In response to “The Power of Women’s Folk Judaism” (Fall 1991), I offer the following story. When I was nine months pregnant with my second child, my firstborn, Aviva, was nearly three and at an age when she loved hearing a story read over and over. Thus it was that I had the opportunity to read her the story of Noah’s ark about a hundred times. Somewhere around the hundredth time I heard the words “for forty days and forty nights” in a way I’d never heard them before. Here I sat, distended beyond recognition, when the subtext of this creation/destruction epic revealed itself.
I composed this Midrash: “For forty weeks, day and night, Noah and Nahmah’s children floated in the waters of her womb. When her waters finally broke, all the creatures of the earth burst forth and fed from her breasts until she became dry.”
Suddenly, it was easy to recast all the images of the story through a woman’s eyes. The ark protecting all the animals became my womb, and the flood was appropriated by the amniotic waters. It seemed more logical that the animals achieved their independence when the milk of the mother ark/womb dried up, as they do in real life.
DEBORAH KRUGER Greenfield, Massachusetts
I am a woman of 77 who has been aware since I was a very young woman of the pressures women experience simply because they are women. Six years ago I started making menorahs consisting of women figures, in clay, in various configurations for my daughters, only to discover that there was a great emotional response to them from women of all ages. At the suggestion of a friend of mine I named them WOMENORAHS. I am not telling you this with the idea of selling you anything; merely to lead up to another story related to Passover.
Not long ago a woman who had purchased one of these WOMENORAHS came to me with a request. A friend of hers had a rabbi who refused to allow the women in his congregation to participate at the altar during services. He said angrily, “A woman belongs on the bimah [altar] like an orange belongs on a Seder plate!” That year all the women put an orange on their Passover seder plates. . . .The woman telling me the story asked me if I could make her a Pesach plate with women on it and a place for an orange, which I did.
Given the work LILITH does for Jewish women, I thought you might find this story interesting.
More power to women.
ELSIE GOLDSTEIN Evanston, Illinois
P.S. By the way, I am not trying to sell you anything. Just sharing. LILITH adds: To order a seder plate (each costs $80.00), contact Elsie Goldstein: 708-869-6429. By the way, LILITH is not trying to .sell you anything. Just sharing.
There has been some confusion caused by a possible misapprehension in “New Ceremonies for: Turning 12 and Turning 60” [Fall 1988] describing Marcia Cohn Speigel’s “Becoming A Crone” ceremony. Subsequently this article has been referred to on various occasions, the latest being in Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s book. Deborah, Golda and Me.
The piece in LILITH failed to mention that I was the originator of the Simhat Hohmah ritual for myself in 1984. Spiegel later planned her own ceremony based entirely on mine (i.e.: life, kittel, vows and taking a new name and facing death); Drorah Setel conducted my services, Debbie Friedman wrote the theme song, Lechi Lach (with my words taken from Genesis 12), as well as four more blessings and songs, Marcia Falk wrote a blessing and so on.This would not be serious except for the fact that my Simhat Hohmah is gaining attention. A full page picture with text has just been published in Circle of Life; the story of my Simhah is being published in Ellen Umansky’s Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality, A Sourcebook; Lechi Lach is very popular in L.A. and I am in the process of marketing a video of the ceremony.
The idea seems to be catching on, as I had hoped.
SAVINA J. TEUBEL Santa Monica, California
I was surprised and concerned to open my winter issue of LILITH to the contents page and find my art work reproduced there, uncredited, cropped and out of context. This seemed particularly strange since I know LILITH has a policy of supporting artists and since, when I sent you my work over a year ago, I specifically asked that you contact me to discuss fees before you published anything of mine.
On searching the magazine, I discovered the same image on page 30, illustrating a book review. Although my name was included here, there was no title or explanation that this was original artwork, that it was done in fabric, or that it was in a Canadian setting. (In fact, this piece depicts Labor Zionists in a 1932 May Day Parade in Winnipeg.) You also omitted my biographical information, although this is included for all the writers.
I do enjoy and support your magazine very much and I’m delighted that you like my work. I have worked in publishing myself and understand the mounting chaos of the week before press day. But the use of uncredited artwork in publications is rampant and a problem my colleagues and I have run up against many times and it must stop.
Most artists are among the lowest paid workers in North America. Only 2% actually make a living from their artwork. When this is combined with the poverty common to many women it leaves us low on the financial scale indeed. In my own case I do a delicate juggling act, working as an artist, as a parent, and as an income earner for myself and my children, all full time jobs.
As a Jewish feminist artist, I share many of the goals of your magazine. By considering each other’s issues, we can build more effective alliances and have a more powerful impact in the world.
SIMA ELIZABETH SHEFRIN Vancover, B.C.. Canada
Sima Elizabeth Shefrin has worked as a fabric artist for 15 years. Her works reflects a variety of political, feminist and multicultural concerns, including an ongoing exploration of her Canadian Jewish heritage.
As long as we’re offering corrections, here are three more Al Chaits (apologies):
• Ita Aber’s correct phone number is 914-968-4863. We featured her “Esther/Vashti” body ornament (Winter 1992).
• We failed to credit Andrea Sperling for her photographs of “Santa Faints” (Winter !992).and Layle Silbert for her photograph of Grace Paley (Fall 1991, p. 24).