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Lilith Gets an Image-Lift

Seducer of men? Killer of babies? No matter what the old rabbis said—Lilith isn’t a demon anymore.

We really knew things were turning around when a woman called to ask our editors’ opinions on naming her baby Lilith. (All in favor!) We referred her to a recent issue of a Swedish magazine, The Jewish Chronicle, which featured a bright purple Lilith on its cover. Explained writer Suzannah Gottfarb about her special interest: When she called to register her newborn daughter as “Lilith,” the Swedish authority wouldn’t accept the name. “I know,” Gottfarb reports telling them, “Lilith is a man killer and a child-strangler. For me she is not like that. She is a free, wild, proud and independent woman. . . . Just how I want my daughter to become.” Eventually the authority backed down.

It was out of that interest that Gottfarb, a single mother of three, wrote her cover story. Linking Lilith to “dangerous,” seductive women of television and film, she writes, “They are all daughters of Lilith, like myself and many modem women with me, who struggle with their chins high, after one or several broken marriages; alone we raise our children and try at the same time to be successful in work. . . . Like Lilith we cherish freedom and independence more than social security.”

For all those women (and men) drawn to Lilith’s strength of spirit, a new educational space has sprung up in Northern California. What else? The Lilith Institute. Described as “a center for the study of sacred text, myth and ritual,” the institute offers lectures and classes like “Lilith and Eve as Role Models,” “Reclaiming the Erotic Lifeforce as Sacred” and “The Challenges of Raising a Non-Sexist Child.”

The nod to Lilith, says creator Deborah Grenn-Scott, dates back to her research at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion more than a decade ago. Lilith became the inspiration for her thesis, “Lilith as Everywoman in Ancient Text and Modern Midrash: Transforming a Demonized Eros.”

Check out www.lilithinstitute.com for more information. Then scoot over to www.serpentina.com—created by two of Green-Scott’s collaborators—a brand new site promoting the “research projects and social activism of women who are weaving together threads . . . to reveal, activate and celebrate the Sacred Feminine in the 21st century.”

Among the new resources, you soon will find a brand new anthology. Which Lilith? Feminist Writers Re-Create the World’s First Woman (Jason Aronson). Introduced by Naomi Wolf and edited by Enid Dame, Lilly Rivlin and Henny Wenkart, the anthology includes commentaries on the myth of Lilith by more than 50 Jewish women, exploring just who she is to men, to other women, to the family, and to herself.

The writings “surely illustrate what happens to Lilith when she comes out of a women’s experience rather than from a man’s head,” writes Rivlin in her afterword.

Inexplicably, this quirky book celebrates songs, singers and stats from the Lilith pop-music festival (no Jewish content that we can see), but rates LILITH Magazine, now in its 22nd year of publishing, worthy of one sentence! We can only reason that the book’s respected editors assume their readers are LILITH subscribers already, and thus the magazine needs no further introduction . . .