Mimi Lifshitz, Immigrant Rights Activist, Passes Away

Mimi Lifshitz being honored for her work by CARECEN.
Mimi Lifshitz being honored for her work by CARECEN.

Mimi Lifshitz was an early part of Long Island’s immigrant rights movement. The daughter of Jewish immigrants, she was born on the Lower East Side and grew up in union cooperative housing in the Bronx. After her marriage she moved to Valley Stream where she lived in a community made up of many of her transplanted friends from the city. In the 1980s when her daughter Marcia Lifshitz got involved with helping the Central American community, Mimi was drawn into volunteering as well.

I worked many hours with Mimi at CARECEN where she was a motherly presence to our young staff. She was a veteran of the anti-war movement and she helped guide us in our early years. As time went by, Mimi threw herself into one campaign after another for the rights of Long Island immigrants. She also got arrested to bring attention to human rights abuses in El Salvador, Mimi was honored by CARECEN for her work on behalf of immigrants and for her help in raising money for our work.

In 1992, Mimi took up the cause of immigrant day laborers and she became very active in the Workplace Project of CARECEN. When that organization became independent in 1994 she devoted more and more time to it, and I started to see her only occasionally. . But when I did get a chance to talk to her, she had the same commitment to justice and the same fiery resistance to discrimination that had animated her during her nearly a decade with CARECEN.

Mimi continued her volunteer work until just a few years ago. Last week she passed away.

I remember Mimi as a strong, tough, funny woman, with deep empathy for those excluded from society. She resisted racism in all of its forms, and she had the courage of her convictions.

At the funeral on Sunday, her daughter Marcia Lifshitz spoke of how her mother met her father. Muttle Lifshitz met Mimi at a party and asked her to marry him that same night. She said “yes” and they were married three months later and stayed married the rest of her life. Marcia said that she asked her mother how she could say “Yes” to a man who asked her to marry him within hours of their meeting. She told Marica “You never say no to a crazy man.” That “crazy man”, himself a labor activist, gave her the mutual love and sustenance to carry out her work.

Mimi was a woman with a passionate intensity that will be missed.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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