Lilith FeatureJewish Women’s Writing Groups
What We Write and Talk About In a (Shared) Room of Our Own
Sometimes, even hardcore feminists find themselves competing in a beauty contest.
“The Secrets” This film by Avi Nesher (“Turn Left at the End of the World”) is set in Israel’s sacred city of Tzfat with its New Age element, and has an unusual soundtrack of female voices lifted in prayerful song. After her mother’s death, Naomi, the learned daughter of a rabbi, postpones her arranged marriage... Read more »
The nine moving and sophisticated autobiographies in My Future is in America: Autobiographies of Eastern European Jewish Immigrants (NYU Press, $25), translated and edited by Jocelyn Cohen and Daniel Soyer, provide new insights both into the experiences of the 2.5 million Eastern European Jews who migrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, and into how... Read more »
All of the characters in the connected stories by Danit Brown in Ask for a Convertible (Pantheon Books, $22.95), struggle to find an identity and a home for themselves. Chief among them is Osnat Greenberg, a hybrid Israeli-American whose dry and often hilarious voice guides us through most of this debut collection. Osnat is 13 when her Israeli mother... Read more »
A new scholarly biography, Let Me Continue to Speak the Truth: Bertha Pappenheim as Author and Activist (HUC Press, $34.95) by Elizabeth Loentz, takes the reader on an erudite journey to the world inhabited by German Jewish women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The multi-talented Bertha Pappenheim (1859-1936) was a social worker, author, playwright, poet,... Read more »
Marie Syrkin: Values Beyond the Self (Brandeis, $35), a biography by Carole S. Kessner, reveals a remarkable woman. Marie Syrkin, a leading Jewish public intellectual, was born in Switzerland in 1899. She became a gifted journalist, witty poet, influential American Zionist, and a beautiful, strong-minded woman admired by intellectuals and political leaders. Her mother, Bassya, had studied medicine... Read more »
New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future (Jewish Lights, $24.99), edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, is a sweeping exploration of feminism’s impact on contemporary Jewish life. The book is divided into seven sections — Theology, Ritual and Torah, Synagogue, Israel, Gender, Sexuality and Age, Women and the Denominations, and Leadership and Social Justice. The 41 contributors... Read more »
The first lines of a few of the stories in my little red book (Twelve, $14.99), edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, give some indication as to the subject of this collection: “I was ten at the time, and it was summertime.” “I was thirteen years, tall and lanky.” “I was eleven years old and the first of all my... Read more »
These days, it seems every mother — regardless of whether she breastfed a child — has strong feelings on the subject of breastfeeding. Unbuttoned: Women Open up About the Pleasure, Pains and Politics of Breastfeeding (Harvard Common Press, $14) is an anthology of essays that sets out to capture those emotions. The editors, Dana Sullivan and Maureen Connolly, enlisted 25 accomplished... Read more »
These days, real estate is all. Just prior to reading the fourth novel by journalist and novelist Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago, £11.99), I watched a British TV documentary about West London’s property market, referencing the area’s notorious 1960s slums, run by the infamous slum-lord, Peter Rachman — a Jew. I cringed, and wondered how... Read more »
The Believers, by Zoë Heller (HarperCollins, $25.95), is a slashing satire of New York’s liberal elite. Literary mavens tell you the old-fashioned novel is dead? Don’t believe it. If you love a sprawling good read with characters you come to know intimately and dilemmas you can understand, you will love this book. At once incisive and sometimes hilarious,... Read more »
Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance (St. Martin’s, $24.95) by Edgar M. Bronfman and Beth Zasloff appeared a few months ago, when the world looked rosier. In those halcyon days, pre-Madoff, pre-market meltdown, philanthropist Bronfman, and Zasloff, an alumna of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, set forth the areas of Jewish life where our energies should go,... Read more »
Conventional wisdom dictates that you should never shop for groceries while hungry. I would further advise that you not pick up a copy of Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love (Pantheon, $20) by Lara Vapnyar on an empty stomach — it is impossible not to crave a steaming bowl of borscht after dipping into Vapnyar’s latest literary... Read more »
Joyce Zonana, author of Dream Homes: From Cairo to Katrina, an Exile’s Journey (Feminist Press, $15.95), was 18 months old when she emigrated with her Egyptian-Jewish parents from Cairo to Brooklyn. She remembers nothing of her country of birth, and her parents — all but forced into exile amid a rising tide of anti- Semitism in 1950s Egypt... Read more »
If a superplague were released that would wipe out humanity, how would you spend your last days? Last Last Chance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25), the debut novel from Fiona Maazel, takes us through a world of wealthy druggies, dysfunctional families, and estranged lovers as they struggle with a world on the brink of catastrophe. With rollicking prose both... Read more »
A little woman made the worldHer bed,That great round globe.And it didn’t escape the worldThat a little womanLay resting on him.And he grew grasses into her lap,Wrapped her bodyWith leaves of grass.Carried her offAs he carries mountains and valleys,Lands and seas.And this very woman would whisper:O world—O bed of mine,O world—rivers and streams,Raging seas and... Read more »
Grandma was short and compact as a fire hydrant, with gray wavy hair swept straight back from her face, held with tortoise-shell combs. Her eyelids drooped as if weighted, and her eyes looked out from deep pouches. But they were kind eyes, mild and patient. Her cheeks were crosshatched with wrinkles. The pores on her nose... Read more »
The haunting memoir of two survivors who meet in a post-war Polish medical school, and learn in the most devastating way that not all scars are visible, nor can every ailment be treated.
