Lines of Communication

Dear Editors:

I was delighted to read the articles on the Jewish women in jail by Susan Weidman Schneider and on volunteer organizations. It was two for the price of one, for me, as I have been in a leadership role in the National Council of Jewish Women for a number of years, and I was instrumental in forming a service unit for the Jewish women in the Federal Penitentiary serviced by the Evanston-Niles Section of N.C.J.W.

“Jewish Women in Prison? I can’t believe it!” That’s what many Council women said when I brought our project to our national convention in New York City in March 1977.

Many of the Evanston-Niles Section women (I said many, not all) were involved early on in the antiwar movement against our involvement in Vietnam. The broad middle class didn’t feel concerned about what was happening there. However, the Evanston-Niles section, whose leadership took seriously the fact that it was a class war, spoke out early against it, marched and petitioned for the end of the hostilities. We were the only section (I think) that came to our Joint Program Institute in Washington, D.C., and offered a resolution to impeach President Nixon. It didn’t win the approval of the rest of the women. However, we took a resolution on amnesty to the 1975 National Convention in San Francisco.

Our section has 450 women, and Evanston-Niles Township is adjacent to Chicago. The median age is between 35-60. Many of us remember the Joe McCarthy ’50’s. We take seriously our resolutions on civil liberties and individual rights.

With this in mind, we were aware of the efforts of women like Jane Kennedy, who attempted to bring to the attention of a democratic society the madness of war. In May 1976, Jane Kennedy was released from Alderson, the Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia, after serving five years for destroying draft records and spilling blood on tapes at the Dow Chemical Company plant that was manufacturing the napalm used in Vietnam against the civilian population. A registered nurse, she was harassed while in prison for her efforts to help women with their health problems [and so suffered] many reprisals, including solitary confinement, because of her leadership.

We did not know about the Jewish women in prison until we gave Jane “Kennedy” the NCJW Hannah Greenebaum Solomon Award (named for our founder) and with it $100. She sent the check to the women at Alderson. When Sister Rose Ann Hefner, a Catholic nun, saw the check came from the NCJW, she told [a Jewish woman prisoner] who has been there five years. This woman wrote us that “Since we are the smallest of the religious groups, there is little of our faith or traditions.”

I worked with our section to get women to send to Alderson books, with Jewish content if possible, cards, warm clothing, and to establish a link between them and the outside world. The Jewish women prisoners wanted to establish some Jewish identity. Two years ago we sent a set of the Encyclopedia Ju-daica to Alderson. Throughout the year there is a steady stream of letters and small gifts. At Passover and Rosh Hashana, we are allowed to send food that is in keeping with the holiday tradition. All articles are sent to Sister Rose Ann Hefner for distribution to the Jewish women. For books and magazines for a particular inmate, we have to ask permission of the Warden.

How many Jewish women are there at Alderson? Sometimes eight or nine, sometimes, four or five. What are they there for? In all the years of letter-writing, I’ve never asked.

One of the prisoners told me that they were allowed to watch the television production of what happened to Jews on the European continent before and during the Holocaust. It was after this viewing that the black women learned for the first time that they weren’t the only group that suffered humiliation and discrimination.

Dorothy King
Evanston, IL

To the Editors:

I had a mixed reaction to Susan Weidman Schneider’s article. In many ways, it was a superb and pioneering attempt to explore the lives of Jewish women in the Bedford Hills “correctional facility.” Because of the author’s obvious respect and empathy for these women, they came through as strong, sensitive, caring individuals whose fate should concern the Jewish community. It was most important that these women were allowed to speak for themselves in the article, rather than having their experiences “interpreted” by an outside journalist.

At the same time, I feel that the article contained many unfortunate inferences about black and Hispanic women at Bedford Hills. These women were not presented as distinct individuals with whom readers might identify. And they were not allowed to speak for themselves — even though many Third World women at Bedford Hills, including Carol Crooks and Dollree Mapp, have written courageous and eloquent statements about the horrors that they face in jail.

