Maya Gerstman Peretz, 80, passed away on Aug. 17, at Collingwood CRC in Mitchelleville, where she had lived with her now-deceased husband Don Peretz, for the last 13 years. She had been in hospice since last month, when she had contracted and recovered from COVID-19, but subsequently suffered two paralyzing stokes.
Both Maya and her husband had played an active part of the national Jewish and American community’s developing a positive understanding of Arab lands and especially Palestinian human rights. As the wife, since 1979, of a notable peace activist, former American Friends Service Committee’s delegate to the UN where he helped deliver relief to the Palestinians in Israel, she also played a combination of supporter informer/editor to Peretz, who served as a professor and the director of the Middle East Program at SUNY Binghamton, from 1966-1992.
Maya learned to sympathize with marginalized people from a very young age, when her mother, Miriam Gerstman, hid her away in the Ukraine for 4½ years, with a woman Maya believed was her mother, until she was reunited with Gerstman on March 13, 1946. She described the next couple of years with her mother as the happiest of her life.
In 1968, Maya immigrated with her widowed mother to Israel, where her sister Sophie, was born. Maya left to study for her doctoral degree at SUNY Binghamton, where she met and married Don.
She became a translator of Polish letters, texts and poetry. In 1995, she
received a Kayden meritorious award for her translation of the poetry of Halina Powiatowska that appeared in a variety of journals, including The Berkeley Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation and Quarry West.
In her last years with Don, she continued her human rights activism, speaking out against indignities against Palestinians and others.