War, or any crisis, causes us to question ourselves and how we spend our lives. By the time you read this, we may, blessedly, have moved back into lives less dominated by the television news. But even as we pray for peace, and yearn for it, we’re faced with the challenge of locating the meaning — beyond the mundane — in our everyday lives. In this issue of LILITH we have several extraordinary models for how to do so.
Here are the victories of women who have been able to move aspects of their own and others’ experiences into art, deriving important lessons not just about surviving, but about the quality of the lives we lead once we have come through.
Our cover story features Israeli writer and actress Gila Almagor, who has never shirked from looking at painful questions, yet coming up with answers that are oddly joyous and affirmative. In her past work she has taken us inside the passions of an Israeli war widow and illuminated other aspects of women’s lives previously in shadows. Here she speaks frankly about making a film about the ravages and strengths of her own childhood in an Israel reeling from absorbing Holocaust survivors. When women understand their own pain and history and turn it into compelling visual imagery (as Gila Almagor show us in these pages), we are all able to move on from difficult times with greater strength.
Alongside Almagor’s revealing interview, with its insights into survival and forgiveness, you’ll see some intense and exquisite renderings of paintings and sculpture by three American Jewish women whose comments on their own work tell us directly a good deal about how experience actually shapes — and impinges upon — art. Their work, photographed with the artists themselves in the frame, is surprisingly hopeful, and their words tell of the strategies they employ to keep despair at bay and the whoosh of time from blowing them away before they‘ve made every moment count.
All these women transmute life into art in unexpected and instructive ways. So does Isaac Bashevis Singer’s forgotten sister, who made memorable fiction out of her unenviable status as the only daughter in the famous shtetl literary family. Esther Singer Kreitman, represented here in a reminiscence and a short story translated from the Yiddish, is one of a legion of women writers we wish we knew more about.
The pages you are about to read introduce to you some’ outstanding examples of women who have fearlessly looked at life and turned it into art. Another kind of transformation happens when women decide to take control of aspects of their own lives that have been controlling them — namely, addictions of all sorts.
Based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model, 12-Step recovery programs that for decades have provided a ladder out of the abyss of compelling addictions may have some rungs missing for women. Prayer — which is the basis for the 12 Steps in their traditional form — is essentially about letting go and admitting that you need help. But many women may suffer beyond their chemical or other dependencies by the implications that reinforce their traditional dependent role in human relationships rather than strengthening their autonomy and self-reliance. The alchemy of self-improvement and recovery for women may not go far enough in helping them to reshape their own lives. Best-selling author and psychologist Harriet Goldhor Lerner, who with this issues joins LILITH’s editorial advisory board) tells why women need a different path to recovery; feminist theologian Gail Unterberger tells us how to blaze that path.
On this topic and others, please talk back to us. You can help us create a better magazine for you by filling out and returning the reader survey on page 31. We want to know about how you’re shaping your life, about what most affects you, and about the ways LILITH can address all of the above in future issues, which is also where we’ll share with you the results of our reader research.