Gabe Gabrielsky: A Few Facts

Against the Current No. 211, March/April 2021

ROBERT PAUL GABRIELSKY, but Gabe to everyone, was born March 1, 1943 in Camden, New Jersey and grew up in Haddonfield. His was the only child of Elizabeth Bartholomay and Irvin Gabrielsky. Although he lived in the New York-New Jersey area most of his life, he moved to Los Angeles after Hurricane Sandy destroyed his home eight years ago. He was in hospice when he died on November 19, 2020.

Like many of his generation, Gabe became a political activist in the 1960s and was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. He joined the Young Peoples Socialist League and later the International Socialists. Over the course of his life he joined a number of organizations and movements, always identifying as a democratic socialist. At the end of his life, he was a member of Solidarity and DSA.

For many years he worked with the Campaign for Peace and Democracy in New York City and Peace Activists East and West in Western Massachusetts. These organizations brought together human rights and peace activists from Eastern Europe, the United States, Latin America and the Middle East in dialogue and activism.

He identified as a democratic socialist and avidly participated in the political movements including Occupy Wall Street, the Green Party, Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 campaigns wherever he lived.

In the early 1990s, under the auspices of the Massachusetts Foundations for Humanities and Public Policy he curated the “Shifting Gears” program in North Adams, Massachusetts. The program placed scholars at six formerly industrialized communities to study “the changing meaning of work” from 1920-1980. This enabled him to record the oral histories of the workers.

Gabe had an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz that he enjoyed sharing with others.  As his daughter, Terry Hempfling, wrote:

“My dad gave me my middle name, Rosa, after Rosa Parks, Rosa Luxemburg and Rosie the Riveter. He told me to follow my dreams, no matter what anyone else thought of them — including and most particularly himself.

“My dad taught me I wasn’t alone by showing me music, art, film and theater. He started training my ears when I was four or five years old, playing jazz records for me and having me identify which instruments I was hearing (once I mastered this test he took it to the next level and asked me to identify the musician who was playing each instrument).

“My dad made me feel like I was pursuing the most important thing a person could pursue by being an artist. He taught me that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was more important than Christmas, that the working class was the only class with a future and to never, ever stop being a student.

“My dad is one of my most important educators. The last months before he died I was his primary caregiver and the last thing my dad said to me was ‘you’re the tops, you’re the best.’”

He co-parented Terry and her brother John with his close friend Judith Hempfling and was also the grandfather of Terry’s children, Rocket and Imogene Copperthwaite.

March-April 2021, ATC 211

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