Women in the Arts

Comedian Lotus Weinstock entertains on Friday night because her work — making people laugh on Shabbat — is performing “a mitzvah.”

This was just one of the comments heard during the third annual conference on Creator and her Creation: Jewish Women in the Arts held in November 1988 in Los Angeles. Panelists Judith Margolis (painter), Alice Bloch (author), Susan Merson (artistic producer) and Lotus Weinstock (entertainer, see Lilith #16) shared their answers to the question, “Are the words ‘Jewish, woman, artist’ inherently conflictual?”

The response from the panelists was: “Not exactly.” Judith Margolis explained that the rhythm of her observant Jewish lifestyle — “the distinction between the work week and Sabbath and the separation between my husband and me according to traditional laws — provides me with psychic privacy needed for the creative process.”

For Margolis and other women, the conflict between being a Jew and an artist is less acute than being an artist and a woman. Margolis said, “Some young women attending the conference seemed stuck in ‘the new traditionalism’ and felt they were faced with the either/or choice of creative career versus family.”

Theater producer Susan Merson summed up the purpose of the conference by saying that it “sought to empower Jewish women to use Jewish tradition to energize themselves as artists, and, at the same time, to encourage women to use their creative selves to explore Judaism.”