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The Passing of Adrienne Harber

January 7, 2010

Adrienne Harber, of Boulder, died recently of liver cancer. Unfortunately, once diagnosed, it spread quickly. She died shortly after the condition was diagnosed. Virginia Culver’s obituary of Harber printed in the Denver Post (click on her name above) does Adrienne justice. It is very nice and appropriate.

I saw Adrienne twice in the past year, the first time at a small informal memorial of another long time friend and Jewish progressive – Hedda Dayan who was her dear and long time friend. We spoke at some length then. I also saw her at WILPF meeting of which she was a dedicated member. I was asked to talk about lobbying for Middle East peace a few weeks later. It was a good productive meeting.

I just want to talk about one aspect of her work where our interests converged. In Culver’s obituary, Adrienne’s work for Middle East peace is mentioned and Elissa Tivona is quoted. Together with two others – Leslie Lomas and Jill Breslau –  Adrienne and Elissa – four Jewish women – organized what I consider to be a `watershed’ conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace making here in Colorado – at least for the state’s Jewish Community.

Up until that time, in the years I had been in Colorado since 1969, there was nothing like it.

Called `Perspectives on Peacemaking’ and taking place in 2002 (I believe) it brought together some 300 or so people from all over Colorado (mostly front range) most of which were Jewish, and most of which were astounded to see how many progressive Jews (on Israel Palestine) existed in the Front Range, whom, despite minor differences, supported the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and Israel security within its 1967 borders.

It was like a progressive Jewish `coming out’ party and while the program was excellent – even more important for us all to know was the simple fact that we weren’t alone, nor marginal and that indeed, the polls which have for years indicated mainstream Jewish sentiment for a two state solution and opposition to Israeli occupation practices were genuine.

Shortly before the `Perspectives for Peacemaking’ Conference another small organization formed called `Colorado Jews For A Just Peace’ that had essentially the same program (and whose founding meeting was equally emotionally powerful for those in attendance). Adrienne was `a founding member’ of that too. The conference and CJJP are all history in a way, but they opened the ground for organizations that would follow – J-Street, B’rit Tzedek, Tikkun, Jewish Voice For Peace – all of which have entered into the lexicon of American Jewish life and, here and there, even pierced – or probed – its mainstream.

Adrienne was at `ground zero’ – the center of that organizing effort, an effort the heart and soul of which was put together by four progressive Jewish women. She was an organizer in the best sense of the term…and countered the annoying pessimism of people like myself with a permanent optimism and sense of humanity.

I’ll miss her. Maybe she and Hedda are already up there organizing in heaven where she’ll be just as effective as she was here down below

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Margaret Brown permalink
    January 8, 2010 4:53 pm

    I was very sorry to hear about Adrienne’s death. She was an old comrade at arms (if that term works for pacifists) with my mom, Barbara Ayre. We kept in touch after my mom’s death in 2002, but I had been out of contact for a couple of years. I remember traveling with her and Leslie Lomas to Denver for the Colorado Sabeel Conference about Middle East peace in 2005, not realizing that they had been two of the organizers for a Progressive Jewish conference in Colorado in 2002. I was also unaware of all the other issues she was involved in and organizing on so many fronts.
    Thanks, Rob, for the link to the Denver Post obit. She was a treasure indeed.

  2. January 8, 2010 7:40 pm

    Good to hear from you Margaret. Agreed, Adrienne was a treasure.


  3. Eugene V. Fitzpatrick permalink
    January 8, 2010 9:10 pm

    Not long after moving to Denver I had occasion to converse with Mrs. Harber; I think it might have been in reference to the 2005 Sabeel conference in Denver. I still recall being somewhat surprised and a little in awe that I was talking to a TV celebrity’s mother, as I frequently at that time viewed Aaron Harber’s program. But what more impressed me was that a woman well into senior citizenship was expressing thoughts on social issues that my Catholic mind knew would be well applauded by Dorothy Day. Some corner of bias in my brain didn’t want to admit the amalgam of social progressiveness with the elderly mind and when I saw it in action I was taken aback. Similarly biased, I was a bit non-plussed that this Jewish woman was defending the rights of the people of Ramallah and Jenin with all the conviction she must have had for the people of Selma and Montgomery a generation ago. Requiescat in pace.

