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Letters

POWERFUL NAMES

I was pleased and honored to have my piece, “The Pronunciation of My Name,” included in your article on Jewish women and their names (“Each of Us has a Name,” Winter 1996). I am, however, a bit surprised with one alteration. When referring to the man with whom I spent time in Morocco, I used the word lover. My time with him was a fleeting travel affair. In the article, my word, lover, was changed to “my boyfriend.” This phrase is not one that I have used since the 6th grade, and it hardly characterizes the situation of a 24-year-old Jewish woman and a 46-year-old Moroccan man spending a few weeks together. Has the independent Jewish women’s magazine gone timid on me? Is not the mythical Lilith known for her inability to be confined by concepts like “boyfriend”? Doesn’t Lilith prove to be a match for the likes of Adam, King Solomon, and Elijah the Prophet? In any case, I don’t think that Lilith has boyfriends, and neither do I.
by Rachel S. Havrelock, San Francisco, CA

When I got married two-and-a-half years ago, I went through a great deal of decision-making regarding the name-change question. I didn’t just want to take my husband’s name, but I did not want only to keep mine, either. I also did not want to hyphenate my name. So, I chose to keep my maiden name as my middle name a la Laura Ingalls Wilder and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Surprisingly, this proved to be very confusing for people: no one seemed to know how to read my new name, how to alphabetize it, whether both names were combined, or whether the hyphen was just missing. I now use my maiden name as my journalism byline, but otherwise almost always use my married name.

My husband had wanted us to hyphenate our names together. However, his name is Sandy— usually perceived as feminine— and we agreed that a hyphenated name combined with Sandy would result in even more mail inadvertently addressed to Mrs. rather than Mr.
by Sharon Goldman Edry, New York City

My mother told me in the early ’50s, when I was about five years old, that every third baby born in the world was Chinese. Since I was her third baby, she said my name was Ming Toy. For the next 20 years, I thought my English name was Marcy, my Hebrew name was Miriam, and my Chinese name was Ming Toy. I would sometimes even write it on my name tag at Federation meetings when I felt humorous: “Ming Toy Tatken Berry Feldman.” When I was 25 years old, I was telling someone this story. My mother overheard me and said she had no recollection of telling me this. As an afterthought she added, “What a funny thing to tell a kid!” (So for 20 years, I thought fortune cookies were part of my heritage!)

by Marcy Miriam Tatken* Berry * *Feldman * * * Huntington, Woods, Ml

* father’s last name
** step-father’s last name
*** husband’s last name

Well, it just goes to show that some grief never totally disappears no matter how much time or distance intervenes. When I saw the title you imposed on my essay in “Each of Us Has a Name,” the helpless pain and howling rage of childhood returned, only now the playing field is a national publication.

Editors generously spent time reviewing with me changes in the text. Why was the title, the first line after all, exempt from that process?

Using my old nickname instead of the title I wrote is artistically inappropriate and to do so without my knowledge or consent is, in my opinion, unprofessional as well. One of the themes of my essay is the power that derives from the act of naming. You abused yours and owe me an apology.

by Maxine Silverman a.k.a, Meira bat Avraham v’ Tsufit, Upper Nyack, NY

I always hated my name growing up. My first name, Lillian, belonged to another generation. My surname, Mutter, was also an embarrassment for obvious reasons—just think of all the possibilities!

During my divorce in 1982,I did not want to keep my soon-to be- ex-husband’s surname, and I sure as hell didn’t want to return to my childhood name. After months of consideration, I decided to take my maternal grandmother’s childhood name—or so-called “maiden” name— which symbolized the three overriding principles in my life: family, Judaism, and feminism.

Although anglicized, Jessula is drawn from within my own family. In choosing this name, I feel I am in some way perpetuating my maternal grandparents’ small community of Greek Jews who were decimated during the Holocaust. The Jews of loannina are Romaniote Jews, neither Ashkenazic nor Sephardic. Greek-speaking, they are descended from Byzantine Jews who settled in the northwest region of Greece sometime in the eighth century.
by Lilith R. Jessula, Richardson, TX

FEMINISM CRITIQUED

I was astonished at the hostility you expressed toward my book. In the Image of God: A Feminist Commentary on the Torah (“The Genesis List,” Winter 1996). It is absolutely untrue that I have “nothing but scorn for Jewish feminists.” I am Jewish and have been a feminist for 30 years. My critique of feminist views of Judaism does not make me anti-feminist any more than my critique of Jewish sexism makes me anti-Semitic.

