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From the Editor

by Susan Weidman Schneider

Since the publication of LILITH’s first issue in 1976, our goal has been to present what we called in the editorial of that premier issue a “smorgasbord” of articles (such a woman’s image of setting out a groaning board of food!). In the issue you are holding now, which marks LILITH’s Bat Mitzvah year, we found ourselves with articles more political in orientation than ever before. The smorgasbord, at least right now, looks a little different — with somewhat different flavors — than it has in the past.

There are certain important reasons for this. Recent political events in North America and Israel raise urgent questions for all women, and for Jewish women in particular. In the United States, a new Administration indicates that reproductive freedoms will be challenged, meaning that for Jewish women — who, even if strictly observant of Jewish law would approve of abortion when the life of the mother is threatened — will not be able to follow the dictates of their conscience or of Jewish law. In Canada, many advocates of reproductive rights were unseated in the recent Parliamentary elections.

In Israel, the situation regarding “Who is a Jew?” affects women especially, since it is women still, under most interpretations of Jewish law, who determine the religious identity of their children. Conversions, the status of children, the ability of women to be seen as full Jews — these cast whole areas of women’s lives under a shadow, opening our lives to suspicions, questions, verifications, and justifications to right-wing rabbis who do not see life from women’s perspectives, to say the least.

What to do? In this issue we limn the lives of the radical Jewish women who devoted themselves to social change. From them we can learn the courage to challenge the injustice of women being closed out of many areas of secular and religious decision-making. From Lilly Rivlin and Reena Bernards, who examine the possibilities of women’s changing the political balance in the Middle East, we learn to tilt the prism a little and see old situations in a new light.

To take our political awareness into an arena larger than that of our own minds, we need coalitions now more than ever before. We need to link ourselves with women of other faith groups, and, of crucial importance, we need wall-to-wall coalitions within Jewish life to ensure a larger voice on women’s issues. To help us advocate for a greater understanding of women’s positions, we need allies urgently.

This current issue of LILITH gives you, we hope, tools to use in that venture.