For 35 years, Lilith magazine has witnessed change, reported on change, and spurred the change itself. The subjects range from the ordination of the first women rabbis to the challenges faced by transgender Jews, from Jewish women’s organizations initial refusal to stand up for abortion rights to watching those organizations a decade or two later mobilize their members to march for that same right to choose.
For many of Lilith’s stories, our writers have been the first on the scene: the role of women in Israel’s army. The reasons women get anxious when others identify them as philanthropists. How to talk about good rabbis who are, not so incidentally, sexually inappropriate. Women’s ambivalent roles in a Jewish culture of volunteerism. Looking back over the major stories Lilith has reported on with vigor — and tenderness — over the past 35 years, we’re aware of the vastly diverse experiences these thousands of articles represent.
Some of them are about social change and social justice: A cover story revealing the complex ties that bind Jewish girls and their African-American nannies. Why women leaders (too few of them, true) need to lobby for workplace fairness in Jewish organizations. And, in a report on treating household help equitably, how we enact workplace fairness when the workplace is our own home.
Truth-telling about our bodies: Lilith’s sold-out “Jewish Hair” issue. What it means to hear “You don’t look Jewish” when you’re a Jew of color. Body image. Food and the double-bind of “Eat, Eat! Diet, Diet!”
Family relationships: Daughters on their mothers; sisters on their brothers; accord and discord; coping with family secrets around mental illness, incest, abuse; new rituals for separation, and for divorce.
Community and culture: The ways women are energizing Jewish politics and Jewish practice, and reshaping art, film, music, fiction.
A whole new take on the Jewish celebrations. Before Lilith exposed the remarkable origins of the hamantasch, who knew that, secretly, they were fertility pastries? And before Lilith reported on what Jewish women view as holy, who knew to craft a tallit using your foremothers’ photographs?
Since Lilith’s launch in 1976, I’ve realized that these articles themselves are only the beginning of a great conversation which continues in living rooms and academic courses, in youth groups and summer camps, on campus, in congregations, at JCCs and in more than 90 face-to-face salons in people’s homes, where women across the age spectrum meet to talk about the ideas in each new issue of Lilith. You’re likely already part of these conversations, one way or another, even if this is the first time you’re reading the magazine.
Another kind of Lilith conversation takes place on the phone, in email messages, in snail mail and, recently, in the responses to an online survey where, in honor of Lilith’s 35th birthday, we asked an extra-credit question: What would you like to read about in the magazine?
• I would like to see (and be part of ) a series of personal narratives or fictionalized first-person stories, really describing abortions in “the bad old days.” I think the kids today have no idea what they could be facing, if those days return.
• Few women are saving enough for retirement & younger women are not thinking about it enough or at all. Lilth is not an economic mag. but this is particularly a women’s issue because we earn less, tend to outlive our spouses and often get the short stick in a divorce.
• What happens when your synagogue no longer meets your needs? Do you make it change? Do you leave?
Lilith’s mission is communal and personal, hortatory and analytical, political and consensus-building. National and international, but also very local, very personal.
Lilith, 35 and counting, will celebrate with you by launching a new website early in 2012, bringing you digital subscriptions, access to 35-plus years of archival Lilith stories, opinionated commentators on the Lilith blog, a community for Jewish women everywhere.
Two kinds of generosity make these conversations possible. Lilith is a not-for-profit organization, its work supported largely by generous women and men like those whose names you see on the facing page. Tax-deductible contributions from readers like you have, to reference the shehechiyanu prayer, brought Lilith to life, sustained it, and enabled it, and us, to reach this milestone. Another kind of generosity is the intellectual capital of the staff, artists and writers, the lively interns and devoted board members, contributing editors and informal advice-givers who are all part of Lilith’s community of readers and thinkers, explainers and authors. This community includes you.
We thank you all, and look forward to continuing the conversation — in print and in pixels — as we head for our 36th (double chai) birthday, and beyond.
Please celebrate with us. Keep on reading.