Rochelle Lefkowitz's Reflection

If Marcia had needed and wanted a liver transplant, I suspect the line of would-be donors would stretch for miles

What about Marcia drew us all in to her? Some different things for each of us, for sure.
But among them, I suspect, were her vision. Her courage, passion and determination. Her strength and her energy. Her fun side.That she so often looked ahead.

And that she thought BIG. Really, the only small things about Marcia were her height (not her stature) and her bank balance.

I feel so lucky to have gotten to know Marcia. We met a second time when I joined her on the board of Ashby Village (AV) back in 2015. We dove right into our “late-in-her-life-friendship”, quickly dispensing with formalities and small talk.

Only much later did we both discuss our first meeting, when Marcia sought out, with a mutual friend, my progressive communications firm Pro-Media’s services for Brit Tzedek. Back then, she told me I charged too much, but saved my brochure, which she brought one day a few years ago to one of our many working lunches at Saul’s, Berkeley’s premier deli, whose portions Marcia taught me to cut in half upon receipt and take half home for a second meal (except for when she regaled me with ideas that kept me mindlessly eating my chopped liver on rye).

Ashby Village is one of the many communities for which Marcia was a pillar. It’s one of the leading hubs of a fast-growing national movement of elders, which, as Marcia herself wrote, is “…devoted to supporting elders to remain active, independent and engaged as we age”.

Marcia and I were both on the board of directors of this non-residential community in Berkeley, CA—with around 400 + members and 300+ volunteers, who do everything from walk dogs for members recovering from surgery to changing the lightbulbs above our staircases and drive us to and from our MDs. All services that many elders applaud, yet insist “I’m not ready yet”.

So Marcia and I put our heads together, to entice our peers to meet well before they need community. We co-founded two magnets, an Arts & Culture Series, with AV members like poet Chana Bloch and writer Maxine Hong Kingston, who, on Zoom, now attract over 500 attendees (how old must you be to enjoy great presentations?) and Elder Action (EA), an AV social justice interest group that gets 100+ AV members with the time, experience and wisdom to impact diverse, intergenerational coalitions. We take on issues from refunding CA public services, to climate change and long-term care. We’ve gathered thousands of petition signatures and attracted national leaders like Bill McKibben as our partners thanks to Marcia, who sent emails, wrote agendas, ran meetings, and identified new leaders.

When we reconnected, we cut right to our shared passion for social justice. We talked, texted, emailed, often several times a day. At Ashby Village, to which she proudly noted being a “subsidized member”, she gave so much–of her time, strategic thinking, wisdom, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and of her dedication to rooting out ageism, including her own.

It’s taking me time and I suspect long will, to feel the full weight of this incalculable loss.
Marcia and I worked closely together these last seven years. I learned so much from her. About creating successful social justice advances. About compiling shorter agendas and presentations. About setting limits and sticking to them. About how to inspire others to act on their values. Most recently, while being fiercely independent, accepting help with grace.

And about how to show your deep love of your adult offspring while pursuing your own dreams. Marcia talked to me, often this past year especially, about how she felt the most confident in Jenny’s care, about how she saw Jenny’s taking charge of her own health with a vegan diet that Marcia said she loved meat too much to follow. About how proud she was of Ella, especially of Ella’s political efforts in Israel and Ella’s writing.

I already miss Marcia so much. We worked closely together these last seven years. I will miss the remarkable group of women she brought together as each other’s’ Seder Sisters for the Seders I loved best in my life.

Back in 1974, in Boston, I helped start a socialist feminist monthly newspaper we called “Sister Courage”. I hope these joy-filled, meaningful sisterhoods propel me to find the right mix of Seder (“order”) and courage, that I think are needed to move Marcia’s vision forward, to learn to set boundaries even half as well as she did, and to inspire others to turn their dreams into actions that have the impact Marcia sought, that we sought with her.

During the last dinner I shared with her, Marcia showed me how she twirled a baton during her High School football games. The best youthful gyration I can do these days is hula hoop, but I’ll try to keep that up, inspired by my image of Marcia, last month, twirling her cane at her table.

Rochelle Lefkowitz

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