Surviving Incest

I want to thank LILITH for the articles on incest in Holocaust families [Winter ’93]. I was interested in the writer’s feeling that her father’s abuse may have been a result of his victimization by the Nazis. Wouldn’t it be helpful to try and find out if he had been sexually abused before the Holocaust, perhaps by a family member? We can only wonder at the terrible legacy left to the Jewish family by pogroms, etc.

Lilith Goldberg’s article “Surviving Incest in a Holocaust Family” is the most horrendous incest story imaginable. The male protagonist’s behavior deserves no excuse whatsoever. He obviously always was and will be pure trash, along with his wife, the mother, who evidently was a silent observer.

SHE should have killed the beast.

I regret that you saw fit to publish this article. It sullies the reputation of honorable survivors who built exemplary lives “against all odds.”

by Diane Trachtenberg and Renee L. Brandeis

Inheriting Fur Coats

Another perspective should be added to “Inheriting Fur” [Winter ’93], and I have my mother, Sybil, to thank for it. She donated her fur to an animal-rights advocacy group, a decision that made me the beneficiary of clear thinking and compassion. Remembering what my mother did, and why, keeps me warm in the winter and free of the “complicated feelings” that accompany those coats in the closet!

The subtitle to your article “Inheriting Fur: Nostalgia vs. Politics” led me to expect an intelligent debate on the issue. I was very disappointed and very angry at the attention given to the “Nostalgia” end of the issue, which was covered ad nauseum to the total exclusion of any of the conscientious reasons people feel as I do.

One quote from your introduction screams a lack of sensitivity and a real denseness on the issue: “it is unclear that fur is any worse than leather. . . . ” Leather is a by-product of a food source. The day we stop eating meat will be the day I stop wearing leather.

by Sheri Meisel and Elissa D. Timoner

Sex Toys

As someone who enjoys both LILITH and Good Vibrations, the sex toy shop in San Francisco, I was happy to see an ad for it in your magazine [Summer ’92]. I can vouch for Good Vibrations’ being a feminist store, catering largely to women, in a clean, safe environment. In response to your reader who protested the ad, saying LILITH is “aimed at raising the intellectual and spiritual consciousness of Jewish women,” I’d like to ask: When does any kind of ad raise consciousness? Ads are there to publicize a product or service, and for the journal to make money. I have no problem with a feminist journal selling space to a feminist store. Also, before you criticize, you should go to Good Vibrations, or get their catalog (which includes books and videos). You may find it to be, as I did, a very enlightening, and yes, spiritual experience!

by Ann Abrams

Women Philanthropists

There are some powerful insights and observations in Susan Weidman Schneider’s article on “Jewish Women’s Philanthropy” [Winter ’93].

What bothers me, however, is the expectation that the brunt of the responsibility for increasing fundraising among women lies with the fundraising organizations. Out of the “10 steps into the future of Jewish women’s philanthropy” nine are directed at organizations, one at women themselves. I find that ultimately demeaning.

When we are adamant in declaring that women’s brains are not so different from men’s that they can’t learn and teach Gemarah [Talmud], why should we fall into the trap of implying that women’s sense of tzedakah [charity] is so different that they are only interested in supporting their “sisters , ” not their “whole families?” That somehow it excuses them from giving at the same levels to the total community as the men who have the same income?

After explaining the sociological and psychological reasons why women have not yet responded to these needs in proportion to their own real capacities, we have to challenge them to do so.

You acknowledge that “women aren’t asked to give enough”—but they are usually asked by other women. By the way, I’m surprised at how many independent business women still allow themselves to be included under their husbands’ gift accounts; even when it’s “their own money” that is supporting the gift! To me, both these phenomena point to the fact that women need to grow and change their self-perceptions and self-expectations, perhaps more than the charitable organizations need to re-package their wares.

That federations have been trying to respond to the special psyche and behavior of today’s women is attested to by the proliferation of “Business and Professional Women’s Divisions” across the country. Why are women able to get to the top in the fields of medicine, law, and business, but continue to feel themselves unequal to competing with men in the field of tzedakah?

At UJA, we have created Women of Distinction, a program I staff, so that business and professional women with national stature can become the kind of philanthropic role models you note are sorely needed.

Our vision is a “fast track” program to get top notch women into positions of communal power, which we feel is a two-way deal:

1. UJA/Federations will benefit enormously from the addition of these women to our leadership ranks.

2. The women themselves will benefit greatly by appropriately acknowledging their own responsibility toward meeting the needs of the Jewish community. If they do. they will become true members of the leadership team. No one can give them that responsibility, only they can take it.

by Judy Adler Sheer