From the Editor

by Susan Weidman Schneider

When LILITH published its first issue in 1976, the premise behind many of the articles was the need for Jewish women to define themselves — how to be who we were, and who we could become, not who others wanted us to be.

We talked then about equal access for women in all areas of Jewish life. When we spoke of the Jewish community we meant getting women into positions of power and responsibility in existing organizations. When we spoke about prayer, we meant women being called to the Torah in traditional synagogues and women rabbis leading services from traditional pulpits with congregants in traditional pews.

When in our second issue we published excerpts from a prayer book where God was referred to as female, we felt we were raising people’s consciousness dramatically. After reading those Shabbat prayers then, and finding myself uncomfortable referring to God as “She,” I realized that the lesson — for me, at least — was that I should be (needed to be) equally uncomfortable with an exclusively masculine formulation for God.

The Friday evening after I read an early version of the interview we’ve printed here between Rabbi Susan Schnur and feminist poet and liturgist Marcia Falk, and Marcia’s newly formulated blessings, I choked and stumbled over the traditional “Hamotzi.” I went back to read again Marcia’s reframing of the blessing over the bread, and sang it out loud. For days the new words in the traditional tune stayed with me — along with several questions about the methods and implications of altering traditional texts authentically.

With the current issue #21 LILITH achieves its majority, and the way we look at Jewish women’s issues ripened.

We are entering a new era — not just the arbitrary opportunity for refocusing that the approaching end-of-decade year seems to demand. More than that. With LILITH’s earlier issues, we made the case for opening up Jewish institutions to women — Federations, community power bases, religious hierarchies. Some of this has happened, though not enough. And we as women have moved on, past the closed doors and into a meadow of our own. The articles in these pages on spirituality and on politics all point to a future in which what women want makes a difference. Not merely equal access or equal opportunity. A whole new look at the world from an egalitarian perspective. A world in which individuals see themselves as empowered to make change – whether in reaching out to women of other backgrounds or in political representation or in the ways we choose to address Holiness.

We want to have a chance at repairing the world — from a Jewish women’s perspective. A world in which women’s perceptions and experiences will have value, recognition, power.

In this issue we welcome to the masthead Rabbi Susan Schnur as Special Projects Editor.