Marcia Freedman was a role model, a mentor, and a friend. Sometime in Dec. ’87-Jan ’88, Lil Moed brought back news of the emergence of Women in Black in Israel, so Clare Kinberg, Grace Paley and I co-founded the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation (JWCEO). I met Marcia for the first time a few months later when she was in New York and JWCEO arranged for her to speak. I began my intro by saying: “I don’t know when you came out, Marcia, but I know you started doing it before I did.” I looked over at Marcia and she was grinning from ear to ear, that incredible smile that was always ready to emerge at a moment’s notice and that’s so visible in so many of her photographs. Marcia became a critical supporter of JWCEO. She got us significant funding that enabled us to publish and distribute a newsletter about activism here and in Israel and that helped strengthen ties among Jewish and Palestinian feminists and lesbians in both places.That funding also enabled us to send women on extended visits overseas. In short, Marcia was always focused on what to do, how to help. My interactions with Marcia taught me how to get beyond just “feeling” an injustice, and how to act on that feeling, how to make it known in the world.
In 2002, when she began her work through Brit Tzedek, Marcia pulled me into the New York chapter. I have vivid memories of long, difficult meetings and during breaks Marcia and I would take walks and talk—not only about the issues raised in the meeting, but everything else. Marcia had this incredible knack of being able to move almost seamlessly from politics to everything else—personal, artistic, gossip.
I was also very moved by her dedication to her friends and witnessed her devotion to her lifelong friend Esther Broner. Marcia flew to New York so often to help Esther and support her at Esther’s most difficult times. What a loyal, committed friend she was.
I taught Exile in the Promised Land numerous times in classes at Barnard. Invariably the students (mostly between 18-20 years old) would bring up the issues of Marcia as a mother and her relationship with Jenny. Some of the most meaningful conversations that I had with these young women were about the “mother activist”—what did she owe her family and children, what did she owe society, in what way were they intertwined. Marcia took care of her daughter and she took responsibility for the society that her daughter lived in. What a role model Marcia was: as a political activist, friend, mother.
I so, so miss her.
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