Monday, May 3, 2010

Our May Vigil and a New York Comrade, Harry Weider

Harry Wieder, always concerned with making power do more for those whose dignity was under daily assault

Our Women in Black May Vigil in the streets of Melbourne

Here we are, Sivan, Hellen, Hinde, Sandra, Sue, Esme, myself, and once again, Hagrid from Hebron, in her red jumper, intensely engaging in discussion with a young Palestinian-Australian man. After, we always have coffee and talk, plan more actions, find out what other struggles we are involved in. At the table you see us all reading a petition against the Northern Territory Intervention Act and its racist implications. All of this, this swirl of street life, of passionate engagements, of my comrades' beautiful faces, of Hagrid looking up at me, saying she is in exile from her own tribe because of her peace work in Israel, standing vigil at check points to try to limit the soldiers' arrogance--I am in exile she says and I hold her and say that no, we will make another country of the heart, for all the Jews who are painted as the enemy by our own people, for all the Jews on hate lists and black listed from jobs and podiums, another country of the heart and conscience. With rising European anti-Semitism and rising Israeli right wing nationalism, we will hold each other close and never fall silent in the face of another people's tragedies.

You know I am far from the streets of New York but from time to time the New York Times brings me news that takes me back to the gay activist days of the 70s and 80s and the dear people who struggled in the streets and in the city council hearing rooms to gain civic respect for gay people and others. Sadly, because it marked his death, I once again saw the face of Harry Weider, a small man with a large forehead, a fierce heart and an irrepressible commitment to justice in life or as the Times said, "a gay, Jewish, nearly deaf and otherwise disabled dwarf from Queens." Harry and I often ran into each other at demonstrations or at planning meetings. I remember him sitting at the archives table one afternoon as we talked about the state of gay social struggle. He often offered me a drive home from actions. "The only child of Holocaust survivors," Harry pushed and pulled others to pay attention. He was coming from a community meeting, the Times went on to tell me, when he was hit by a taxi in mid street. Charlotte Weider, his 86-year-old mother, said "In spite of my very strong feeling to protect him,I could not hold back his good." Hold back his good. Dear dear Harry. You gave New York your life.