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Tributes pour in for Jewish American anti-Zionist activist Shatzi Weisberger

The 92-year-old abolitionist and feminist known for her fierce activism died at her home in New York after a battle with terminal illness

Shatzi Weisberger, the 92-year-old Jewish American abolitionist and feminist, who became a beloved symbol of intersectional solidarity for queer rights, Black Lives Matter, and pro-Palestinian demonstrations in New York City has died.

The activist, and former nurse, was recognised for her smile and colourful placards.

She died at home after struggling with a terminal illness, her friends said in a post on social media.

"She said over and over that she felt utterly surrounded in love. In her own words: 'I am dying, and yet this is the best time of my life,'" the post read.

Tributes for Weisberger, a native of Brooklyn, poured in from across the country and across the political spectrum for her wide-reaching activism, friendship, and love for the community that saw her stand up against police brutality, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and LGBTQI rights, as well.

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"From Ferguson to Gaza, the image of Weisberger and her rainbow flag adorned-walker at New York City street protests brought hope to people rising up for justice across the globe," Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) said in a statement.

Several other community groups, commentators, and activists released statements in memory of Weisberger's spirit.

Open Hearts Initiative said they were heartbroken by the news. The NY-based community group described her "as a wonderful neighbor and community member who cared so deeply for so many people". Likewise, an Egyptian activist and PhD candidate wrote that she had only just seen Weisberger at a Palestine event last week.

"I don't expect to live till 92 but I can only hope I'm still showing up till my final days. May her memory be a blessing," AlKattan said.

Shatzi Weisberger at a BLM protest in NYC in 2020 (Courtesy JVP)

Weisberger, known as "the people's bubbie" (or grandma in Yiddish), was also disabled and suffered from macular degeneration. Her disability meant that she wasn't able to take the subway to protests and had to rely on Access-A-Rides, a paratransit service, provided by the city's transport authority, to find a way to events.

In June 2020, in the midst of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Weisberger affixed a BLM placard on her walker and attended George Floyd protests in New York. 

"But quite simply, the risk of not taking action is far greater. The police brutalize and kill too many Black people for me to remain on the sidelines. Like our signs say, 'white silence is violence,'" Weisberger wrote article.

"All I want for my 90th birthday is to abolish the police and build our dream world."

Weisberger was also an ardent anti-Zionist. 

In an interview with Middle East Eye in May 2021, Weisburger said her journey towards pro-Palestinian activism was one that began around 1983, following the Shatila massacre the previous year.

She said it took time to overcome "the brainwashing" she had encountered as a child.

"It happened around 1983. Someone asked me to read a book. I don't remember the name but it had such an impact on me. I started questioning Zionism," Weisberger said.

"For some time I thought Israel could reform itself. But I don't believe that at all anymore. I realised that I can’t be a Zionist. No way. It is such an injustice, such cruelty, such distortion." 

"I mean, the Holocaust was real. Antisemitism is real. But it doesn’t give Jews the right to then be the oppressor. It breaks my heart," she added.

Weisberger said that she was heartened by the rise of pro-Palestinian sentiment among the young Jewish American community, and described being an anti-Zionist American Jew as "easier than it used to be". 

But the level of ease didn't determine whether she took part in a movement or not.

"I am no longer isolated as an anti-Zionist ... although I don't tend to focus on whether something is easy or not. I believe I do it whether it's hard or not. That's who I am," she said.

As per her wishes, Weisberger will buried in the woods in upstate New York.

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