I am deeply saddened at hearing that Shatzi Weisberger, also known as the “people’s Bubbie,” has died at the age of 92. I only met Shatzi once back in New York, when I was in graduate school. She was a nurse and a death educator, and her words played a big role in encouraging me to enter into hospice as a social worker and grief counselor.
Shatzi was a lifelong fighter for human rights and attended every protest and demonstration that she could, from Black Lives Matter, to LGBTQ+ marches, to Palestinian Solidarity. Like many American Jews, she had hoped to travel to Israel and live on a kibbutz when she was a child. But after researching and meeting with Palestinians and other Jews in the social justice community, she realized that she could never reconcile this with her passion for and commitment to human rights. She joined Jewish Voice for Peace and became a leading figure in the movement for Palestinian solidarity up until her death.
Shatzi worked with patients with HIV/AIDS in the early days. She was among many lesbians who fought the stigma associated with the disease early on. She was also a part of the political action group ACT UP which protested the abuse, neglect and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Shatzi’s work in the field of death and dying has been revolutionary. She believed in living and dying with presence and intention. She was a part of the Positive Death Movement which seeks to break the silence and fear associated with talking about death and dying. She even had a “FUN-eral” a couple years ago in her Manhattan apartment, which was a party related to her eventual death. She wanted to celebrate her life with friends while she was still alive.
Per Shatzi’s wishes, she will be buried in a forest in Upstate New York without a casket, as she wanted her body to return to the earth naturally. She said: “I have a spot in the woods upstate and I’m going to be buried there in the woods. At some point, my body will start to deteriorate and something will grow. It might just be weeds or it might be a bush or a flower. It might be a tree. So I perceive my end of life as bringing life into the world. That’s what I’m hoping for. Whether or not it happens that way, who knows? We’ll have to see, but that’s my desire.”
One of Shatzi’s most beloved protest signs read: “FIGHT LIKE HELL + LOVE EACH OTHER HARDER”. And indeed, we will.
Kenn Orphan, December 2022