Featured on the cover of this issue is a set of stories written by Jewish women of the twentysomething generation, or that allegedly inscrutable “generation X.” While these women (I can’t say “young women,” although I want to) are trying to place their own desires into the mosaic of the cultures around them, what I see as I look at them—three of the four have been working at LILITH during the past several months—I think not of fitting in but of leaping away, of flying off. The women who come to LILITH as interns and as editorial assistants move off into appropriate new realms—graduate school, permanent jobs, a year in Israel— to find themselves even as we (the grownup staff) lose them. Or loose them.
I think a lot about what it means to “fledge” young adults, especially because two of my own children are now in their early twenties (and one of whom is beginning her year in Israel even as I write these lines). But the college students and recent graduates we see passing through the LILITH office aren’t like one’s own children at all. First of all, we work on specific tasks on a daily basis, so we often have the pleasure of seeing growth in a way that as a parent you only see in your kids when they are very small and their developmental milestones are dramatic. Like what? Like loosening up, for example. (Learning to fly, in other words.)
Especially for high-achieving women who have come of age in a time when they believe their futures are pretty much their own to shape, many of the twentysomething women we see are an odd amalgam of caution and adventure when they first cross LILITH’s threshold. They are women of considerable achievement, both academically and personally, and they aren’t, at first, comfortable with appearing inexpert, with being amateurs. At first, the kind of free-association brainstorming that shapes an article’s approach, or the tone of a press release, or the title of a story, seems alien to people who are accustomed to knowing the right answer to an exam question. After a while—by which I mean a few sessions sitting around LILITH’s crowded library table eating muffins and drinking bottled water—the interns and editorial assistants tell us at least a little of what they are thinking. They learn that it’s safe to do so. They also learn how to set type on the computer, to “scan in” photographs, to interview other people about their lives, to be fearless on the phone.
They have shown the rest of us how boldly they can act, and with what enlightened self-interest, when it comes to the challenging work of renegotiating male-female relations, redirecting Jewish education for girls and women, rethinking LILITH’s covers, and more. In a very satisfying way, while they learn, they teach.
If you know of women who should apply for LILITH internships in the future, please contact the LILITH office for details: INTERNS, LILITH, 250 West 57 St., Suite 2432, New York 10107. (212)757-0818.