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Letters

RACISM OBSCURED

I felt your article on children of black and Jewish parents was very important, and that is why I was grateful to be interviewed by you for this work (“Are You Black or Are You Jewish?” Fall 1996). You raise many issues of personal, cultural and political identity I believe we must all address as Americans. I was disappointed, however, to find my book, Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons, misrepresented.

I am quoted as objecting to elements of my childhood which are described in the book, the experience of being almost forbidden to dislike people of other races. Although it is true that I write about this in one chapter, it is in the context of a general appreciation for the anti-racist education that my family of Jewish American radicals tried to pass on to their children. I do not wish to be confused with the many commentators who trivialize the idea of respect for people of other races with the by now-contemptuous term “P.C.”

Even more disturbing to me is the impression that this sort of issue is what is central to my story. I wrote a memoir to describe, protest and analyze white racism, a blindness of vision to both history and contemporary racial injustice I have called “the whiteness of whiteness.” I trace my own transformations over nearly 30 years in a black family, raising black sons to manhood. I support and identify with their sense of themselves as black men. As a Jewish mother, writer and teacher I tried to describe why I feel this identification is not only right but sane. Yet there is no mention of this journey, which is the story of my book.

We are living at a time when the concept of “multiracial” identity is becoming fashionable. There is a danger that crucial issues about racism and the racial injustice that sits at the heart of our history may be obscured in this new emphasis. I would not want to be included in this potent erasure; rather, I want to clearly cast my lot with the writers who have spoken out against racism for the past several hundred years. I am sorry none of this was reflected in your interview.

by Jane Lazarre, New York, NY

As the mother of a four-year-old bi-racial daughter who is being raised in a Conservative synagogue (and loves it), your cover story meant a lot to me. Thank you for realizing that there are black Jews out there and that they have a story to share.

by Janice Patterson, Oak Park, IL

AN INSULT BY ANY OTHER NAME . . .

No, no, no! Jessica Baker is plain wrong! (“This Heard on the Street: Grrrrrrrl!” Fall 1996) Insults masked as affection are still degrading. If your lover calls you a c–t and says it is a term of endearment, RUN! Homosexuals who call each other or themselves “queer” or African-Americans who use “nigger” have just as much of a problem as heteros or whites who use these words, just a different one!

“Girl” presents a special problem because in this country it is a regionalism. When in Rome, accept it. But when applied to a grown woman, it is derogating her maturity. “I got together with the girls” or “my girlfriend” works—always did— because those are colloquial phrases. But calling a secretary or a phone operator “girl” is wrong. If anyone should be sensitive to bad words remaining bad words no matter how used, we kikes should!

by R. Winters, New York, NY

QUESTIONS OF MOTHERHOOD

I just got turned on to LILITH and, after reading a handful of back issues, had to write and tell you how impressed I am with the content of your magazine. It speaks intelligently to women with heartfelt and universal stories.

Being that you cater to Jewish women makes it even more special because I am looking to reconnect with my roots. I had a baby last September and this experience has really brought me to a deeper level. I have so many questions that had been part of my thinking but now seem to plague me. Am I being a good mother? What does that mean? How can I bring up my daughter without the dramas that plagued my mother and my childhood? How can I bring her up with the beauty of Judaism yet not shut her out from my husband, who grew up Catholic? Perhaps in coming months I will find an article in the pages of LILITH to help me. Thank you for creating this wonderful publication.

by Hope Katz Gibbs, Alexandria, VA.

WOMEN’S MOURNING

Re: “The Mysteries of Sacred Space,” Summer 1996, specifically Naomi Danis’s experience of being shunted aside when she was saying Kaddish. Recently I attended the funeral of a very dear friend. She was a member of my Women’s Spirituality Group. She was only 45 years old and suffered for more than 25 years with kidney disease and had breast cancer for five years.

After the service, which was conducted with love and remembrance by our two rabbis and her many friends, our WSG gathered around her coffin and sang through our tears. No ‘insensitive men’ dared to stop us. She had requested that her funeral be held in a atmosphere of joy as a tribute to her life which, in spite of all her pain, was one of adventure and fun. Isn’t it interesting how differently men view mourning?

by Dee Fuller, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

A FRUSTRATED FUNDRAISER

In response to Enid Schatz’s article about funding for participating in Interns for Peace, I thought your readers should know about my experience as well (“A LILITH ‘How To’: Raising Money to Get to Israel,” Summer 1996). I am currently also working at Interns for Peace. When I heard about Enid’s success raising funds, I decided to try the same route she had. I sent more than 40 letters to Conservative synagogues in my area of New Jersey, and found very limited support. Many told me they only give to people in their own communities, and others were simply not interested. Perhaps because the Conservative community does not emphasize tikkim olam to the same extent as the Reform community, the responses to my requests differed from those to Enid’s. Perhaps because so many more people from New Jersey are traveling to Israel with various programs and requesting funds, congregations are less likely to give funds to outsiders.

