Lilith Feature

Readers Respond

Jewish Girls and African-American Nannies

I cannot tell you how the article on Jewish girls and African-American Nannies [Winter 2002-2003] affected me. All my feelings about “my Lucy” were expressed. My only regret is that I did not know until only a few years ago that Lucy did not know how to read and write. How could I not have known? When she died last year, her friend called me and told me that she was surrounded by pictures of my children and grandchildren. My own guilt, over having her with me when her own children and grandchildren did not, was lessened when in her eulogy it was stated that her happiest years were those when she lived with us. Those of us that had the privilege of those wonderful women in our lives have truly been blessed.

by Barbara Rucket, Atlanta, GA

“African-American Nannies and Jewish Girls” was rich. Thank you for having the courage to really look at how we live and give voice to so many unspoken and unexamined issues. Your articles are always relevant to what’s going on in the world and what’s going on in me. I can see the wide and varied uses of your message for the summer camp where I am a nurse, my temple Sisterhood, the same temple’s adult education, and post-confirmation programming, and my college-aged son.

by Lisa Jablon, Baltimore, MD

Naming Ourselves

My name is Karen Libman; my husband’s name is Mitch Kachun, and we are the proud parents of Michelle (13) and Silas (9) Kachman, their last name a combination of their parents’ last names. To me, their name reflects who they are- a combination of both of us.

I have never understood why women—smart, funny, feminist women—agree to give their male partner’s name to their children, even while keeping their own. Our resolution to the naming issue is, for my entire family, one we really agree on and that gives us continuous pleasure.

by Karen Libman, Allendale, MI

My husband and I have observed Jewish religious traditions in a way that incorporates our moral values about daily life and feminism.

After reading Debra Rubin’s article “A Paradox of Jewish Inheritance” [Winter 2002-03], referring to her brother’s pidyon ha’ben, I wanted to share the decision my husband and I made when our daughter was born. We wanted to honor our firstborn in traditional Jewish terms, with the same reverence we would have accorded a son. At her naming and with our rabbi, we performed a pidyon ha ‘bat. We want her to come up in the world knowing that she is a Jew, a human being, and equal. Period.

by Elizabeth Schwartz, New York, NY

Debra Rubin’s mother didn’t have to “take it upon herself to decide” that she need not have a pidyon ha ‘ben for her firstborn male child. According to halacha, the daughters as well as the sons of kohanim and levi’im (married to Israelites) don’t have to redeem their first born It doesn’t make her brother a kohen, though, at least not according to the halakha.

At the Newton Center Minyan we are egalitarian in gender matters—women are full liturgical participants—but not in matters of status. So we still call up Kohen, Levi, Yisrael aliyot and offer them to both men and women. A woman who is the daughter of a Kohen or Levi father is called up as “so-and-so, daughter of [father’s name and mother’s name], bat Kohen/Levi”. Note, “bat Kohen,” not “Kohen.” By our reckoning, this status passes through the male line—as Jewish identity passes through the maternal line—so she is not a Kohen and doesn’t pass the status on to her children if she marries a Yisrael.

by Sherry Israel, Waltham, MA


Sue William Silverman asks, in “Praying for Protection” [Winter 2002-2003], whether abused Catholic children dreamed of safety in temples, I’d say “yes, I did.” I am a survivor of clergy sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and am now Jewish. I told my rabbi that I could now be around priests and even have normal conversations with them without having panic attacks. He observed this was probably because they no longer had any power over me.

I am of Irish/German Catholic background. It took me a while to acclimate to Judaism, but now I am the program director and rabbinic aide at my congregation and run Jewish Family Services. Three out of my four kids converted, also, and the oldest one (who did not, convert) works with me at the synagogue. We run the place.

by Regina Wurst, Fresno, CA


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