Because I was the youngest in my nuclear family, and the youngest by far in my cohort of first cousins, I always viewed each birthday as a victory. Soon I would be old enough to be taken seriously!
A couple of months ago I turned 50, and the LILITH staff, joined by my dear friend Vicki Rosenstreich of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, surprised me in the office with flowers, food, and a birthday ritual created by Susan Schnur, our drummer, chanter, shaman and rabbi-in-residence. Here, in abbreviated form, is what went on;
First, Schnur (often referred to in the office by her last name to differentiate the Susans) led everyone in singing; then came the proclamations and the presents, all symbolic, according to instructions from the ritual-maker.
1. Schnur, noting that I’m able to let go of each issue of the magazine when the time comes for it to leave the nest and fly off to the printer, presented me with a tiny clay doll with an even tinier head (looking just like its mom, with slit eyes and a mouth like an “O”) which comes out of its belly (and goes in again too).
2. Robin Beth Schaer, LILITH’s editorial assistant and totally fearless cando person, made me a light-brown clay object and asked me to identify it. I couldn’t. “It’s a bagel,” she said. “A model of a bagel. And a bagel is a kind of a roll. And you’re a role model. Get it?”
3. Elizabeth Michaelson, our intern, gave me real bagels, in honor of all the eating that goes on in the office and— sweetly—noted how we feed and nurture each other in more than literal ways.
4. Nora Mandel, development counsel and the woman who helps shape the grants that elicit the funds that help make LILITH possible, gave me a tape. Side One, “For a Jewish feminist editor,” includes Christine Lavin’s “Sensitive New Age Guys” and Janis lan’s amazing mainstream Holocaust melody, “Tattoo.”
5. From Vicki, a plaque for my office wall: “This Work Space is Protected by a Goddess”
6. From Leslie Margulies, LILITH’s advertising manager, a set of juggling cubes—every woman with multiple roles to play needs to practice with these, she said—and a scarf, “so you should look elegant while juggling.”
7. An oblong package from Naomi Danis, managing editor, who really is responsible for making LILITH happen every three months. Inside? A first edition of James Thurber’s evocation of the legendary New Yorker editor. Plus a poem by Naomi which ends, “For the boss, My Years with Ross.'”
8. The End: a presentation by Schnur of a box of eggs from free-range chickens, each different: pale green, yellow, tiny, speckled, plain, mottled. “Just like us,” said Schnur, “And you let each of us be who we are.”
Another birthday: LILITH’s next issue will celebrate the magazine’s eighteenth anniversary! In Fall: some fascinating young women to follow into the future, an update on all the things we do now as Jewish women that we wouldn’t—or couldn’t—do in 1976, comments from LILITH readers and authors and a sampling of oldies-but-goodies from early issues. Plus our regular features and departments. Stay tuned!
Marking this milestone, LILITH has created a report on all the work we do aside from the magazine itself, including LILITH’s Talent Bank of Jewish women experts (please send for a Talent Bank form if you haven’t already deposited your resume with us); outreach programs to Jewish women in college and graduate school; investigations of Jewish women’s health issues, collaborative efforts on behalf of innovative, non-sexist Jewish education for girls and women. To receive your free copy of LILITH’s Annual Report, write to us at 250 W. 57 St., #2432, New York NY 10107.