The Eulogizer: Centenarian gay activist, rebuilder of Spanish Jewry


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at Read previous columns here.

Gerry Faier, 102, longtime gay activist

Gerry Faier, a longtime gay activist in New York who returned to Jewish practice in her later years, died Jan. 28 at 102.

Faier joined the front lines of community protests, organized neighbors to fight for jobs and wages, and participated in boycotts for better access to transportation and groceries. In her later years she was a founder of the organization Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders.

Faier was featured in the 1989 book “Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian or Gay and Jewish,” telling her story about coming out as a lesbian in 1938, one of the earliest to be documented: "I’m a seventy-nine year-old great grandmother who also happens to be a lesbian. I was a person who felt like such an outcast … I carried guilt, embarrassment, shame, isolation, and all of the ugliness that society heaped on my kind of people — gay people — and we internalized it all to such a degree that it made us sneaky … And my life was lived that way for a long time, until I realized that I’m a person, I’m a wonderful person, I’m a very unique woman."

Returning to Jewish practice late in life, Faier became active in the Greenwich Village synagogue Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, where she taught herself to read Hebrew from the siddur and celebrated her 100th birthday in 2008.

In remembering Faier, the synagogue’s Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum said that “She was unique, feisty and outrageous to the end. We honor her as an elder, and her memory will be for a blessing for all of us.”

Faier was born in 1908 to Polish immigrant parents, was briefly married and had two children. She met her lover, Ethel Cohen, in 1948, and they were together for 40 years.

Meyer O’hayon Tapiero, 94, pioneer in Jewish Spain

Meyer O’hayon Tapiero, a Morocco native who was among the founders of the new Jewish community of Marbella in Andalusia, Spain, died Jan. 30 at 94.

Tapiero and and his wife came to the resort town of Marbella in 1955 on a holiday from their home in Casablanca, where they had a successful men’s clothing business, and decided to set up their home and family in the Spanish region because he “felt the political change coming in Morocco and decided to look at new prospects beyond its borders.” His wife had come to Morocco from Berlin, which she fled in 1942.

Tapiero convinced two brothers to join him in Spain, and they and other family members from Morocco built a synagogue and helped redevelop the community, which had been devoid of Jews since the Inquisition. The community is now a popular destination for Jewish tourism and has a Chabad house and other Jewish services.

Saluting fallen American soldiers

The Forward has published articles about each of the 37 American Jews who have fallen in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since the first casualty, Cpl. Mark A. Evnin, on April 3, 2003. Among the Jewish dead are the first female airman to die in Iraq and the only member of the U.S. Coast Guard killed in action since the Vietnam War. The series is titled “Profiles of Our Fallen.”

In an accompanying editorial, the newspaper said: “How can we forget those American Jews who have fought in these wars, and the 37 who have died? How can we ignore or minimize their sacrifice? Part of the answer lies in the complex attitude toward these wars, burdened as they are with faulty missions and uncertain outcomes. …The imperative to defend Israel is clear and — in the minds of some, holy — while our wars just seem intractable."

The editorial went on to say that “we owe it those on the front lines to respect and honor their choices. And as we express concern for the IDF in our synagogues and communities, we cannot forget the many Jews who serve with the U.S. military, just as bravely and with just as much at stake.”


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