Inge Lederer Gibel (1930-2015): Progressive Zionist, Feminist and Interreligious Activist

Inge Lederer Gibel (1930-2015): Progressive Zionist, Feminist and Interreligious Activist

A friend of ours — of mine — for many years, Inge Miriam Lederer, sometimes known by her married name, Inge Lederer Gibel, was born in Austria in 1930 and passed away June 9th in Des Moines, Iowa.  Family and friends mourn the passing of this thoughtful, passionate Jew, mother, and civil rights and progressive Zionist activist.

Coming to the United States from Vienna when she was a child of eight, her family were refugees from rising anti-Semitism in their native land.  Ironically, they also experienced anti-Semitism in the areas where they first lived in the United States, and alienation from Jewish neighbors who were trying to assimilate and were not always welcoming to refugees from Nazism. As a youngster, she joined the  Habonim Labor-Zionist youth movement, and spent most of her adult life as a committed community relations professional, and as an activist in the struggles for civil rights, peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Inge worked in several capacities in the organized Jewish community.  For many years she was a program specialist for the American Jewish Committee’s Interreligious Affairs Department in New York City. In 1976, she organized a 25-woman interreligious study tour of the Middle East, visiting Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Israel. In 1981, she coordinated a conference of “Women of Faith in the ’80’s,” to bring together ”a leadership group of women of faith” — Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Moslems and Evangelicals — to talk in a supportive manner about what they did and did not have in common, and what the future might bring.

She was one of the founders of the short-lived organization, “Breira: A Project of Concern in Diaspora-Israel Relations” in 1973, serving as its treasurer. And in 1984, Inge became president of Americans for Progressive Israel, a predecessor of today’s Partners for Progressive Israel.  Many of the ideas espoused by these organizations, considered radical at the time, became part of the mainstream discussion in recent years.

The lone woman pictured in this meeting with Begin and Sadat; photo courtesy of Hillel Schenker.

Inge is the lone woman pictured in this meeting with Begin and Sadat, on the cover of New Outlook magazine; photo courtesy of Hillel Schenker.

In November 1977, during Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem, she was part of a delegation from the 20th anniversary conference of New Outlook magazine meeting with President Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin.  This was the only non-political civil society delegation to meet with Sadat during his visit to Israel.

Inge made aliya in 1986, and lived in Israel for a decade.  She returned to the United States in 1996.

Her essays on race relations in the United States, as well as in Israel, and commentary on other subjects, appeared in Harper’s, Judaism, The Christian Century, Response, Worldview, Israel Horizons (occasionally under the pen-name “Savta Mimi”), The Reconstructionist, Christianity & Crisis, Lilith, and other publications.

She is survived by: two children, Katya Gibel Mevorach of Grinnell, Iowa, and Maurice Gibel of New York City; six grandchildren — Gabriel Tzvi Azoulay of Newport, California, Ron Marcus Azoulay of Omaha, Nebraska, Dorit Chen Azoulay of Des Moines, Iowa, and Ethan, Avi and Mathew Gibel of New York City; and one great-grandson, Lior Neo Azoulay.

Burial is at Eretz HaChaim Cemetery, near Jerusalem, Monday, June 15 at 3 PM Israeli time. Click here for the NY Times death notice and to sign on to the “guest book” (open for entries until July 14, 2015).

Arieh Lebowitz
This post was written by
Arieh Lebowitz has been an activist in progressive Zionist circles since as far back as Breira in the early 1970s. He is a past editor of Israel Horizons magazine when it was the organ of Americans for Progressive Israel, and was a founding member of Meretz USA, as PPI was known until several years ago, and continues to serve on PPI's board. As his "day job," he is associate director of the Jewish Labor Committee.

5 Comments on "Inge Lederer Gibel (1930-2015): Progressive Zionist, Feminist and Interreligious Activist"

  • Inge Gibel was fearless. She was a warrior.
    I remember her well as someone who was a pioneer in the struggle for a two-state solution.
    She was also a pioneer feminist. She was also a dothing mother. I only met Katya. Inge was so proud of her. She made me think of a tiger with her cub. Arieh has written what I wished for, a respectful and admiring obit for she surely deserved it.
    I am glad she will be buried in Israel. She was a fierce and critical Zionist, and she would not approve of the present government in Israel but I like to think that perhaps she could still love it.

  • I cherish and honor the memory of Inge Lederer, who organized the inter-religious women’s group I attended for many years at the American Jewish Committee in Manhattan. I also had the privilege of editing Women of Faith in Dialogue, a book in which Inge’s words play a central role. We remained friends during her decade in Israel and then during her time in Iowa. I am thankful to know that she is now resting in peace in her beloved Holy Land.

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