I believe that black anti-Semitism is a real issue that should be faced. But, too often in Jewish circles, this issue is given a very prominent focus (even obscuring the much greater danger of white anti-Semitism), while the equally real issue of Jewish racism is totally ignored.

In a time of rising Nazi and Ku Klux Klan activity across the nation, it seems essential that every attempt be made to break down, rather than exacerbate, the deep tensions and hostilities which divide Jews from blacks and other Third World peoples.

Bob Lamm
New York, NY

Lilith #5 is most impressive, especially the piece on Jewish women in jail.

Nat Hentoff
New York, NY

Dear Editor:

Reading your fifth issue of LILITH compelled me to write this letter, as I recently astounded my very supportive family when I informed them that I have had it with volunteering.

This decision did not come easily. I have always felt a deep moral obligation to try and give just a little something back to the community that has been so good to me. In fact, there have been innumerable times that I felt, and still feel, that I gained much more from volunteering than I gave; so I face the future with just a little trepidation. Nevertheless, I feel that for my own self-respect, I must make a break to decide what I can do with the rest of my life.

To backtrack a little: [after marriage and work in the business world] to fill my time, I started volunteering with National Council of Jewish Women as a tutor in the public schools. It didn’t take long before my managerial skills were tapped, and I assumed other obligations and helped establish a daycare program for preschool children. This was then taken over by the professionals, and I was shut out of the decision-making process.

Then I worked as a volunteer for Jewish Family Service as a para-professional case-aide in a senior center. When monies were available from the government to enable JFS to move to a bigger place, I helped by drawing up the plan, finding the contractor, buying and schnorring the furnishings, and revamping the filing system.

I had been disregarded by the men during all the decisions involving business matters, and ignored when I worked for nine weeks, seven days a week putting all this together. I was able to save them thousands of dollars by bypassing a middleperson, but when someone asked who drew the plans and was told, he said “A woman?”

When articles appeared in the newspapers describing the new center, nothing was mentioned about the work being done by the volunteers. When I mentioned this to the director, I was told that no one had thought to write about it.

Throughout all this, I have been encouraged by my husband to continue as a volunteer. I enjoy responsibility and challenges, but I leave it to the younger women to carry on the struggle. I am very disheartened by the intelligent, lovely Jewish women that I have met who serve on the boards — who have the time and the money to support their fellow women, but seem disinclined to do so.

(name withheld)

To The Editor:

I found issue #5 interesting and stimulating. I was sorry that Pearl Water had found National Council of Jewish Women disappointing as a feminist organization, but individual changes of interest are inevitable. Ours is a multi-faceted organization and priorities are democratically selected ….

The article that really bothered me was the one by Aviva Cantor (“The Sheltered Workshop “) …. Most of her generalities are untrue, at least so far as the National Council of Jewish Women is concerned. A few examples will suffice:

Ms. Cantor: “lack of confidence and self-esteem … reinforced by these organizations … retards personal growth.”

Fact: NCJW is constantly working to establish self-esteem and confidence. In 1975, 250 top leaders spent a week learning management techniques and skills development at the Vanderbilt University Business School. This year we have produced a self-development series, training membership in group dynamics, decision making, conflict resolution, communication and assertiveness. NCJW awards Continuing Education Units. Those that have been submitted to universities for approval of course content have received endorsement. We have been invited to join the National Council on the Continuing Education Unit. NCJW looks forward to being the first volunteer organization included in their membership.

Ms. Cantor: engaging in “endless repetition of boring scut-work …”

Fact: All programs in NCJW are conceived of and prepared by volunteers with staff support. Volunteers innovated such programs as Retired Senior Volunteer Program, court monitoring of juvenile justice procedures, Meals-on-Wheels, Golden Age Clubs and many more.

Ms. Cantor: “The organization’s female leaders collude with the Jewish Establishment’s male leaders for a common end: keeping women segregated….”

Fact: NCJW undertook two years ago to bring women into prominence as paid members and as volunteers in the Jewish Community Relations field. As a result of our efforts, a task force on equal rights for women was established in the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. This task force, chaired by Esther R. Landa as President of NCJW, has issued a study of positions and salary levels of women as compared to men in community relations agencies and has involved all such agencies in the campaign for ERA ratification and abortion rights.

