Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012
A statement by Jewish Voice for Peace founding board member Penny Rosenwasser.
It is unimaginable to me that my treasured friend Adrienne Rich is gone.
Small though she was, Adrienne was a towering giant among poets, thinkers, visionaries and unhesitating voices for justice.
Years ago, she became the first member of our then-fledgling Jewish Voice for Peace Advisory Board. She told us then that our Jewish Peace News online news service was her favorite source of information about Israel-Palestine and gave a special house-party reading, as a way of helping JVP widen its circle of supporters. Over the years, her regular notes of encouragement to all of us meant everything. When we told her the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco had banned us from renting space, she spoke out on our behalf from the middle of a reading on the stage of the JCC—just as she had done for so many others who had similarly been banned or silenced.
Adrienne’s integrity and courage were always a model for me: I was stunned when she refused the National Medal for the Arts from President Clinton in 1997, the highest award given to artists, after he ended the right to welfare. She simply could not, in good conscience, accept an honor from someone who had taken away a program so essential to the nation’s poor.
In her life and her work, she fiercely confronted sexism, economic exploitation and racial oppression. Her vision spanned from Vietnam to Palestine, from the Bronx to Nicaragu—always in rebuke to inequality and repression, wherever it occurred.
As Jews, as feminists, as lesbians, as all those worldwide fighting for justice and freedom, we have lost a heroine. Adrienne’s was a life well-lived. I will miss her dearly.