The Board of the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation pays tribute to one of its founding members, Mordecai Briemberg, who passed away on June 29, 2021. He was 82. Mordecai Briemberg was a life-long friend of the late Dr. Hari Sharma and had joined the Foundation in 2009 at Dr. Sharma’s request. Both had previously taught at the Simon Fraser University. Mordecai grew up in the Edmonton, Alberta. He was educated at the universities of Alberta, Oxford, and Berkley’s University of California. In Berkeley, he was active in the student-based “Free Speech Movement”, as well as in organizing opposition to the US war against the people of Vietnam.
He came to Vancouver in 1966 to teach at the Simon Fraser University. Mordecai was one of the founders of the Committee to aid American war Objectors and joined the local movement opposing the US war. At SFU, he played a central role in an effort to democratically restructure the department of Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology (PSA). This endeavour included the establishing of links with off-campus movements for social justice, including those focused on combatting unemployment, defending native rights, and promoting workers’ rights. The university administration responded to this effort by conducting a political purge of the PSA department. As a result, Mordecai and seven other PSA faculty members were fired. SFU was censored by professional organizations for several years after the purge because of this violation of academic freedom. Mordecai remained in Vancouver and played an active role in promoting Canadian trade unions, defending political prisoners and other activists in Quebec, as well as in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israeli colonization. He helped create the Western Voice weekly newspaper, a democratic voice for workers, feminists, prisoners, and others denied justice and dignity.
In the 1970s, Mordecai participated actively in the cross-Canada effort to establish a new revolutionary political organization, known as In Struggle/En Lutte. After its demise, he remained highly involved in anti-colonial and anti-war movements. When a group of farm workers and activists founded the Canadian Farmworkers Union (CFU) in 1980, Mordecai was one of its active supporters. He wrote numerous articles supporting the CFU’s organizing efforts. When the CFU started English as a Second Language classes for its members in 1981-82, Mordecai was one of the volunteer teachers. He also participated in anti-racism activities in late seventies and early eighties by participating in various meetings and demonstrations organized by the BC Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR). In addition, Mordecai taught English as a Second Language at Douglas College for 25 years before his retirement.
In 2019, Mordecai Briemberg was honoured by the Hari Sharma Foundation in commemoration of a life dedicated to social justice.