Ms. Cantor: “Instead of preparing women for work in the ‘real world’ … the volunteer organizations are an alternative unreal world….”

Fact: Many active NCJW members have been able to find rewarding paid jobs as a result of their NCJW experience. These range from election as state legislators to director of voluntary service organizations. These women almost invariably continue their volunteer roles in NCJW. In addition, we have published a widely-used NCJW career Portfolio to provide serious, trained volunteers with a record that serves as a resume. This publication has been used by women in getting jobs, running for elective office and qualifying for higher education.

NCJW feels strongly that women have a right to choose how they shall spend their lives. Men told us for many years that we should not work outside the home. Are other women any more entitled to tell us today that we must do so? If women want to be volunteers and find volunteering a fulfilling occupation, they should be free to do what they wish to do, and without apology….

I will close on a personal note. I have during a long career held many professional and volunteer positions. In neither capacity would I have felt that my self-esteem would allow me to produce a piece of work which was not well-researched and specific on my chosen topic. To my knowledge, no one in NCJW was questioned about the facts in Ms. Cantor’s article, nor was any request made for materials relating to her interest. Is this the professionalism to which volunteers should aspire?

Marjorie Merlin Cohen
Executive Director
National Council of Jewish Women
New York, NY

To The Editor:

I read issue #5 of LILITH with great interest and some astonishment. The article entitled “The Volunteer Organizations, Vanguard or Rearguard?” by Paula Hyman and the one by Betty Lieberman on Hadassah contain misstatements and incorrect conclusions drawn from unsupported inferences.

Re Mrs. Hyman’s article:

1. The first sentence, “Jewish women’s organizations were not always out of touch with the needs of their members,” reflects acceptance of an unsupported premise. Speaking only for Hadassah, we are very much in touch with the needs of members.

2. Hadassah is very definitely not a women’s organization in the sense discussed. Hadassah is a Zionist organization whose members are women. It began because a group of women felt impelled to participate in the building of the Jewish homeland, Palestine. Hadassah leaders threw off the yoke of male dominance a long time ago when they refused to function as a women’s division and asserted their independence.

3. Hadassah’s program has never been directed to “articulating and meeting the special needs of women clients.” In pre-state Palestine, Hadassah addressed itself to the health needs of the entire community, not merely to the health needs of women and children. In Israel today, Hadassah supports healing, teaching, research, education and rehabilitation services for men, women and children. In the United States, both girls and boys are serviced through Hadassah’s dynamic youth program.

4. The statement … that women have little say in the decision-making process is a generality which has little validity. Women, and in particular Hadassah women, are involved in decision making in all umbrella entities on the Jewish scene. They are respected community leaders in every sense of the word.

Re Ms. Lieberman’s article:

We must dissent from her conclusion and point up factual errors.

1. “… in Milwaukee there’s been no significant change in the number of members in the last ten years.” True, Ms. Lieberman. However, we must point out that growth of Jewish population in that community has also been static, according to the American Jewish Year Book. Hadassah membership figures for Milwaukee show: (a) regular increase in life membership enrollment; (b) regular reenrollment; (c) regular enrollment of new members; (d) 42% of adult Jewish women in Milwaukee are members of Hadassah.

When one considers that this is a “no growth” community along with normal attrition through death, moving, etc., we consider this a pretty good record. Certainly we would consider it better if 100% of adult Jewish women were enrolled in Hadassah….

2. ” …we have fewer women willing to become involved and do the work than ever before. Fewer women attend meetings and events.” Hadassah does not function in a vacuum nor is it a monolithic organization. In some cities like Milwaukee, Ms. Lieberman’s statement may be accurate; in others it is not. Nevertheless, for the past two years, a Hadassah committee composed of top leaders has been working diligently to analyze and deal with problems generated by changing demography, etc. … We will certainly try. We are developing new channels for reaching members.

3. Ms. Lieberman’s analysis of Hadassah membership may be true in Milwaukee. It certainly is not true of Cincinnati, Anaheim, Houston, Atlanta, and scores of other communities. Increasingly, Hadassah members and leaders are career people who may function differently in relation to Hadassah than their mothers did, but who are nonetheless deeply involved in our work.

