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Fall 1996

Children of Black-Jewish marriages talk about identity and their double birthright. One strand of pearls knots a family together. Lilith’s idiosyncratic history poster.

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In This Issue

Lilith Feature

Sugar & Spice – and Beyond

We've rounded up Roseanne (yes, really!), Letty Cottin Pogrebin and a whole slew of other women -authors, performers, children's book mavens- to move us beyond sugar & spice to what they've loved (or shrunk from) in the Bible, The Diary of Anne Frank, Cinderella (not Jewish) and the steamy grown-up novels they'd read on the sly.   PLUS: A selected list of which books rated high on the Jewish scale, but lost points for no feminism, and vice versa. 

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Books for the 90s

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These books tackle issues which are only now the topics of public discussion with children: senility, body image, divorce. Many of them also portray Judaism infused with feminism, with mothers as rabbis and women taking major roles in the classic biblical tales. An idiosyncratic sampler: Belinda’s Bouquet (Alyson Publications, 1991), by Leslea Newman, handles the self-image... Read more »

Powerful Adolescent Girls

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Tragedy, courage, chance, loss and healing, fear and hope— women who survived the Holocaust as youngsters are telling their stories for young readers. Four Perfect Pebbles by Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan (Greenwillow, 1996); Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer (Atheneum, 1995); Hiding to Survive edited by Maxine B. Rosenberg (Clarion, 1994); and The Holocaust Lady by Ruth Minsky Sender (Macmillan, 1992) are... Read more »

Jewish (But Not Feminist)

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When we set out to re-examine the books which influenced us religiously, we needed to ask, where are the girls and women? Many otherwise good books wound us with their absence of female characters. Although these works were very important to our development as Jews, the Judaism they model is incomplete. Chaim Potok, for example, gives us... Read more »

Feminist (But Not Jewish)

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While discussing in the LILITH office the young adult books that influenced us the most, we were all struck—despite the wide range in our ages—by the incompleteness of many of the books we’d read. Lots of our favorite books had strong female role models, but no Jewish content. Others had powerful Jewish characters, but were... Read more »

Finding Else Ury’s Suitcase at Auschwitz

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When I was a child in Germany in the 1930s, Else Ury was the most popular author of children’s books, credited with close to forty publications. Her most popular series of books was Nesthaekchen, or Fledgling, a detailed ten-volume chronicle. The books were best-sellers, eagerly read by children growing up in the turbulent days of Hitler’s rise... Read more »

Israeli Bedtime Stories

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My new immigrant mother and father didn’t read any bedtime stories. But, before putting out the light they recalled strange tales of Eastern Europe, where they were born. I could envision everything: a river frozen in the winter (I hadn’t ever seen snow), dark woods (I saw only pines planted by the Jewish National Fund),... Read more »

Roseanne (Yes!) on Yidn in Utah

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Growing up Jewish in Utah was a kind of Diaspora experience of its own. The Bible is quoted from regularly, and is often at the heart of even casual conversation. I pored over it, looking for examples that upset prevailing logic, such as the passage in Genesis that says, “The sons of God visited themselves... Read more »

At Last, Jewish Fairy Tales

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The stories I loved best as a child were fairy tales, mostly from Andrew Lang’s color fairy books. There was little there from the Jewish tradition. And so when I finally discovered Isaac Bashevis Singer’s books—like Zlateh the Goat—as an adult, and later the folk tale collections by Howard Schwartz and Peninnah Schram, I had,... Read more »

Jewish Before I Was American

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My grandparents, my aunt, uncle, two cousins, my parents and I lived in one Williamsburg, Brooklyn brownstone until the early 30s. I spoke Yiddish before I learned English. I was taught to read and write in Hebrew and in Yiddish. Aunt Dora generously shared her public library books of Yiddish poetry and stories with me.... Read more »

Deborah & Letty

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I was most influenced by my bat mtzvah haftarah reading, the story of Deborah. It was February 1952; I was not quite 13. I had never’ encountered Deborah in Hebrew school. I’d only learned about the matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and Queen Esther, but here was a woman who was in the Tanakh in her... Read more »

Please Write One More…

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All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown; More All-of-a-Kind Family; All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown ;Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family When I was seven I wrote to Sydney Taylor, asking her to write another novel. Turn-of-the-century heroines Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie showed me that as a Jewish female I had not only a history but a literary tradition as well. These... Read more »

The Book under My Pillow

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When my beloved grandmother died, I was inconsolable. However, the book Bubby, Me and Memories by Barbara Pomerantz (UAHC Press, 1983) was a great comfort. The book is illustrated with photos, and I looked at them over and over, amazed that there in a book was a little girl who looked like me. I pasted photos of me and... Read more »

Poor Marjorie Morningstar!