by, Lauren Erdreich, Zaki Diab Community Center Tamra, Israel

HIGHLIGHTING THE WHOLE MEGILLAH

Thank you for your wonderful writing in LILITH. You captured the entire Megillah in a few words. Your article was so well written. I only would like to correct the headline: “Artist Helene Aylon Edits Genesis With Her Pink Magic Marker” (Fall 1996). First, I do not “edit”—God forbid!— I highlight. Second, I did not single out Genesis; I have highlighted the patriarchal passages and the omissions of the female presence in all five Books of Moses.

The show will be at the San Francisco Jewish Museum until January 5, the Armand Hammer at UCLA January 20-March 23; the Contemporary, Baltimore April 27-June 29; and the Jewish American History Museum, Philadelphia, July 25-December 26.

by Helene Aylon, New York, NY

THE ENDLESS STEPPE DOWN UNDER

It was great to see “Sugar & Spice-and Beyond: A Jewish Feminist Take on Children’s Books” [Fall 1996].

I was particularly excited to read Esther Hautzig’s contribution. She mentioned an I.L. Peretz story about Chaim the porter, who refused to have his wife act as his footstool when he went to heaven. But she forgot to say the wife’s name—Ghana. That’s me! The story of Chaim and Ghana has definitely set the standard for me when I get married.

Like others, Hautzig also mentioned Anne of Green Gables, who must be one of the brightest role models for clever girls. While it is very exciting to see that the influences of such a well-known author exactly coincided with my own, it is Ms. Hautzig’s book The Endless Steppe that deserves special mention. It was on the reading list for my school when I was in Year 8. Not unusual perhaps, but I actually went to a school with a strong Christian tradition. However, throughout the years they had a number of set books with Jewish themes, and in both the primary school and secondary school, my input was not only welcomed but encouraged. In that respect I was very lucky. Ms. Hautzig’s story and experience was read, enjoyed and appreciated by a class of 13-year-old middle-class girls in far-off Australia.

Congratulations on reaching the ripe old age of 20! (I am only 21 myself.)

by Hannah Mendelson N. Caulfield, Victoria, Australia

OVERLOOKED, NOT UNDERAPPRECIATED

Some worthy items inadvertently left out of LILITH’s 20th Anniversary Poster: LILITH’s Lens on Jewish History [Fall 1996]:

• 1974: Rosalyn Yalow wins Nobel Prize in science. (Submitted by Doris Gold, Biblio Press, who adds that LILITH ought to publish more about science.)

• 1975: First female cantor, Barbara Otsfeld-Horwitz, invested at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College. (Submitted, b’shira, by Cantor Susan Dropkin.)

• 1977: Henny Wenkart, a longtime LILITH supporter, reminds us of die founding of die Jewish Women’s Resource Center, now a project of National Council of Jewish Women-New York Section.

• 1994: Rabbi Shohama Wiener inaugurated as president of the Academy for Jewish Religion. (Submitted by Rabbi Goldie Milgram, Associate Dean.)

CORRECTIONS:

• The Hillel-women list is maintained by the Hillel International Center. The server was incorrectly given in the Fall 1996 issue. To subscribe, e-mail hillel-womenrequest@ojfer-ent.com with the message ””join”.

• Adam Lazarre-White and Khary Lazarre-White are the sons of Jane Lazarre and Douglas White. Their last name was given incorrectly in ‘Are You Black or Are You Jewish?” in the Fall 1996 issue.

• Melanie Kaye/ Kantrowitz ‘s essay “To Be a Radical Jew in the Late 20th Century” from The Issue is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence and Resistence” is the source of a quotation used in Debra Schultz’s dissertation on Jewish women in the Civil Rights movement. Reference to the essay was inadvertently omitted in the Fall 1996 issue.

• There are approximately 250 women in the Association for Jewish Studies’ Women’s Caucus. That number did not attend the caucus’ breakfast in 1996, as was indicated on the poster in the Fall 1996 issue.

• Reader Li Boiskin of Cape Town, South Africa, lets us know that the 1897 First Zionist Conference mentioned in LILITH’s timeline poster took place in Basel, Switzerland (we knew that!) and not in Berlin (which snuck into the timeline by mistake).