4. “… National Hadassah excludes its membership throughout the country from the decisionmaking process. …” Ms. Lieber-man, you certajnly are out of touch with Hadassah. Just last September, convention delegates rejected two major recommendations of the National Board loudly and clearly. That happens in a democratic organization. Rubber-stamping is a product of apathy and withdrawal from the decision-making process. We have little of that in Hadassah.

5. “There is no formal process for getting the Board to consider a new idea, nor for members to have a resolution on rules considered by the Convention.” Ms. Lieberman, where have you been? Hadassah’s whole structure is designed to facilitate the democratic process.. Through the years, discussion follows a chain —group, chapter, region, national. Letters are received daily offering new ideas for consideration. They are discussed at national committee meetings and often by the National Board. … The best, the most successful, the most workable ideas stem from groups and chapters. They write; they propose them at regional conferences; they flaunt them at national conventions. … Delegates are invited to submit proposals for resolutions.

6. “Detailed administrative budgets are not readily available. …” Not so, Ms. Lieberman. The Hadassah audit report is published annually and is available on request.

7. Re input into personnel policies in Israel: Hadassah personnel policies in Israel are governed by Israel’s laws and customs. However, let me give you one concrete example of constructive input on Hadassah’s part. During the Yom Kippur War, a serious defect in the educational system became apparent. When all the men were serving in the army, there was an insufficient supply of personnel to carry on essential services because women had not been trained for technical jobs in sufficient numbers. The Hadassah National Board, whose members are elected, met in Jerusalem in January, 1974. They heard the report and acted swiftly. The curriculum of the Hadassah Seligs-berg-Brandeis Comprehensive High School was altered to encourage more girls to pursue technical studies. The situation is now very different.

8. “Does National ever ask the membership for an opinion about these issues?” No, we do not, nor does anyone ask National’s opinion. We are not members of the Israel labor unions. We do not make policy for the Israeli government or its institutions.

9. The substance of Hadassah’s education material reflects the Hadassah charter and the Jerusalem Program. We welcome any and all suggestions. Please send us your ideas.

10. Hadassah is run by volunteer leaders. A Hadassah national president has a full-time job which requires daily attendance at her desk. The head or “director” of every department is a volunteer. We will welcome any suggestions which would help make it possible to give desk assignments to people who cannot come to the national office on a daily basis. Other organizations may function with part-time presidents and professionals who stand in for her. We do not.

Hadassah’s immediate past president, Rose Matzkin, was from outside the metropolitan New York area. At considerable personal expense, she leased an apartment in New York City for the period of her presidency. This enabled her to cover her desk. Regrettably, the Hadassah Administration budget cannot support such an expenditure.

11. Your suggestions for task forces are excellent. We will pursue them.

12. We cannot accept Ms. Lieberman’s sexist guide to personnel recruitment. Hadassah will continue to employ the best qualified personnel, be they male or female.

Aline Kaplan
Executive Director
New York, NY

Betty Lieberman replies:

Aline Kaplan is paid and living in New York City. Betty Lieberman is a volunteer living in Milwaukee. The goal of my article was not to debate, point by point, her truths vs. my truths, but rather to raise the consciousness of women volunteers and their organizations. I wrote about Hadassah because I know it best. I also believe it is the largest and most visible Jewish women’s organization and a model for others.

Are we really making the most of our Jewish womanpower—or have we used the male model for our organizations, a model which builds on the myth of female inadequacies and limited capabilities and interests?

It is important for women to listen to each other. We must not dissipate our energies proving each other wrong. We must search together for new ways to enrich women and our organizations.

Dear Editor:

If you can awaken the Jewish women to fact that they are entitled to day’s pay for a day’s work —you will have accomplished a good deal. I find “fund raisers” especially unaware of their worth— their zeal covers up their need to know what the “job market” calls for. The day of the “Lady Bountiful”do-gooder is over.