But an astounding number of doctors who pioneered the 20th century’s birth control movement were Jewish women! Sometimes arrested for promoting contraception and sex-ed in neighborhood clinics, they paved the way for today’s repro-rights activists. Plus… Helen R. Cordes tells us how to mark the 50th anniversary of the Pill.
Uncovering female resistance to the Nazis, historian Stobl notices a modest self-dismissal: many of these women never identify their profoundly serious, courageous and - yes - defiant behaviors as actual fighting back. They shy away from being labeled heroes.
A short story, hilarious, poignant and graphic--in every sense--about a moment in middle school when a bat mitzvah-aged girl faced a crisis of sexual identity. Uh-oh. Grown-up, she's exactly the kind of girl she'd insisted she wasn't.
12 Writers in a Room
Raising My Voice
The Last Writers’ Group
Jewish Text Comes First… then Adrienne Rich
“If You Can Write It, I Can Write It, Too.”
For women who’ve decided to step away from their professions for a few years while caring for young children or elderly parents — but don’t want to lose ground when they do return to the workforce — figuring out an appropriate strategy can be tricky. Enter “returnships.” Similar in concept to career internships for high... Read more »
As a lifelong New Yorker and former chef and caterer who now directs the Graduate Program for Food Studies and Food Management at NYU, Professor Jennifer Berg knows her way around Big Apple cuisine. Leah Koenig caught up with Berg about Jewish food’s glory days, and why sushi might be the new knish. Your dissertation was titled From Pushcarts... Read more »
Barbara Margolies has taken a few leaps in her life. From elementaryschool teacher, to children’s book author, to intrepid world traveler. When you ask the Brooklyn-born mother of two how in 2003, at age 63, she began dedicating herself to helping African women suffering terrible physical and psychological wounds from obstetric complications, she shrugs. “Maybe because... Read more »
“You see? This is what happens when you don’t use sex toys,” 38-year-old Beverley Damelin joked, motioning to her burgeoning belly. Arrayed in front of the visibly pregnant Damelin were vibrators, all of which were for sale. But ratcheting up profits was not her goal for the evening. Unlike most sex-toy parties (think Tupperware soirees with dildos),... Read more »
While many traditional Jewish philanthropic organizations are in disarray as the economy falters and scandal shocks, three young Jewish women are proving that ingenuity and dedication may be more effective than an endowment or an investment portfolio. At 12, Talia Leman barely squeaks into the category of Jewish women. Leman responded to hurricanes Katrina and Rita by organizing... Read more »
A documentary film company run by Ellen Friedland sees its mission as documenting “unfolding” Jewish stories, and turning them into “educational programs on Jewish culture around the world.” Since 1997, JEMGLO (Jewish Education Multimedia Global Learning Outreach) has been making films on everything from Swiss Jewry’s attempt to deal with its own WWII history to a special... Read more »
Walking toward the Lilith office on a cold, wintry day last month, I noticed a woman in a nondescript old coat and flip-flops leaning against a Macdonald’s trash can unwrapping her bandaged foot. My heart went out to her, a person without even a pair of sneakers against the bitter weather. And then, as I... Read more »