    Gene Fitzpatrick

  4. January 10, 2010 7:54 pm

    This from Vicki Rottman…

    My condolences to all who knew and worked with Adrienne. I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend her memorial tomorrow. My memory of her is that she brightened a place just by her presence. I know she will be missed.

  5. January 10, 2010 7:56 pm

    This from Jill Breslau in Washington DC


    Leslie forwarded your blog about Adrienne and I was deeply moved by it. I could visualize Adrienne at each of her various activities and could not only see her blue eyes sparkling but could feel her dedication and persistence. She made it seem easy to create Perspectives on Peacemaking. I’m so glad you wrote about her.

    And it was hugely heartwarming to read your remarks about the meaning of the conference for progressive Colorado Jews. I seem to be in a self-reflective mode these days of wondering what I have contributed in the world (is it the “right” thing? is it ever enough?) and your piece was affirming, in that at least I have done something of value beyond the moment. Well, that sounds kind of pitiful, doesn’t it? Hmmm.

    I am sad to be missing the memorial service honoring Adrienne but will be there in spirit. Leah says she is having a video made, and I will look forward to seeing it.

    Hope you are well

  6. January 11, 2010 7:11 pm

    This from Elissa Tivona…it is also located in the `guestbook’ on the right hand side of the blog. It is cut off at the end, but what remains gives a nice sense of Elissa’s comments rjp


    Thank you so much for rekindling memories of Perspectives on Peacemaking, and the amazing contribution Adrienne made to all of us as part of that team. I attended Adrienne’s memorial service yesterday and wanted to share with you and your readers some of the thoughts I shared with several hundred of her “closest” friends. Please let our community know that Leslie Lomas and I are seeking to set up the Adrienne Harber Memorial Peace Fund as one way to continue her extraordinary insight and work as a peacemaker with respect to issues of Israel/Palestine. Here is my personal tribute to Adrienne:
    To Adrienne on her 85th, January 10, 2010

    Many of you knew Adrienne much longer than I did, some your whole lives. Except if she were here today, you’d never know it. Adrienne had the rare gift of making “old” friends from the moment she welcomed you into her life. And welcome is what she did … with the unfailing heart and eye of a lifelong peacemaker.

    I first became Adrienne’s “old friend” in 2002 when an unlikely and intrepid team of Jewish women came together to create the groundbreaking Perspectives on Peacemaking Conference here in Boulder. Although of vastly different temperaments and frequently lively and differing points of view, the four of us succeeded in introducing hundreds of participants (most for the first time) to the remarkable work of a host of dedicated, global peacemakers. These include founders and leaders of outstanding programs like Compassionate Listening, Peaceful Tomorrows, Rabbis for Human Rights, Bustan, Seeking Common Ground, Machsom Watch, and, of course, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. And although Adrienne rarely occupied the spotlight on such occasions, she played an instrumental in bringing these initiatives to conscious awareness, including staying mindful of the need for a nourishing and distinctly Middle East luncheon.

    She never wavered in the belief that peaceful coexistence and justice for all were simply more sensible human behaviors than wars and perpetual violence. Adrienne was quick to bring forward the most innovative and successful peace-building programs she discovered, especially in Israel/Palestine, to insist these achievements be part of public discourse, and she gladly contributed her time and resources to strengthen them on an ongoing basis.

    And yet, hers was not the support of someone who saw peace and justice as possibilities for the future; hers was the support of someone who LIVED peace and justice in the present. A day with Adrienne was a day, in which supposed “enemies” gathered together over a meal, played music and sang songs, enjoyed swapping family anecdotes, and learned that we weren’t so different after all. A day with Adrienne was often a day spent in the mountains or woods, in her beloved Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking with children or friends in some newly discovered natural wonderland, or simply appreciating the critters that hopped up on her porch for a visit. Her exceptional dr

  7. Jay Jurie permalink
    March 7, 2010 10:45 am

    I knew Adrienne well and did various forms of political work with her for many years. She was one of Boulder’s leading affordable housing experts. She was also a personal friend. I enjoyed her company and spending time with her. I think of and miss her.

  8. September 4, 2010 9:39 am


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