From the Editor

by Susan Weidman Schneider

Okay. The pear. Joining us for the first time with this issue are readers who ordered the magazine because our new pear logo caught their eye in our first-ever ad in The New York Times Magazine, so we figured we ought to be explicit about its meaning. Please don’t tell me you couldn’t figure it out. It’s all about Eve, the First Lady of Our Biblical Consciousness. Eve, the subservient female, the one who takes the rap for wanting to eat the apple off the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The feminist alternative to Eve is, of course, the courageous Lilith, Adam’s first companion, the woman who spoke out for gender equality. Lilith, this magazine’s namesake. Thus we present to you the pear, in a land of rough artistic and semantic (if not olfactory) antithesis to Eve’s apple. Readers long familiar with LILITH (and who may not peruse our rival, the Sunday Times) are seeing the pear for the first time here. LILITH welcomes responses from all of you: sketches, as well as words.

LILITH magazine, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, has lived for two decades without a pictogram or any clear visual representation of the magazine’s status as an alternative to the expected ideas about Jewish women’s lives, our thinking and our behaviors. But the direction of the articles we publish has been pretty clear. The current issue of LILITH runs the gamut from a report on the flowering of secular and religious scholarship on Jewish women to our cover story on names, a piece I think every woman can identify with. It includes material contributed by LILITH readers, who responded to a call for “names stories” on this page a few months ago.

In between is “Healing,” one of the longest special sections LILITH has ever published. What makes healing a feminist subject? Only that women seem, at least in our imperfect era, more comfortable than men saying we’re sick, caring for the sick, sharing our fears about illnesses yet to come. David Hirsch, Director of the National Center for Jewish Healing, sounded it very plaintively when he asked me in a panel discussion in Seattle recently, “What about this gender issue? Nobody talks about it, but all the wonderful rabbis and lay people I work with at the Healing Center are women. Where are the men?”

The men who are involved in visiting the sick regularly tend to be gay men dealing, understandably, with AIDS. (We plan a feature on AIDS in an upcoming issue.) Or the men are rabbis, combing the traditional liturgies of Judaism for psalms and prayers to use in chaplaincy work, so that Jewish sources (some of which we highlight in the LILITH pieces here) can come into people’s lives when they may be most in want of a healing breath, a song, a kind word, a fable, or an empathetic ear. Since much Jewish behavior in the 1990s has women opening doors for men, we trust that these moving articles will do likewise. I cried each time I read “Bathing Pearl.”

Dear reader, please let us know your responses.