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Fall 2002

Three women appropriate the power of prayer in these takes on life’s sacred moments. “Mean girls:” why Jewish girls are especially implicated.  The stay-at-work mom tells all.

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In This Issue

Lilith Feature

The Mean Scene

Who are these new bad girls?

Lilith Feature

Prayer

Three Women Appropriate its Power

Lilith Feature

How Books Tell the World’s Bad News to Children

More Articles

Sort by: Features | From the Editor | Voices | Reviews | Happening | All

Reconstructionist Study Group

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We meet to consider God, But first, introductions all around. Adam,raised Orthodox, confesseshe ate his first bacon at Harvardand fell away from religion in the arms of a Methodist girl.A Catholic who married a Jewsays she loves the creative tensionbetween predestination and free will.I gave up God at eleven — when Motherfell ill — and... Read more »

The Power of Anger

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When I wrote Cain and Abel: Finding the Fruits of Peace, I wanted to tell a story about violence and murder in a way that does not frighten children, but helps them understand the powerful emotion of anger and its potential dangers. I wanted to help children know Cain not as the personification of evil... Read more »

Between Hopes and Reality

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I’m not afraid of sad stories, because sadness is born from the clash between hopes and reality. Jewish tradition is based on asking questions and not taking things for granted. Moses, Jonah, Job and others dared to argue with God. Jewish learning in hevruta, too, consists of learning by arguing. I think that this tradition... Read more »

Don’t Plant Seeds of Despair

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I write mainly for adults, but of my four novels for young people two depict traumatic situations. Storm Among the Palms (1975), for example, describes how during the Second World War, while for a short period in Iraq there was a pro-Nazi government, there was a frightening pogrom against the ancient Jewish community of Baghdad.... Read more »

Discovering Hatred

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Once, when giving a talk about my book. Heather Has Two Mommies, a lesbian mom asked me when I thought she should tell her child that some people hate lesbians. How tragic that a parent has to even think about this issue! Her question made me try to remember the first time I learned that... Read more »

War in a Picture Book?

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Last year when I was teaching children’s book writing in Tirana, Albania, a writer from Kosovo asked me how I would deal with war in a picture book. I replied that I wouldn’t deal with it. I think children under stress need stories that emphasize close family relationships, stories with humor, and with characters who... Read more »

Forget Bibliotherapy

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Because I’m a former children’s librarian I have a very strong opinion about biblio therapy—using books to treat or solve problems. I do not believe that a children’s book should be used to explain the current bad news to children any more than I would give a book about death to a youngster who has just lost... Read more »

Pain Is a Teacher

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As a Jewish and black writer, confronting evil is something that has been an element of my work since To Be A Slave (1969). Jewish and black children have experienced the world’s evil in their own flesh, and telling their stories may make it easier for children to have a context for the evils of today’s world.... Read more »

Hope After the Holocaust

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My Yiddish name is Riva. I was born in Lodz, Poland. I was thirteen years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and filled my life with pain and horrors. I lost my mother, my three younger brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers and friends. I survived, and share my past with young people through my books—The... Read more »

Truth Soothes

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I am the editor of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, books that chronicle the lives of three resourceful, charming siblings who are extremely unlucky. After their parents perish in a terrible fire, the orphans are shuffled from one inadequate guardian to the next, with an evil count in constant pursuit of their inheritance.... Read more »

Transmitting Determination

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Our Jewish past is a deep pit covered with fragile wrapping, and if once our goal was to deny the existence of this pit, and to hide its terribleness from young, readers, today this tendency is reversed. In my book The Heart That Sought and the Heart That Found, (Winner of the Yad Vashem Prize,... Read more »

Struggles of Underdogs

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When writing for teens, I always try to speak in a voice that’s a hundred percent honest. Sometimes embarrassingly honest. We can hide from the pain in our lives (and in the world) and try to pretend it isn’t there, but as Robert Frost said, “The only way round is through.” We’ve got to go... Read more »

History Helps

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The essential is hope. There are many trying situations that we can struggle through if we have hope that things can perhaps get better. The process of writing is in itself a struggle to arrive at this human understanding. It is almost a metaphor for dealing with the difficulties we face in life. I enjoy... Read more »

Cry for Someone Else

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How do books tell the world’s bad news to children? The answer that comes first to my mind is “inadvertently!” While writing The Endless Steppe, I never thought of it as bad news. It was a personal story of our hardships during World War II and of our survival against heavy odds. I did not try... Read more »

Kaddish as Magical Incantation

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The worst news is that nobody is going to get out of this world alive, but I don’t like to advertise that. My own grandchildren are very conscious of death. Noam, at four, told me “You see, Bubie, life is so great and so wonderful and that’s why I don’t want to die, because when... Read more »

Every Child Imagines Orphanhood

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The great success of Harry Potter I attribute, among other things, to the fact that this series goes back to the principles of children’s literature of an earlier era, portraying orphanhood—every child imagines this sometimes— adventure and a struggle with evil. Here is a true story. About two years ago an Israeli child was kidnapped... Read more »

Bad News from the Start

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From her initial gestation in the womb to her emergence into a widening orbit—a world of air, sound, light, concrete and abstract objects and the presence of other living creatures—a human child is (despite our myths and idealizations to the contrary) unsafe. No infant grows unscathed. Even when lovingly parented, a child is imperfectly responded... Read more »

Children: Stronger Than We Think

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In our chaotic world of violent and brutal changes children need stories that will awaken in them such notions as fear and sadness. These emotions offer a catharsis that children cannot find in happiness. Children are a lot stronger than we tend to think and they are able to deal with the many faces of the... Read more »

Heroines Overcome their Demons

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I’m usually a happy-ending writer, and I’ll probably go on being one. My worlds have troubles and villains, but I control the balance, so that my heroine stands a chance of overcoming her demons. However, the danger for me is that as our real world becomes more grim, my imagined worlds and my happy endings... Read more »

No Brainwashing

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If I were writing about this now for children, I would first of all tell the truth, but avoid heightening it too sensationally the way the media does for adults. I would try to raise the point of view of the other, the one who attacks us and kills us, to clarify a little, to... Read more »

Beware Sentimental Tripe

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Especially in times of troubles, the desire to help is overwhelming and, of course, a writer’s best way of helping is with a story. However, it is important to remember that readers, especially child readers, bring their own baggage along to any story. The message a writer thinks she is imparting is not necessarily the... Read more »

Nursing in Shul

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Mendelsohn gives us traditional Jewish texts we’ve never really considered before, all about breasts and their natural uses. Plus…Rabbi Susan Schnur in conversation with Susan Weidman Schneider on God-the-Breast and more.

A Quiet Ritual for Burying the Baby’s Placenta

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When the time feels just right, Grossman goes modestly out into the chill evening air and says a prayer to honor the tissues which sustained her baby daughter in the womb.

Bound for Glory: Females in Phylacteries

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How an otherwise non-religious woman finds herself transformed by tefillin 

The Stay-at-Work Mom

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True confessions from an executive woman who sets the bar very high, finds her husband can’t scale it, and makes other arrangements.

Set to Rise

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A floury memoir 

How One Jewish Camp Helps

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The “mean girls” issue is nothing new to Habonim-Dror, a progressive Labor-Zionist youth movement with seven summer camps across North- America. Modeled after the kibbutz system, Habonim-Dror camps are based on communal values, striving to create environments in which co-operation, social justice and self-fulfillment are more than just catch-phrases. This is not to say that... Read more »

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