The sudden passing of Art Strickler on March 12, at the age of 61, was an unexpected shock. He was a valued member of the Meretz USA executive committee, our former treasurer, and a major fundraiser.
His commitments grew naturally from components of his diverse identity: his activities as a Mason, his life as a gay man, a resident of New York’s Greenwich Village, a Democratic party activist (a former party district leader), a Jew and a Zionist. He served Greenwich Village as chair of his community planning board and then professionally as its district manager.
His funeral dramatized the several significant strands and commitments of his life. The ceremony itself was a unique combination of Masonic and Jewish rituals and attended by an overflow crowd, part of which had to be accommodated in a second room with a telecast of the proceedings. It was attended by many important figures in New York City politics and in the gay community, and a host of his Masonic brothers.
Many of these people and a few others (including Meretz USA president, Lilly Rivlin, and myself) assembled at the Village Temple, the evening of June 7, to celebrate his life in a memorial gathering. Among the many friends and colleagues addressing the mourners/ celebrants included the borough president of Manhattan and the speaker of the New York City Council.
His god-daughter and her father recalled their memorable trip together to Israel a few years ago, when Artie served as their guide. He had spent a somewhat lonely year on a kibbutz in 1975, at a time when Israel was very much behind the US in the advancement of gay rights and gay culture. Today, thanks in part to the activities of Meretz party officials and activists, gay rights in Israel are more advanced and arguably less in contention than in the US.
I chatted with Andy Humm, a journalist who chronicles the gay world and is co-host of “Gay USA,” the weekly news show broadcast on public access cable television. We discussed the gay-friendly initiatives of such Meretz politicians as Yael Dayan, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv. Meretz was also the first party which launched the political careers of openly gay individuals to serve in the Knesset and in the city councils of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Humm’s TV program recently hosted Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of New York’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (the “gay synagogue), who is the US representative for the World Pride celebration convening in Jerusalem in August, 2006. — Ralph Seliger.
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