Helen M. Klar
(retired teacher, age 75)
New York, NY

To the Editor:

I am a 25-year-old marketing professional, and a very active member of my Junior Hadassah group. I was particularly interested in your issue on volunteerism because I head a task force for the New York Chapter on attracting more young women.

The articles by Paula Hyman and Betty Lieberman left me with mixed feelings. While I consider myself a feminist, I do not consider it the task of a Zionist organization, whatever gender its constituents, to “champion the cause of Jewish women.” However, as an organization interested in its own continued successful operation, it Is imperative that we utilize modern management techniques and recognize the need to involve the entire leadership of the organization in the decision-making process. If this results, as Ms. Lieberman suggests it might, in the implementation of affirmative-action policies in Hadassah installations, kol-ha-kavod! But, much as I would like to see Jewish women as a whole, and Hadassah women in specific, more active in the realm of feminism and politics, I do not view this as the function of our organization.

Hadassah supports many critical projects and installations in Israel, projects without which the State would have suffered. … Millions of dollars are required to support these projects and it is the primary function of Hadassah to provide these funds. Raising millions of dollars through volunteer efforts is a challenging and difficult task requiring much time and energy. In view of the fact that our membership will have less and less time to devote to the organization, we must learn to focus in on the task at hand. If, in the process, we can also manage to improve the situation for women here and in Israel, wonderful! But we must not lose sight of our raison d’etre.

K. Shelly Porges
Task Force on Young Women
New York Chapter, Hadassah
New York, NY

To the Editors:

As a very actively involved member of Women’s American ORT, a major American Jewish organization, I would like to respond to some of the statements and implications made by Ms. Hyman.

She states: “Jewish women’s organizations still do valuable work. But power and prestige in the Jewish community, for the most part, lie elsewhere. …” Although this may have been traditionally true, I believe that there is a move in a new direction in understanding the impact that mass-membership organizations can and do have. Within the past year, Women’s American ORT and Hadassah have become representative members of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC). … Additionally, Women’s American ORT is represented on the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, in the American Association of Jewish Educators, and on the United States UNESCO Committee of 100. .. .1 believe that W.A.O. is very much a part of decision making, even on the national level.

I disagree with Ms. Hyman’s statement that “working women are actively discouraged from entering volunteer work because so many meetings are scheduled during working hours. “ W. A. 0. has accepted the challenge of today’s women and is actively involved in adapting organizationally to meet their needs. Not only have many meeting times been changed from afternoon to evening, but new chapters have been chartered which are geared specifically to the needs and interests of the working women.

W.A.O. demands a great deal of its active membership, and the skills which its leadership acquires are sophisticated organizational skills. Today, as I personally look for a “paying” job to help supplement my family’s income, I am self-confident, I know that I possess good organizational and managerial skills, and I know that I will be a valuable employee. This is attributable, without question, to my training in W.A.O.

I also take exception to Ms. Hyman’s remark about Jewish women’s organizations’ power being in the “hands of the paid administrative staff and a thin stratum of upper-echelon volunteer leaders on the national level.” Every single area of W.A.O. in this entire country elects National Board members to represent that area at national meetings. All costs to attend these meetings are sub-vented by the organization, thereby allowing any member to participate at that level of organization.

Margie Siegel
President, Toledo Area Council
Women’s American ORT
Toledo, OH

To The Editors:

Referring to Ms. Cantor’s statement that women do volunteer work “… to seek the sense of self-worth missing in their lives. …” Ms. Cantor seems to feel that the error these women are making is in seeking a feeling of self-worth through volunteerism, where they will only continue to be frustrated. If they were allowed to take part in the decision-making process, and were well paid, they would then achieve the self-esteem they are seeking. In fact, they would be equally frustrated, because it is a contradiction in terms to seek self-worth from external sources.

Laura Rosenbaum
Huntington Beach, CA


I am 94 and active in many social and economic movements, essentially Jewish, in Canada. … I followed in my European, knowledgeable mother’s footsteps.

I am delighted with the valuable insight and important information your magazine offers to help Jewish women and women generally. I agree with your estimation. I am grateful to women like Henrietta Szold, Sarah Kussey, Jane Addams, Agnes McPhail others.

