Giving Jewish women a voice.
Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Founded in 1976 by a small group of women led by Susan Weidman Schneider "to foster discussion of Jewish women's issues and put them on the agenda of the Jewish community, with a view to giving women--who are more than fifty percent of the world's Jews--greater choice in Jewish life," Lilith: The Independent Jewish Women's Magazine has remained true to its mission.
From its inception, it has intentionally, though not exclusively, emphasized religious and social issues, with somewhat less focus on areas such as economics or politics. In 2004 the editors changed the tag line on the cover to read "independent, Jewish & frankly feminist." The contours of the Jewish women's movement and its own consciousness of a role that exceeds that of a magazine can be traced through nearly three decades of publication.
Although, during its initial years, publication was sporadic, the magazine has settled into a regular rhythm of quarterly issues. About half of the ten thousand copies printed go to subscribers; the rest are sold on newsstands or distributed as single copies. The readership is estimated to be twenty-five thousand. Advertising, sparse since Lilith's inception, has grown, but it continues to cover a relatively small proportion of the cost of the magazine. Subscriptions, tax-deductible contributions, and grants cover the rest.
Lilith, the Character
The character Lilith, whom the magazine honors in its name, was the mythic first partner of Adam. While absent from the biblical text of the creation story, she is assumed by later interpreters to have merited banishment from the Garden of Eden because she refused to do Adam's bidding, particularly in sexual matters. She is the quintessential female rebel, a woman who would not take direction from a man.
According to some rabbinic versions of this legend, her children were killed, leading her to attempt vengeance by killing infants. By taking her name, Lilith attempts a rehabilitation of her reputation and underscores the extent to which it identifies with the voices of women who who are not afraid to take some risks to ensure gender equality.
Goals and Coverage
Lilith attempts both to engage the interest of feminists in Judaism and to heighten the feminist consciousness of Jews, particularly Jewish women. Its proudly proclaimed independence is not to be misconstrued as a lack of position. Rather, its position is precisely that women, specifically Jewish women, ought to strive to define themselves rather than passively accept the expectations of others.
The range of features Lilith has covered over the years is fairly broad, as is the variety of its contributors. In the initial years, it focused on the religious and organizational establishment of the Jewish community. The struggle to ordain women at the Jewish Theological Seminary was, for example, carefully covered with frequent updates and articles. The position of women in Jewish education and culture has also been examined, as has the place of women in Jewish organizational life.