Please take out your timbrels! This issue marks the start of Lilith’s 30th anniversary celebration.
Since the magazine’s launch by a handful of Jewish women journalists and editors in 1976, it has covered everything from the victories of women wanting to be ordained as rabbis to the struggles of transgender Jews. The issue of Lilith you’re holding now has the same broad range of subject matter as that first: personal relationships (in this case, best-friendship); new definitions of what constitutes a “religious” experience for women; a grittily honest memoir-in-comics, and more, as you sec from the preceding page. While we plan to celebrate this anniversary for all of the coming year, we start with a peek into the lives of women who are, like Lilith, turning 30. Coming up will be snapshots of other cohorts too.
All those who’ve been associated with the magazine—readers, editors, writers, artists, advertisers and Lilith’s immensely loyal and energetic board—should join with our small staff in saying a shehechiyanu, in which we express our gratitude for having reached this day. And grateful we in the Lilith office are, for the privilege of creating the magazine anew every three months, for the joy of working in a milieu where women’s words are heard, for the blessing of working relationships that are so stimulating and so very much fun. (To read more about women’s relationships at work and at play visit Lilith.org)
What does it mean for a magazine to reach this milestone in a world where magazines have almost as short a life-expectancy as restaurants? When we look back at some of Lilith’s landmark articles, we (meaning the names you see on the masthead, opposite) are astonished and proud to see how many “firsts” are in those pages—how many topics Lilith has been the first to broach, how many subjects and how much activism we’ve brought into the light for the first time. First-person accounts of women struggling to detach from the Hasidic world, those complicated relationships between volunteers and paid professionals in Jewish organizations, new rituals for everything from childbirth to a “celebration of wisdom” for birthdays past 60, the sexual misconduct of charismatic rabbis, violence in Jewish homes, the wacky joy of throwing a mitzvah shower for a bride, what Purim really signifies, the Jewish stake in abortion rights, how Jewish women feel about giving away money, the JAP and her sister stereotypes, and more. Plus our annual fiction and poetry prizes, the dozens and dozens of interns who have learned and taught under our roof, the Talent Bank for Jewish women experts on everything from AIDS to Zionism.
But so much for self-congratulation, however well deserved. What does it mean to turn 30, for a woman or a magazine? One of our tradition’s classic teaching-texts is “Ehad mi yodeah” the counting song sung at Passover, which builds by highlighting numbers: God is one, the Tablets of the Commandments two, and so on. But for women, there’s hardly a need for a mnemonic device. We’re tutored early on that numbers count. Every doctor’s appointment, for Heaven’s sake, reminds us: Age at first menstruation? Date of last period? Number of pregnancies? Month of annual Pap smear? And then there are those labile numbers: What’s your bra size? Your pants size? Your weight? And then there are the more secret numbers, like the PINs of our lives, the numbers we tally inside our own heads: numbers that relate to highly personal events rather than to reproductive or lipid history: How old were you when… ? How many have you… ? How often did you… ?
The coyness around women’s birthdays feeds into this math anxiety. Some 30 years ago, Gloria Steinem, thinking she could cure us all, famously replied to someone who said she did not look her age that “This is what 40 looks like.” Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the question of how a magazine marks a milestone birthday.
In Lilith’s case, with energetic writing and public programs: the magazine itself, Lilith salons in so many cities, the Lilith exhibition on the road. Lectures and readings and more. Our audience continues to span the spectrum from high school students to octogenarians; the magazine at 30 has a lot to say to readers of all ages. And you talk back, as many of you did for the tallit story, with the narratives of your personal lives, letting us know that the drumbeat is heard, that Lilith’s tag line—independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—reverberates for you, that we’re publishing for smart and saw)’ readers, who want and deserve the edgy and honest and lyrical writing Lilith intends to publish for at least the next 30 years.