Winter 2006-2007

Stars of Yiddish stage who are still wooing audiences.  Sex and suppression in ultra-Orthodox communities.  How three grieving mothers became activists. Women rabbis speak their minds.

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In This Issue

Lilith Feature

Losing a Child

How grief has fueled three mothers' activism

Lilith Feature


Women rabbis speak their minds

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Sylvia’s Spoon


Winner of Lilith's 2006 fiction contest.

Yiddish Divas Take the Stage


A photo essay spotlighting stars of the Yiddish stage, who in their 80s and 90s still woo and wow audiences.

The Presence of Women in the Rabbinate Challenged People to Think about God in a Different Way.


The unconscious projections people often made, imagining that God looked something like their older bearded grandfatherly rabbi, couldn’t happen with a woman rabbi. It followed that the masculine metaphors of our liturgy became inadequate and people became more thoughtful about how we speak toward a God who transcends gender. Women rabbis encouraged people to think... Read more »

We Were all Very Young, Most of us Fresh Out of College.


We were more accidental than intentional revolutionaries. We did not understand then that when you start out as the “first” anything, you always remain the “first.” If you were the first woman to be hired as an assistant in a congregation, you naturally would be the first woman to be made associate there. If you... Read more »

More than Thirty Years Ago, When People Heard that her Daughter was a Rabbinic Student, They would Say to My Mother, “She’s going to be a woman rabbi??”


My mother answered, “I don’t know what other land she could be.” I recall visiting a patient when I worked as a hospital chaplain, hearing “You’re a rabbi, but you don’t even have a beard.” I responded, “No, and I’m not circumcised, either.” In those days, as now, it helped to have a sense of... Read more »

I Received the Article from My Mother, Who Sent it to me in Jerusalem, Where I was Studying at Hebrew University during my Junior year in College.


As I wrote to Sally Priesand years later, it was that famous (infamous?) article from the New York Times in the Spring of 1972, entitled “Her Ambition Is to Become a Rabbi— and a Housewife.” I didn’t know then what I wanted to do after graduating from college. I was considering some kind of Jewish... Read more »

When I Arrived, I had No Place to Stay, for No One at the Jerusalem School would Co-sign a Paper Needed for a Pre-rental Agreement.


Somehow the feeling permeated the halls that I was a rich, bored housewife who would not be up to completing the first-year program. (I was greeted upon my arrival at the school by the Dean’s unforgettable words: “Oh, you’re that crazy woman I’ve heard about.”) My children and I lived in four unsatisfactory places until... Read more »

I Fear that the Epitaph on my Tombstone will Read “She was the One who Brought the Dildo to Reines’ Class.”


Indeed, those were the days. The days when, for my first seminary year, I was the only woman in the rabbinic program at HUG in Cincinnati. The days when Alvin Reines, z”l, was teaching Maimonides’ Guide and using the Pines translation. And we all know the pronunciation of dear old Shlomo Pines’ last name! So... Read more »

When I was Ordained, It was Difficult to Find a Job.


Some synagogues refused to interview me, others wanted me for my publicity value and still others wanted to be able to say they were the first to hire a female rabbi. In the end, I got what I have always considered to be the best job: Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City where... Read more »

Promising to make third-world roads safer


Susan Schnur: Rochelle, how did this journey begin? My son Aron was 25, two weeks away from graduating from medical school. After his final rotation—he was volunteering at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem—he detoured to Turkey for a short vacation. We had just spoken by phone, and he had said, “Oh, Mom, you’ve got to visit... Read more »

Creating a Career in Children’s Cancer Advocacy


Susan Schnur: Tell us about Adam, and about what it meant to care for him. Adam was diagnosed in infancy with a large brain tumor. We were told he had only months to live. But he lived until he was almost 14. Being his mother was a 24/7 job; keeping him alive was tremendously complex—he... Read more »

Believing in young Jews who want to change the world


I interviewed Ruth Schulman on November 2—the 11th of Heshvan—the date of her daughter Amy Adina’s yahrtzeit. It had been 20 years since Adina, an undergraduate at Rutgers, died. She had been 20. If she had lived, she would be turning 40. “Adina’s yahrtzeit always coincides with Princeton at the height of its autumn glory,”... Read more »

Taking The Ritual Laugh


Generations of educated religious women, who love to live at the edge of tradition.

Jimmy Swaggart Teaches Me Faith September 24, 2004


Jimmy Swaggart broadcast the message on t.v. this morning in ail fifty states plus Canada, that if a gay man ever looks at him like that, he’s going to kill him, then tell God. The voters of Louisiana have just banned gay marriage. In Jimmy Swaggart’s New Orleans chapel, his congregation cheers, claps, and stands.... Read more »

So Many Rules, So Little Protection


The author examines communities where women and men must walk on separate sides of the street, where long aprons for maids are required, and where underground struggles over allegations of abuse are causing explosive turmoil.

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