I was part of an audience in the 1960s hearing Black Power advocate Stokely Carmichael declare that “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” an accusation that originated apparently as part of an advertising campaign for VISTA, a domestic iteration of the Peace Corp. The sentence scared me. I—I—was part of a problem? Then, by degrees, I recognized how I was wired (like so many of you reading this) to not stand idly by. The myriad problems that we all, every one of us, affect and are affected by—racism, grotesque economic inequities which lead to disease and hunger, gender and age prejudice, confiscated opportunities, anti-Semitism—these are some of the very large problems we all need to solve. Starting now, as the cover of this issue states, and moving into the next—and undoubtedly difficult—phases of our lives together.
From the magazine’s inception, Lilith has described itself and its readers on an identity grid, “at the intersection of feminism and Jewish life.” But each of us contains multitudes, and no single point can map a life. We all have many identifiers. Jewish lesbian feminist math teacher. Black Jewish feminist lawyer. Mexican-born genderqueer feminist Jewish artist; Canadian Jewish feminist mother of two mixed-race boys. Since its inception, one of the magazine’s goals has been to provide safe space for our different identities to find expression, feel valued, be heard— mainstream voices along with those of women (and women-identified people) not accustomed to being on center stage.
And yet, though Lilith has always welcomed diverse cadres of writers and artists, we want to make sure we’re opening our doors wide enough. Lilith’s archives (online at Lilith.org and IRL at Brandeis University) provide examples of Lilith’s early and consistent centering of women heretofore on the margins. Reporting by LGBTQ Jews and by the daughters of Holocaust survivors; memoirs by Persian Jews, women with disabilities, poor Jews; investigations into sexism and anti-Semitism and abuse by rabbis and pediatricians, fathers and strangers.
None of these experiences prepared us adequately, as citizens and editors, readers and writers, as Jews and as women, for the concatenation of assaults we’re now experiencing. The pandemic, the confrontations with racism, the venality of government, the helplessness of so many of the governed, the terror of an empty stomach, empty bank account, empty hopes.
As we prepare ourselves and others for the upcoming High Holidays, which this year may be unlike any other in living memory, indelibly altered by the need to protect ourselves from one another rather than seeking community in one another’s company, I hope you’ll find some wisdom in the “Now. Next.” pages you’re about to open. May we be guided wisely by our own experiences and intuition, by new and seasoned teachers, and by ancient wisdom about how important it is to engage. Bear witness, step into the fray when you know you need to, vote your conscience, be the solution—and the change—you want to see.
There are problems to be solved, and we’ve got to plan for their just solutions, together.
Susan Weidman Schneider
Editor in Chief