ISAACA ZELDA SIEGEL—On January 31, 1985, our feminist community lost one of its most devoted workers, lsaaca Zelda Siegel, who died at the age of 47 after a brave battle with cancer for several months.
lsaaca was a supporter and friend of LILITH magazine, especially in its early years, giving us the benefit of her enormous knowledge in the areas of mechanics and distribution. She was also one of the founders of Majority Report, New York City’s first feminist newspaper.
lsaaca was a fount of knowledge about the women’s movement—citywide, nationwide and worldwide—and women constantly called upon her to share her vast networks of information. Her strong sense of leadership and respect was a cohesive force in the women’s community, and her spontaneous sense of humor and quick wit often alleviated tensions among women in the organizations in which she worked. She never sought honor or glory for herself, but employed her outstanding qualities for the benefit of others.
To say that lsaaca will be missed is not adequate to convey our deep sense of loss. Modest, humble, softspoken, lsaaca Siegel will surely stand out as a “queenpin” when the true history of the past decade in the woman’s movement is written.
DR. NAOMI KIES, Hebrew University political scientist and activist, died of cancer in Jerusalem on May 4. She was three months short of her 44th birthday.
No one who knew Naomi Kies will easily forget her; she was a real presence in the world. “A symbol of the rise and fall of the Israeli Left,” said one newspaper headline. Her life was intimately intertwined with the social, ethnic and labor politics that took place in Jerusalem over the past 15 years.
But perhaps she was most identified with the Black Panther movement of Israel. Colleagues at the Hebrew University and Black Panthers themselves admitted that it was Naomi Kies who gave the angry revolt of North African youth from Jerusalem’s underprivileged Musrara Quarters their ideological backbone. Drawing these alienated youth into the political sphere so that their energy and lives were not wasted, she understood that through action there is meaning.
I first met Naomi in pre-1967 Jerusalem at the home of a mutual friend. I laving come from the heady atmosphere of the American campus scene of the ’60’s where authentic human revolution seemed possible, we shared an impatience with an Israel still deep into the socially conservative values of the ’50’s.
I finally left Israel in frustration but Naomi dug into the fabric of her adopted country.
When I came back to Israel in the spring of 1971 to write a story about the Panthers, I found Naomi strategizing and advising in the background, sometimes joining them in actions and occasionally personally financing expenditures when necessary. (But once, at a vast demonstration when they burned Golda in effigy (nude and sprouting wings), she was livid: “Only fascists burn books and images,” she said, according to Avi Katzmann in Koteret Rashit [Headline].)
One of the forerunners of Arab-Israeli dialogue, Naomi knew many of the West Bank leaders. Thus when Fahcd Kawasme, a former West Bank Mayor, was murdered several months ago and the Israeli left was bogged down in discussing who should form a delegation, Naomi took the initiative and drove to Hebron to extend her condolences to the family.
Kawasme’s brother came to her funeral, as did other mourners from all over—professors, political leaders, Panthers, neighborhood activists, Palestinians, feminists, mothers with their babies—one person even came with his cat.
Over the years Naomi had chided me for putting most of my energy into the feminist movement; not that she was not a feminist, but her commitment was to left electoral politics. Nonetheless, she bequeathed her entire wardrobe to the Shelter for Battered Women and her inheritance to the furtherance of the causes of women and peace.
Contributions in her name can be directed to the New Israel Fund (111 W. 40 St. NY NY 10018), on whose board she served. The Fund will be coordinating a project in her memory.