The quote you cited about abuse in Jewish families, implying that I minimize its effects, occurs in the midst of a discussion of why many Jewish women are alienated from Judaism. My point was that it is not always the Torah and Jewish theology that cause this alienation; but because Judaism is so centered on home and family, all it takes sometimes is an abusive Jewish parent to make a Jewish girl want nothing to do with Judaism. I myself grew up with a violent father, and it distresses me greatly that anyone should think I would ever minimize the effects of familial abuse.

My book, however, is not about Jewish feminism. The book’s thesis is that the Torah improved women’s status in the ancient Near East because pagan religion (including goddess worship) was cruel and sexually exploitative.

I cite several articles in LILITH, but at no time do I belittle any author or the magazine. I am challenging ideas, not trashing the individuals who hold them.
by Judith Antonelli, Brookline, MA

THE RABBIS’ BIAS

After seeing “Sugar and Spice— and Beyond: A Jewish Feminist Take on Children’s Books” (Fall 1996), it occurred to me that the male literary role models that may have influenced me were not Jewish, either (or at least did not suffer from Jewish conflicts). Thinking back over my education, I can see why. My elementary- and high-school teachers never would have dared teach a book with Jewish conflicts because of the ever-present tension between the rebbeim and the secular teachers in the schools And the rebbeim certainly would never “waste” their time teaching novels.

Nevertheless, I think that novels that deal with Jewish conflicts are a precious few, most of which you cite, and that my not having been influenced by any of them is representative of many yeshiva high school students that I know. Thus I think your criticism is misplaced; I think that there is a lack of good novels exploring modern Jewish topics conflicts altogether, be they centered around male or female characters.

 by Avi Shmidman, New Haven, CT

EMPOWERING CHOICE

I enjoyed reading “Jewish Single Mothers by Choice” [Spring 1996] and respect the right of single women to have children. I have some difficulty, however, with your uncomplimentary description of their decision-making process. They are presented as women who make a choice to be a single parent because they cannot find a mate.

This article could have been more meaningful to any woman contemplating a decision to have a child if the author had presented this monumental step from an empowering perspective: women talking about their roles and adjustments to being a single parent; women describing the different issues involved in adoption versus pregnancy; and women discussing how they view their children’s adjustments to this family structure. 
by Lynda S. Giles, Bloomfield, MI

USEFUL SCHOLARSHIP

In the debate over Jewish women’s studies (“Constructing the Jewish Feminist Pantheon,” Winter 1996) and its usability beyond academe, I say yes, we need both more Jewish feminist scholarship and more ways to translate this work into liturgy, curriculum, organizing ideas, events and more. Not only for adults, but for Jewish children too. We need to be organizing Rosh Hodesh groups for girls, introducing feminist midrash in day schools and Hebrew schools, bringing our children to feminist seders.

One piece of this “translation” is happening now, as Jewish educators transform the past 20 years of Jewish feminist scholarship into curricula for Jewish kids in day schools, museums, and Hebrew schools. Beginning in 1994, The Shefa Fund has organized an annual funding pool that has granted nearly $50,000 for the creation, testing and distribution of such curricula.

For more information, including how to contribute or apply for funding, contact The Shefa Fund at 215-247-9704 or shefafnd@libertynet.org 
Sue Hoffman Philadelphia, PA

A PEAR TO REMEMBER I’ve been a reader for many years and never noticed the absence of a “presence” or identification— the simple, modest, strong, and clear lettering of LILITH seemed distinct enough for me. However, I like the pear logo. I might have suggested a tree, maybe a pomegranate, a fig?-but, hey!! And, in keeping with one of the articles in the current magazine— •’What’s Your Name?”—I share my own vision of the new logo replete with names of our foremothers.
by Zandra Frailich a.k.a. Zelda, North Hollywood, CA

[The LILITH pear logo introduced in our winter issue was created by Charles Blustain and designed by Jean Pekorny. Ed.]

RESPITE FROM RACE

Sarah Blustain’s thoughtful article on the children of Jewish and African-American parents [“Are You Black or Are You Jewish? The New Identity Challenge,” Fall 1996] missed one important topic: Israel. In my experience at Vassar College, students who spent their junior year in Israel consistently remarked on how it gave them the opportunity to explore other dimensions of their identity, as American Jews and as African-Americans, because they did not have to cope with a society eager to label them or force them to choose one parent and heritage over another. 
by Deborah Dash Moore, Poughkeepsie, NY

May I, as a South African reader, express how much I enjoy reading and learning from LILITH. It is enlightening and uplifting to read and “participate” with women who are engaged in empowerment—in a positive and constructive way! Equality before the law and gender equality (separately!)—givens for most LILITH readers— have been entrenched only as of 1996 in the constitution of South Africa (and this, yet to be ratified!). The realization and actualization of the potential and contributing power of women is in its infancy.

We have much to learn reasserting ourselves as women.
by Li Boiskin Cape Town, South Africa