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When I was a teenager, I read Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar. Poor Marjorie! She gave her virginity away before marriage and was made to pay for her mistake. Poor me! I believed that Marjorie deserved to be punished! I also remember envying her Central Park West existence, with its horseback riding. I thought all Jewish... Read more »

Searching for Jewish Clues

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Nancy Drew wasn’t Jewish. Neither were The Bobbsey Twins, Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or my all-time favorites, Betsy, Tacy and Tib (by Maud Hart Lovelace). In fact, there was not a single Jewish child in any book that I read during the 1940’s. Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a Kind Family wasn’t... Read more »

Jewish Rabbits

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Richard Adams’ Watership Down: to the untrained eye, a beautiful and sophisticated fable about rabbits. Fiver, naturally, is Herzl. Sensing the oncoming destruction of the home warren (Europe), our feverish visionary leads a daring few in search of a new homeland. Rejecting the invitation to join a golden diaspora of a warren, a place which dangerously distorts... Read more »

The Impact of Reality

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When I was nine years old, I ordered a biography of Adolf Hitler from the Scholastic Book Club. I read it in one mesmerized, horrified sitting. It was my first graphic exposure to the horrors of the Holocaust, and when I finished it, I burst into tears. Nothing I read before had given me such... Read more »

God Will Have to Allow It

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Stories by I. L. Peretz influenced me greatly when I was a child. In “Peace at Home,” Chaim, a poor porter, is assured a place in paradise by his rabbi. When he asks, “And what about my wife. Rabbi?” the rabbi replies that his wife will become his footstool. Upon returning home, Chaim puts his arm... Read more »

Sarah Was My Soulmate

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All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor, wasn’t so much read as lived. It’s a nostalgic book, but little kids are susceptible to nostalgia. Like the all-of-a-kind sisters themselves, I wasn’t able to buy books but instead borrowed them from the library. Somehow we happened to own this book. I read it an uncountable number of times, so... Read more »

Uh oh! Babar Celebrates Christmas

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Anne Frank’s soulful eyes stared straight out at me from the cover of her diary. The dust-jacket copy promised that it was a story of puberty, of adolescence and much more. Later, I looked these words up. “Eight is too young for a book like this, choose a more appropriate book,” the temple librarian advised... Read more »

Something Good from Hebrew School

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It was 1960, and I had never heard of Chanah Senesh, a Hungarian born poet who lived in Eretz Yisrael and parachuted behind Nazi lines in World War II. When my Hebrew school teacher handed me her biography, Chanah Senesh by Aharon Megged, little did I suspect that she would soon become my role model and her... Read more »

On Yom Kippur When My Stomach Growls

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Each year when I fast on Yom Kippur, I think of Charlotte, the second-to youngest sister of Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series. Charlotte only lasted until lunch before Mama insisted she wait until she was a big girl to fast all day, but her morning of fasting was serious business both for Charlotte and for me. The All-of-a-Kind Family girls were... Read more »

So I Had to Write it Myself

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Stories for Jewish children were few and far between 20 years ago. Some “Jeremy and Judy” stories had Jewish content, but lacked plot. Even fewer spoke to a child’s feelings and experiences. We needed new stories. I decided to try my hand at writing an erev Yom Kippur story that reflected the feeling of my own family getting... Read more »

Safe in America

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1. The Diary of Anne Frank, because its writer was still a young girl and showed this safe. American Jew a different, horrendous world of the persecuted Jew. I also loved Anne’s honesty about her sexuality. 2. Little Women, because Jo was a strong woman and a writer—which I longed to be—while considered a misfit, which I felt was... Read more »

They were all Orthodox

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For years I couldn’t make gefilte fish without thinking of K’tonton sitting on the chopping blade—a story [by Sadie Rose Weilerstein] I had read myself as a child and later shared with my children. All-of-a-Kind Family sparking dreams of being in a large, loving family that celebrated all the holidays with joy. Rereading both books today brings... Read more »

Girls Who Thought about Sex

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As a child, my reading material was mainly Little Women, The Bobbsey Twins, and other stories about good Christian girls. Then I started to dip into the adult books behind the locked glass doors in the secretary desk. There I discovered The Old Bunch by Meyer Levin, that bawdy (for the Thirties), irreverent look at a Jewish... Read more »

Liberating God

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Artist Helene Aylon’s visual midrash on Genesis, in which she edits misogyny, patriarchy and other "cruelty" from the text.

The New Identity Challenge

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TWO OR THREE TIMES A WEEK, on the Streets of San Francisco complete strangers walk up to Lisa Feldstein and ask, “What are you?” She’s not Indian, South American, Puerto Rican or—her favorite suggestion—French. The child of a black Christian woman and a white Jewish man from an Orthodox family, she usually gives them a... Read more »

The Parable of the Carpenter and His Daughter

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(OR: The Carpenter and Her Father.) A parable for the New Year and after, all about learning to separate, and discovering what happens to a daughter if you please. And if you don’t please.

My Grandmother’s Pearls

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A strand of pearls becomes a strand of memory which knots together thievery, resentment, and the sorrow of a Holocaust survivor trying to correct his past. The granddaughter finds it all out on her Junior year in Israel.

Letters

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JEWISH MALE SPERM FOR YOUR CHOICE In response to the Spring 1996 article by Terese Loeb Kreuzer, “Jewish Single Mothers—by Choice,” I wonder if you might send me the address of the newsletter Single Mothers by Choice, mentioned on page 31. I am hoping to find Jewish women who are looking for Jewish donors and where... Read more »

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