I find the [progress of the] cause discouraging, but knowledge keeps me strong.

Ida Lewis Siegel
Toronto, Ont.

To the Editors:

As part of my Southern California Department of Corrections Prison Ministry, I spend one day a week as Rabbi of the Jewish Sisterhood of the California Institution for Women (Frontera), the only women’s prison in California. Our Sisterhood, small but vital, consists of about twelve, half of whom are Jewish and the rest “students.” Their custody is anywhere from minimum to maximum. Average age: mid-twenties.

Our women were introduced to your stimulating and thoughtful magazine with the article “Jewish Women in Prison,” which provided not only meat for several stimulating discussions but a feeling of mutual- Jewish-women-in-distress.

While that article dealt with Jewish inmates on the east coast, the experience of the women here is quite comparable: alienation — where does the Jew fit in the White, Black and Chicano power structure? —the stigma of the Jewish community outside—are there really Jews in prison? —and insufficient Jewish resources for help in all areas of need, except for the food goodies on the holidays packaged by anonymous Sisterhoods, none of whom have ever indicated the slightest interest in visiting these forgotten women. (The good Chassidim, always and ever of the poor and distressed, are the blessed exception, delivering their shalach manot (Purim gifts) and shmurah (specially watched-over) matzah hand to hand, heart to heart.)

How happy our Sisterhood was to know that at least one Jewish magazine not only acknowledged their existence but was thoughtful enough to write an objective and sympathetic article from the “inside.” This letter comes to you as a grateful response for your article: we want to keep in touch and let you know how we are doing.

Rabbi Mel Silverman, Jewish Chaplain
California Institution for Men
California Institution for Women
California Rehabilitation Center
Chino, CA

Dear Editors:

Aviva Cantor’s otherwise excellent article [“TV’s ‘Holocaust’: A Sellout to Assimilation,” #5] has one central shortcoming. “Holocaust” ultimately does not imply that “Assimilation Saves.” Rather, the actual message (intended or otherwise) is that assimilation does not save us….

In portraying the demise of an assimilated family, the authors are really implying that “it can happen here.” On the first night of the show, Berta Weiss says, “We’re good Germans, nothing can happen to us” (I’m quoting from memory). Three nights later, as it were, she and the rest of her family (except Rudi) are dead. Assimilation saves?

Ms. Cantor seems to be conscious of this tension: “Even the other Weisses, assimilated as they were (Ms. Cantor dismisses their assimilatedness in one subordinate clause) were still more Jewish than Rudi. …” In what ways were they “more Jewish”? Berta Weiss proclaims herself a “good German.” Her father marches around in his German Army uniform. And Karl, who perishes in Theresienstadt, opens “Holocaust” by marrying a blonde gentile German woman-while Rudi’s wife is Jewish, a Zionist, and quotes Hebrew scripture.

Ms. Cantor correctly documents many of “Holocaust’s” flaws. But the “Family Weiss'” fate teaches us that a Jew is a Jew, whether in the yeshivot of Minsk or the drawings rooms of Berlin … or the suburbs of New York and Los Angeles. I don’t know if this is what the authors actually intended. Indeed, Ms. Cantor may be correct in ascribing to Gerald Green et. al. the opposite motive. But for a year now I’ve wondered if the fictional family name was selected at random: is not the lesson of “Holocaust” that even “white” (Weiss) Jews became black ashes at Auschwitz?

Rabbi Stephen Listfield
Washington, DC

Dear Editors:

I agreed with Aviva Cantor’s excellent polemic on “Holocaust,” but I wonder whether she does not have some ambivalence about the Jew-as-Scholar and the Jew-as-Fighter. On the one hand, she rails against assimilation, which she implies is an acceptance of “goyish” macho values; on the other hand, she is not very happy with the soft, gentle non-macho scholarly Jew.

Assimilation, naturally, is more complex than this. It is possible, I hope, to be both tender and tough, both a scholar and a fighter, both a committed Jew and an activist. And I agree that Gerald Green and the others responsible for the script are confused about their own Jewish identities and their role as Jews in a powerful medium like television. Could Aviva comment a bit more on this tension between fighter-scholar, Jew-Goy? It is a difficult tight-rope to walk, for an individual as well as a people.

