The part that’s left out of Susan Schnur’s terrific explanation of why Jewish women are Big Mouths is how hard it actually IS for many of us to speak up, speak out, speak our minds. It’s a learned process. But we also get better at giving full voice to our ideas when we encounter successful role models—women who’ve spoken up and lived to do it again.
All the Big Mouths profiled in this issue speak out for causes, not out of self-interest. Which brings me to a piece of correspondence I had from my esteemed colleague, Rabbi Schnur, a while ago. She was encouraging me (prodding me is the truer verb) to brag a little about LILITH’s accomplishments. For emphasis, she sent me an egg carton. On the cover of the box was an encomium to the eggs—how delicious, how fresh, the best in the world, the producer’s family members stood by every egg, etc.—signed by the egg man himself. My esteemed colleague appended a note, “If Mr. Sauder can talk about his eggs and sign the praise, why can’t u talk about LILITH— and sign the praise?”
The fulsome praise I give LILITH is usually in material intended only for the eyes and ears of foundation grantmakers and philanthropists, But now that we’re on the subject of Big Mouths, here’s my chance. For 22 years, LILITH has spoken out, loudly and clearly. Redressing gender injustice. Reshaping Jewish life from a feminist perspective. Opening discussion intellectually and spiritually, so that Jewish ritual, discourse and texts now come closer to incorporating women’s experience than we could have imagined pre-LILITH.
LILITH has provided a school for Big Mouths—an environment where women learn to make change, as undergraduate and postgraduate interns, as writers, as readers.
Some recent examples:
■ LILITH’s interns stay in touch, often for years after their tenure in this small office, and we’re tremendously excited and gratified that their writings in the magazine have been reprinted in several anthologies this past year. And check out the first novel just out from our former intern Rachel Kadish (page 32). This year also, LILITH received two recognitions of excellence from the Rockower awards of the American Jewish Press Association, one for overall design excellence and one for an article on “Jewish Latency”—my report on how LILITH has successfully reached out to Jews in their 20s (that perilous decade when a lot of important life decisions get made, but when Jewish identity often goes underground).
■ In the wake of LILITH’s groundbreaking report by Sarah Blustain [Spring 1998] on allegations of sexual misconduct by the late rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, dozens of women have approached LILITH’s editors privately to speak of their own experiences. In Dallas, women have come forward alleging sexual abuse by a retired rabbi there; they say they were emboldened to speak up because of LILITH.
■ Professors and program planners call our managing editor, Naomi Danis, constantly for ideas about “Who should talk about AIDS and Jews?” “Who will write a letter to The New York Times protesting that article on Bat Mitzvah excesses?” Naomi makes original, one-of-a-kind shidduchim all day, connecting expert Big Mouths in every field with media people, event organizers and researchers via the Jewish Women’s Talent Bank at LILITH, using files and archives and databases, but mostly using her own wonderful ability to connect.
How do we know the good stuff women do if we never let anyone recognize us for it? When the Woman of Valor in Proverbs is praised at the gates of her town she does not cut in and say—”Oh no, don’t be silly, I’m not Superwoman. I have a sink full of dirty dishes, too. I don’t actually do all those terrific things. My husband exaggerates.”
I think the guy on the egg carton was right. These ARE the best quality eggs, and ideas, available. So on your behalf, dear reader, I thank all the Big Mouths in the LILITH office who cause these eggy ideas (germinal, remembering what eggs really are) to be packaged and delivered, fresh, directly to you.