarks. “A feminist Judaism learns from personal experience,” she wrote in Summer 1990, commenting on a rabbi’s decision to create a ritual for her own divorce and a midwife’s unusual kaddish after her own miscarriage. “One of the things that strikes me powerfully about these two rituals is how different they are from rituals that were created in the 1970s and 1980s. Then, when we chose to ‘own’ rituals by creating versions that experimented with our own voices in the tradition, we tended to focus on Shabbat, on weddings and on births….We have grown up and expanded the life cycle.”
“Lilith Did It First” is the label on a drawer we’ve been lling for decades now. An exploration of the varied lives of transgender Jews, in 2002. The terrors for Jewish mothers of violent children, 2013. “Best Friends”—a ritual Judaism forgot to create for us, 2006. Celebrating the holidays with Jewish women in prison, 1978. The Jewish stake in abortion rights, 1981. You get why it’s so hard to choose. Nevertheless, we offer here a sample of the transformative, startling, and often delectable articles that feel characteristically Lilith-like.
For more, go to “Back Issues” at Lilith.org. It’s all there for subscribers to savor.
– Susan Weidman Schneider