Jack Nusan Porter
Visiting Lecturer,
Dept. of Sociology
University of Lowell
Lowell, MA

To the editors,

Aviva Cantor’s article made a very strong impression. When I saw the TV production I cringed because it was so much like shabby soap opera that it did no justice to the truth or to the memory of the millions we lost. But Ms. Cantor’s superb analysis carried the examination a step further and showed that the shortcomings were not just random errors of fact or of artistic skill. They were definite symptoms of the moral, intellectual and Judaic limitations of the authors and also of much of American Jewry.

This excellent article deserves to be read by all who seriously viewed this TV production to provide much needed balance, instruction and insight. May I respectfully suggest that you offer this article to other journals in Jewish affairs for re-publication. It is also valuable for serious discussion groups.

I plan to circulate the article among the rabbis of the three synagogues in my community. Thanks to Ms. Cantor and the dedicated editors and staff of LILITH for this article and for a courageous and valuable magazine much needed in the Jewish community.

Bertram Cohen
Poughkeepsie, NY

Dear Editor:

Many thanks for the stirring article, “Our Soviet Sisters” by Susan C. Dessel (Kol Ishah, #5). Protests are beginning to work. As of this writing, two of the women refuse-niks listed, Irene Gildengorn and Larissa Vilenskaya, have received official promises of exit visas.

Glenn Richter
National Coordinator
Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry
New York, NY


Your voice must, indeed, be raised if we want to restore justice to the basic value of Judaism.

Perhaps you would be more effective through less bitterness, suspicion and individualism.

The wish for fruitfulness, for instance, is definitely more than a mere plot of male leaders against Jewish feminism [see “The Population Panic” by Shirley Frank, #4].

Instead of merely fighting for individual fulfillment, Jewish women would do good to outline a modern Jewish family and society ethos integrating equality and notions of rights with the traditional ethos of excellence and duties.

Prof. Zev W. Falk
Jerusalem, Israel


In your article on ERA [Kol Ishah, #5], you mentioned that 15 states had not yet ratified.

Enemies of ERA keep telling ridiculous stories to gullible members of our society. Women should know that if they have equality they don’t have to go to war or not be supported by their husbands when they walk out or be required to go to work full time.

The Amendment reads: Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Isn’t it pitiful that people should fear this?

Also … the needlework piece of mine which you photographed for #5’s Letters page was incorrectly titled. It was to have been called “The Liberated Woman’s Canvas” and is a satire on being liberated, what with all the contraceptives and the female’s constant and daily concern with her sexuality. Each day she worries if she is pregnant or if she is not pregnant. The inclusion of the mirror is to help the viewer to figure out how they fit into the picture.

Ita Aber
Yonkers, NY

Dear Editors,

I am honored with the page “LILITH’s Choice” [LILITH, #5| in recognition of the work I am doing, and encouraged in my adventure with Judaic papercuts. I would like to correct and expand on some of the information given.

Historically, it was the men who were involved in papercuts. Cheder-boys, Melamdim, belters, scribes and old men worked intricate or simpler patters enhanced with quotations and water-colors. Most prominent were the “mizrachs” and “shivite” to mark the Eastern wall, often given as gifts.

The “Kimpet-Briv” were made by cheder-boys, who would come into the homes of women about to give birth, say prayers for them and the children to come, put up the “Kimpet-Briv” on the walls and leave.

“Ushpizin” ate Succah decorations with a special text from Genesis of what Abraham said to the angels (disguised as poor people) inviting them to eat and drink; thus it invites all who are hungry to join in the Succah feast.

I have been told by women who are grandmothers today that they recall making “reyzelech” with embroidery scissors together with their grandmothers to decorate the windows in the Polish shtetls for Shavuot.

Jewish papercuts have a full and widely-travelled history, rich in ethnic lore. From the specimens that survive we see it permitted an outlet for visual expression that reflected the life of the Jewish people.

Tzirl Waletzky
Bronx, NY