Now, when national identity and the rights and plights it confers make headlines every day, LILITH turns the spotlight on Jewish women’s lives in very different diaspora communities. Here is what remains the same: No matter where we live, the issue of identity is never easy for Jewish women. Many of us struggle to negotiate multiple and sometimes conflicting loyalties—to family, Jewish community, to other women, to the country in which we live. For Jews, our history of moving from one country to the next—whether by choice or by force—can make the construction of a coherent national or cultural identity into a particularly complicated project.
In this section, we meet Jewish women working to piece together cultural and political identities from disparate influences. One woman, whose family moved to Greece after the Spanish Inquisition 500 years ago, still identifies as Spanish. Another Jewish woman, whose ancestors left Baghdad for India generations ago, aligns herself politically and nationally with non-white South-Asian feminists. Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Soviet Union build new lives in the United States, and Latin-American Jewish women express that, in the words of writer and activist Marjorie Agosin, they are “always from somewhere else.”
Maybe we can trace our roots to Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Maybe our Jewish communities of origin are still thriving. But many are mere remnants of what they once were, or have vanished altogether, like Atlantis (or Elephantine). Wherever we gather them, we are all looking for ways to make sense of the fragments.
In This Feature
by Rachel KransonBeyond Borscht and Babushkas
Jewish women from the former Soviet Union reach America