From the Editor

by Susan Weidman Schneider

Twenty-five years ago, I sat with a somewhat different cast of characters around the editorial table as we brought out LILITH’s first issue. The date on that issue was Fall 1976, so our anniversary celebration will begin officially in 2001, but I can’t let the season pass without rejoicing a little with you over this milestone. LILITH occupies an unusual position in the world of journalism; it addresses women’s issues in Jewish life from a feminist perspective and speaks out on Jewish women’s concerns in the general women’s movement. For 25 years, LILITH magazine has been a unique voice speaking out on the interrelationships of Jewish identity and feminism.

There are two especially significant files in the LILITH office that reflect the wider impact of a small publication. One is labeled “LILITH Did It First,” stuffed full of press clips from other periodicals on stories originated in LILITH. The other is labeled “LILITH in Books,” containing LILITH articles reprinted in anthologies and groundbreaking LILITH pieces which have gone on to win book contracts for their authors. The magazine’s voice is amplified beyond the 10,000 copies of each issue and the magazine’s estimated 25,000 readers. LILITH has often been featured in other media, from TV shows such as “Oprah!” “Good Morning America” and PBS’s “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” to the burgeoning online periodicals and websites which now clamor to reproduce LILITH’s “content.”

Be LILITH’s partner in marking our 25th. Throughout the coming anniversary year we look forward to co-sponsoring or collaborating with you on events for Jewish women in your community. Please contact us if you’d like LILITH to participate in programs you’re planning for your organization, university, book club, rosh hodesh group or synagogue. We can send sample copies of the magazine, flyers and special handouts for participants, offer special bulk rates on subscriptions, and more. We hope that our readers everywhere will want to help spur the festivities.

In a recent Washington speech, LILITH was given credit for “changing the ways Jewish women see themselves and their roles in the Jewish community.” I hope we’ve helped change systems as well as minds. LILITH was been the first to focus attention on domestic violence in Jewish families, the misogyny-cum-anti-Semitism in “JAP”-baiting, Jewish women’s philanthropy clout, and the new rituals and ceremonies marking every landmark of our lives (except maybe for editing LILITH magazine for 25 years). For this toiling in the fields of feminism, we’ve just had word that LILITH and I have been honored with the Joseph Polakoff Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Jewish Press Association. We hope that you’ll cheer with us this happy recognition from our peers in the press corps.

One of LILITH’s consistent editorial themes has been the experiences of women during the Holocaust. Even before the current spate of valuable memoirs by women, LILITH published interviews with those who had survived the concentration camps, fought in the resistance movements and passed along a particular legacy to the second and third generation. Now the LILITH collection of women’s Holocaust books published to date will be housed, thanks to the generosity of a LILITH Board Member, at the University of Michigan, which mark these books as the Frances and Kathryn Brandt LILITH Magazine Collection of Women’s Holocaust Memoirs.

From the shelves of a university library to cyberspace, LILITH’s reach is growing. Our website beckons more visitors than ever; check out www.lilithmag.com for our emerging new look and links to everything Jewish and female. Nothing will replace the pleasures of the printed word—LILITH on real paper—but I hope that LILITH’s website will soon be the Jewish women’s portal to the wired world. Part of the site will tell you what’s going on for Jewish women in the real world, listing events that take place in between issues of the magazine. Please remember to let us know about goings-on you’d like us to post, and help us build LILITH’s community of readers online.

Other good news includes Dr. David Egger’s support of LILITH’s much-sought-after college internships and a grant from the New York Jewish Women’s Foundation for LILITH’s coverage of Jewish women’s health concerns, physical and mental. Watch upcoming issues for these articles— and for wonderful poetry, selected by our newly installed Poetry Editor, renowned poet and novelist Marge Piercy, a very welcome addition to LILITH’s masthead. We’re absolutely delighted that Marge has accepted our invitation to bring her singular talent to these pages.

This issue of the magazine features a special section on women friends. We have rituals for marriage and divorce, for becoming a mother or burying a relative. But as adults we have no formal markers for celebrating friendship, no Let’s-make-a-club ceremony joining us to the friends who are sometimes as potent in our emotional lives as spouses, children and parents. Research, and this season’s burgeoning first-person literature on women’s friendships, yields up the recurring phrase “the relational world of women and girls,” countering a more male-centered psychotherapeutic emphasis on the importance of separating from others, individuating. Women know the gravitational pull in our lives that our closest friends exert—the people who are our most important reference group, the ones we turn to for advice, for succor, for laughter, for that reverberating tympanic membrane that lets us know we’re really being heard.

The pieces in this issue give a poignant cross section of such friendships, refracted through various lenses: the workplace (the friendship circle in the Lilith office, our work itself the magnet that drew us together); the harrowing experience of the Holocaust; feminist activism of the 1970s; and the college and single-in-the-city years of a pair of twentysomethings. There’s no breaking-the-wineglass instant when these diverse friendships were initiated—just existential moments held together by trust, tenderness, and even joy.

As you will know after you’ve read Susan Schnur’s moving tribute in the Friendship section, this has been a difficult period for us personally at LILITH. We mourn the passing of Gil Oberfield, the husband of our beloved Managing Editor, Naomi Danis. Gil was a gifted architect whose creative work ranged from national and international corporate clients and his professional association to the less-grand LILITH office, where his vision helped us work more comfortably. He was always mentally rearranging his environment, Naomi says, and adds that you only had to ask him what he was thinking to get good advice. Naomi and the rest of the LILITH staff appreciate the thoughtful contributions made to LILITH in Gil’s memory.

 I wish for us all a restorative and energizing summer.