With deep sorrow, we mourn the passing of Adrienne Cooper. Adrienne was a board member and long time friend of JFREJ. She was honored at the 2010 Meyer Awards just last year for her work pursuing justice through music and other inspiring cultural work. Below is the citation presented to her at the ceremony, written by Jenny Romaine and Jenny Levison. May her memory be for a blessing.
Adrienne Cooper has the voice of a diva, and the soul of a Bundist. She is an interpreter, teacher, and translator of Yiddish song who, for decades, has gifted thousands of us with the re-awakening of beauty and music. Her service has been not just to generations of students, but to music itself—music that holds the experience of diasporic peoplehood.
In her work with Yiddish music, Cooper continues a political vision begun by cultural radicals in Eastern Europe. These activists built institutions like the YIVO (Yidisher Visenshaftlekher Institut)—the priceless archive of Ashkenazi Jewry where Adrienne worked throughout the 1980s.
During her decade of service to the YIVO, Adrienne was mentored by Bundist survivors who believed in an integrated Jewish culture that lives in the real world, and who were committed to the betterment of people in and outside of the Jewish community. Adrienne was mentored in this model, and she now embodies it, as a mentor and educator for young cultural workers and activists across the world. She is part of the legacy of Jews who re-wrote history by building power and institutions, grounded in what people were abundantly rich with: culture. Adrienne’s movement is a political work of art, in which every fragment of what folk “do,” can be used to chart a new political course.
The list of Adrienne’s organizational commitments is long; here are just a few highlights: the Museum of Chinese in America, Jewish Currents magazine, Living Traditions/KlezKamp, Bridges Magazine—and until this past summer, the board of directors of JFREJ. For the past ten years she has been a leader in the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring's renewal in Jewish education for progressive activism, steering the organization back to its roots of meaningful political engagement and away from the politics of nostalgia.
Adrienne Cooper is a fearless guide to the cultural commons, who has made sure no one is excluded from this resource, and that no power can silence it. She brings people, ideas and buildings together to create spaces for unimaginable political and artistic joy. She is a forest of Jewish sound: a joyous crowd, a resistance fighter, a lover, a screaming rhetorical street poster, and a tsadek.
For all of this, and for never working from a place of chosen-ness or nostalgia but from a place of justice, empathy, and complex Yiddish polyphony, JFREJ is deeply honored to present the 2010 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award to Adrienne Cooper.
Memorial Service and Shiva for Adrienne:
Memorial Service in New York
Time: Sunday, January 1st, 12:00 p.m.
Location: Ansche Chesed, 251 West 100th Street, New York, NY
Times: Saturday, December 31st , Motzi Shabes, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday, January 1st (after the service), 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. & Monday – Thursday TBA
Location: Apartment of Sarah Gordon, 612 Argyle St., #4E, Brooklyn NY (near the Newkirk Plaza stop on the Q train).