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Letters

WOMEN PHILANTHROPISTS
In the article on Jewish women’s philanthropy [“Jewish Women’s Philanthropy,” Winter 1993], your analysis and evaluation of the potential of Jewish women in this area were most enlightening. What a pity that mainstream organizations are not aware of this tremendous untapped reservoir of financial support.

I commend you on the ten steps which you have described as directions for action for women to play a more significant role in Jewish tzedakah.
by BEATRICE C. MAYER, Trustee, Natiwn Cummings Foundation Chicago, IL

POLITICS OF BREASTFEEDING
On the one hand, the cover of your Spring 1993 issue is the most transcendently beautiful VLILITH cover ever. On the other hand, it raises a serious question, one first raised by Gabrielle Palmer in The Politics of Breastfeeding (Pandora, 1988): why, in our culture, is it acceptable to show black women breastfeeding, but not white women? Given that only a tiny minority of Jewish women come from Ethiopia, why is LILITH’s first ever image of a breastfeeding women that of a black woman? The LILITH editorial staff should conduct a a reality check on itself for racism,
by CAROLE R. LIVINGSTON, Brooklyn, NY

INHERITING FUR COATS
Why are furs linked to Jewish women [“Inheriting Fur,” Winter 1993]? Fur is worn by pious Jewish men as well. I posit a query parallel to the one you raise about the young women given their beloved grandmothers’ fur coats: do young men ever feel strange about inheriting their grandfathers’ fur hats? After all, wearing a streimel [fur-rimmed hat worn by many hasidic men] in is not a din [law], but a minhag [custom] that was adopted by some Jewish men in emulation of the Polish aristocracy in the eighteenth century. A streimel is no more Jewish than any fashion or costume, and one day it may come to be viewed as frivolous and sinful, a relic of an unconscious era when animals were killed by the fur industry—not even by a shohet [ritual slaughterer]— just to make the hats.

Indeed, the look of piety would be altered. Dare we look at the Jewish men who wear fur as well as the Jewish women?
by HELENEAYLON, New York City, NY

Like Sara Nuss-Galles, I cannot divest myself of I the memories of my mother in fur. My mother was a beautiful, glamorous woman who looked magnificent in fox and mink. I too was given a fur coat when I graduated from college. I owned many pairs of shoes in alligator and lizard skin and— shame to say—a pocketbook of elephant hide.

Many of us in the animal rights movement have similar tales to tell. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future. It hurts to give up beautiful things we love, but if we have moral stamina we can do it. A moral life requires choices, and in the choice between beauty and cruelty, or glamour and cruelty, or status and cruelty, the choice is morally obvious. Moreover, there is a beautiful array of faux fur and other materials just as glamorous and just as warm. Our children can have just as fond memories of us in other fabrics. It is only we, the generation in transition, who feel the disturbance in the shift from nostalgia to the higher moral ground.

One practical suggestion: Write for the Fur Amnesty brochure from In Defense of Animals (816 West Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, CA 94901, 415- 453-9984) for information on how to make a tax deductible contribution of your fur coat.
by ROBERTA KALECHOFSKY, Resident, Jews for Animal Rights Marblehead, MA

NEW RITUALS
I was excited to read “A New Spin on an Old Tradition” [Spring 93], because I had reconstructed “Kabbalat Panim” for the wedding of my sister.

I learned that our Greek and Roman foremothers ritualized the transition from unmarried to married by using fragrant oil, torchlight, and amulets. Our Sephardic sisters prepared and protected their brides with henna and disguise. Eastern European Jewish women practiced a form of psychodrama, using song and dance to act out their feelings of sorrow at saying goodbye to a girlhood friend. Rabbis in the Talmud specify that “rejoicing the bride” is a mitzvah [obligation].

From my research, I developed a fourfold purpose for the ritual. It gives contemporary relevance to the passive “Kabbalat Panim,” when the bride traditionally sits on one side of the room, waiting to be greeted. A sacred space is created for the transformation from bride-to-be to kallah. The relationships amongst women which existed prior to the bride and groom’s are honored with a commitment to their endurance. Finally, the kallah is received, blessed and embraced as she emerges from this ritual for the chuppah.

The ritual’s new name, “Kabbalat Kallah,” a beautiful ritual reconstructed from many traditions, which places the responsibility on the community. To mark the transformation, we spoke newly-birthed blessings, shaied memories and created amulets. The bride declared it the most honoring and moving experience of her life
by SHARI S. GARFINKEL, Houston, TX

Ruth B. Goldston’s adaptation of the Havdalah service to a divorce [“Separating,” Spring 1993] illustrates the dangers of such borrowings. I am troubled by the imitation of an existing ceremony which is quite unrelated in spirit. I agree that Judaism needs ceremonies and liturgies to consacrate our daily lives, but, Havdalah is a celebration of the cyclical nature of our lives. Whatever divorce may be—and I am sure it is different for every divorced person—it is NOT a natural change. In fact, in speaking of the decision Naomi took to leave her husband, the article exposes its contrast to the inevitability of the changes Havdalah celebrates.

It seems to me that an adaptation of Tefilat Ha’derech (travel being a willed change), even an expansion of the Gomel blessings (divorce being an escape from a bad situation) coupled with a Psalm, such as 121, would be more in keeping with the spirit of divorce.
by C. PARENS, New York City, NY