It’s all about complexity.
In the Lilith office, in our editorial meetings, I often hear myself saying, “…and on the fourth hand….” I believe that one of Lilith’s great strengths is the magazine’s commitment not to simplify, but to identify—and report on—ambiguities. Our most intense interest, editorially, is sparked when a subject has many facets. Life does not always present us with clearcut choices, and it’s a Lilith specialty to discern differences among shades of gray. This issue of LILITH has stories more nuanced and complicated than even our usual high standards for examining subjects from multiple perspectives.
First, the features. Susan Schnur takes us on a journey through the many possible stages of forgiveness—from women’s proclivity for being too forgiving through the astringent process of a healthy and whole not-forgiving. This section parses the gender differences in apologizing, and corroborates what many of us have suspected all our lives: that generally it is much harder for men to say they’re sorry. And women say it far too often.
For an analysis of being “Single and Jewish and Female in the Internet Age,” Rebecca Metzger talks to dozens of Jewish women about their experiences of online dating. Along the way, she discovers some interesting ambiguities about relationships in general. Meeting a potential life partner, a process which may look simple and straightforward on your computer screen, turns out to be as much of a roller-coaster ride as blind dates ever were. And the hard work starts after you’re face to face.
Then there are the eggs. This is a report which has been brewing in my mind and in our office ever since a small classified ad appeared in this magazine three and a half years ago. I began to ruminate on the many parts to this story when I saw more recent advertisements soliciting eggs for infertile women and offering huge sums of money to the egg donors. Susan Kahn, whose book on reproductive issues in Israel is reviewed in this issue, first alerted me to the ads appearing in the Brandeis student newspaper, noting that “Jewish women’s genetic material” is now in high demand. My first response was a kind of horrified fascination at the extraordinary compensation offered for the eggs of Jewish college students. Horror gave way to sympathy, and the fascination stayed. This story has a different angle every time I approach it. The sums are too high; some women having difficulty getting pregnant want these eggs at any cost; the drive for a biological child ups the ante; there’s elitism in what prospective parents are looking for in the donors. And on and on. All parties can justify their actions, and there’s little that’s clearly right or wrong about the sometimes competing and sometimes complementary needs of these two generations of Jewish women.
But writing the eggs story revealed to me more than the complexities of human need and the money to help alleviate it. I also came to see (as happens from time to time) how LILITH has been both witness to and a participant in important changes, changes in the ways Jewish women see ourselves and our roles. Take a look at the timeline in the eggs story as one example. LILITH has been in the forefront of thinking (and writing) about Jewish women and reproduction since our first year of publishing, 25 years ago. This timeline maps the shifts in Jewish women’s changing reproductive anxieties. Long ago (1977), feminists were angry that Jewish male leaders seem to want them to back out of graduate school and the workplace and concentrate on having children, since it looked as if there would be hardly any Jews left in the world by mid-21st Century. Today, the energy in the discussion about having babies comes not from worried men running Jewish organizations threatened by shifting demographics, but from women themselves. Women who postponed childbearing (a choice not always available, physically or psychologically, before the women’s liberation movement of the early 1970s) now sometimes find themselves eager to become mothers, whether or not they have found the partner of their dreams.
Like the eggs report, all the articles in this issue—including the award-winning short story—are woven from remarkable narratives of women’s complicated lives, and the ambiguities that chronically saturate our days. Nothing is simple.
Well, a few things are simple. One of the chronic non-ambiguities in the life of this magazine is its perpetual need for sustenance from you, LILITH’s readers. This magazine, which wins kudos from readers and awards from media mavens, is still a financial high-wire act. We’re able to stay up there largely through the generous contributions of people like you, who read the magazine and care about the issues we explore with you in its pages.
I think you know that nonprofit, content-rich periodicals cannot survive without financial support above and beyond the subscription price, so I ask you, please, to make a tax-deductible contribution to LILITH right now. Just as you give money to your contribution to LILITH right now. Just as you give money to your synagogue, your local women’s center or your alma mater, please think of a contribution to LILITH as one of your “automatic” tzedakah commitments. Listed to the right are some of the people who help LILITH flourish, providing venture capital for ideas and making possible the content you will find nowhere else. Please try to put your name on these pages for our next issue. By sending a contribution to LILITH now, you free LILITH editors from some of our fundraising efforts so that we can concentrate on scoping out the next new things in the lives of Jewish women.
I wish that there were an endowment fund or some other source of unrestricted funds we could draw on to pay the costs that subscriptions don’t cover. But the truth is that even after 25 years of continuous and successful publishing, we have to raise funds from issue to issue. Please help by supporting LILITH by check or credit card. (Let’s say, one dollar for every year of our life so far; or 120 dollars, if you’re superstitious.) The address and toll-free number appear right below the names of our generous supporters.
When you read the article on forgiveness, I hope you’ll remember that the world is not as binary as some thinkers would have us believe. You don’t have to turn your life around by 180 degrees to make change. Even small adjustments can have large consequences. Betsy Platkin Teutsch, in the new Reconstructionist High Holiday prayer book, puts it like this: “A subtle shift now, of even a fraction of a degree out of 360, can take one on a vastly different path over the course of a life’s trajectory.”
I wish you a worthwhile trajectory adjustment, and a year of peace.