Selma Sternlieb, 82, died peacefully at home in Brunswick on September 26.  She was born in the Bronx, NY, to Rae (nee Levine) and Eli Smith (Eisenschmidt), Jewish immigrant parents from Poland, who were among the only members of their families to escape the Holocaust.  Her first language was Yiddish. From the age of 7 she attended rallies and marched in peace and justice parades.

She cared passionately about world peace, justice, compassion for the underdog,

and proper English grammar!  She remains a great role model for what an engaged, vocal, honest, and compassionate citizen can be.She graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1957 with a BA in History.

She met Herschel Sternlieb, her husband of 58 years, in Boston, at a New Year’s Eve party.  Theirs was an instant connection, for they married three months later. They raised their three children in Andover, MA from 1963-1978.  There, she was an ardent activist against the Vietnam War and for fair housing.  She picketed defense contractor Raytheon, and the IRS (both based in Andover), and protested the war regularly.

She taught English as a Second Language to immigrants (largely from Central America) in Lawrence, MA.  Some of her students became lifelong friends.  She traveled to Mexico and Central America several times to study Spanish.

In the 70s, she started The Coffee House at the Unitarian Church in Andover, a political forum for speakers such as George McGovern and Tom Wicker. When Herschel’s work in the textile industry took him from Lawrence to Lewiston, the family moved to Brunswick in 1978.

One of her strengths was in founding and producing newsletters that gave a forum to the progressive voices in Maine. After traveling to Nicaragua in 1984, to pick cotton in aid of the revolution, she founded the Maine Central America Paper, sponsored by the Maine Central America Coalition.

She went on to found the Maine Progressive (1986) and The Dissident (1995).For 10 years, Selma was the editor of PeaceTalk, the Peace Action Maine quarterly.  It was recognized several times as the best of National Peace Action’s newsletters.

She was one of the founders of Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks, which was started after 9/11, to urge the US not to retaliate.  This organization remains active, offering speakers, presentations, films, and discussions, as a way to educate the community on the vital issues of our time.  Its most famous event is the annual Peace Fair, held every August, to commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. PeaceWorks’ weekly vigil has been ongoing since 2001.

She and Herschel hosted many meetings in their home over their 40 years in Brunswick.  One friend said “Their home has been the center of discussions, parties, and activism, for a loving and engaged community of people seeking ways to create a more peaceful world.  She welcomed asylum seekers and refugees, international activists, and students, to live in her guest space.  And she made wonderful noodle kugel.”

She wrote many op-eds and letters to the editor for The Times Record and the Portland Press Herald.

Selma started Occupy in Brunswick in 2011.

In response to the hateful and criminal language and policies of the current administration, in 2016 she started Sanctuary Brunswick to welcome refugees and immigrants to our town.

She enjoyed reading, knitting, needlepoint and quilting, tending to her beautiful garden, and folk singing (she had a lovely voice).

Despite her diagnosis of and treatment for bladder cancer in 2016, she devoted the last years of her life to caring for Herschel.

She is survived by her husband, Herschel, and their children: Joseph and his wife, Linda Singer, of Washington DC, Lisa and her husband, Jonathan Marks, of State College, PA, and Janine and her husband, Spencer Sherman, of Sebastopol, CA; five grandchildren; and her sister and brother-in-law Marcia and Brian Heath, of Santa Cruz, CA.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to PeaceWorks, PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME  04011