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Sheppie Abramowitz, Who Advocated Reduction for Refugees, Dies at 88

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Sheppie Abramowitz, a consummate political insider who grew to become a strong ally for refugees around the globe, died on April 7 in Washington. She was 88.

Her demise was confirmed by her son, Michael Abramowitz, who mentioned his mom died at Sibley Memorial Hospital, from an an infection and an aortic aneurysm.

For greater than 5 many years, Ms. Abramowitz was lively in actions to unravel refugee crises — in Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey and Kosovo. With a agency, cajoling and unusually efficient hand, she used her deep information of presidency officers, logistics and the struggles of these fleeing conflict and oppressive governments, to safe actual reduction.

She was a diplomat’s spouse — her husband, Morton I. Abramowitz, was a U.S. ambassador — and have become his humanitarian adjunct, bringing her information to bear once they returned to Washington from overseas.

She established a Washington workplace for the Worldwide Rescue Committee, one of many world’s main refugee help organizations, and have become a vice chairman. Even earlier than that, she had lengthy been a passionate voice for refugees, volunteering for the I.R.C. whereas her husband was posted in Hong Kong within the Nineteen Sixties.

“Sheppie Abramowitz was an inspiration to generations,” David Miliband, the president and chief govt of the I.R.C., mentioned on social media.

In 1979, she went to the Thailand-Cambodia border to go to refugee camps for victims of the Khmer Rouge, an expertise that the previous Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who accompanied her as a university scholar, described as “wrenching and stunning” in a current electronic mail to her son. Her husband performed a key function in persuading the Thai authorities to just accept Cambodian refugees throughout his tenure as ambassador from 1978 to 1981.

The next decade, Ms. Abramowitz grew to become the nongovernmental group coordinator for the Bureau for Refugee Applications on the U.S. State Division, a job by which she grew to become “a tireless cheerleader” for refugees, Gene Dewey, the previous assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Inhabitants, Refugees and Migration, wrote in an electronic mail to her son.

She joined the I.R.C. in 1991. By 1999 Migration World journal was describing her in a headline as a “crusader for refugees.” In an interview with the journal, she spoke concerning the wants of Kosovo’s Albanian refugees, emphasizing the significance of safety, shelter, sanitation and water initiatives in addition to neighborhood medical help.

The publication known as her “amongst a handful of officers who actually perceive refugee points on the discipline stage and who can parlay that information into serving to impact coverage.”

It added that Ms. Abramowitz used “a Rolodex thick with the cellphone numbers of diplomats, administrative staff, excessive officers and reduction group contacts” to assist refugees and navigate the troublesome labyrinth of presidency pink tape.

The plight of refugees “is a ardour for each of us,” Ms. Abramowitz instructed the journal, referring to her husband.

“Her defining function was to attempt to bend the U.S. political system towards a extra ethical, humanitarian method to refugee issues,” Mr. Geithner mentioned in an interview.

Ms. Abramowitz was not apologetic about utilizing her insider standing on behalf of refugees, telling The New York Instances in 1999: “I’m shamelessly squeezing folks I do know within the Administration.”

Sheppie (Glass) Abramowitz was born in Baltimore, on Dec. 17, 1935, the daughter of Benjamin and Ida (Gouline) Glass. Her father ran a file retailer downtown, and her mom was the librarian at a highschool, Baltimore Metropolis Faculty. She was additionally a volunteer serving to to resettle World Battle II-era refugees, a ardour that impressed her daughter.

Sheppie attended The Park College of Baltimore and graduated from Bryn Mawr Faculty with a level in historical past in 1957. The subsequent yr, she went to work for Consultant Frank Coffin of Maine, a liberal Democrat, and he or she married Mr. Abramowitz, who was by then working for the State Division, in 1959. Quickly after, Mr. Abramowitz was posted to Taipei, Taiwan, the place they lived till 1963.

She later labored for Senator Edmund Muskie, Democrat of Maine, throughout his 1972 presidential marketing campaign, a proven fact that was later held in opposition to her husband by Republicans who efficiently blocked President Ronald Reagan’s try to appoint him ambassador to Indonesia in 1982.

Whereas working within the State Division’s refugee workplace within the ’80s, she performed a key function in guaranteeing that the federal authorities accepted as reality a controversial report on the murderous right-wing guerrilla group RENAMO in Mozambique, one thing that “by no means would have occurred” with out her intervention, the report’s writer, Robert Gersony, mentioned in a message to her son.

In 1994, when Mr. Gersony wrote a report pointing the finger at President Paul Kagame of Rwanda for his regime’s bloodbath of hundreds of Hutus within the wake of the anti-Tutsi genocide, “Sheppie alone was standing up for me,” Mr. Gersony wrote.

Ms. Abramowitz retired from the I.R.C. in 2009.

Along with her husband and son, Ms. Abramowitz is survived by her daughter, Rachel; her brother, Philip Glass, the composer; and three grandchildren.

In his eulogy for her, her son recalled each Ms. Abramowitz’s forcefulness and attain. The I.R.C. acquired a report {that a} marriage ceremony occasion in Afghanistan had been strafed by American plane. A colleague steered submitting a report back to the Pentagon.

“However Sheppie was having none of that,” he mentioned. “She handed Mark” — the I.R.C. colleague — “the cellphone quantity for the deputy Secretary of Protection whom she’d simply seen at a celebration the earlier evening and mentioned, ‘Report it to him.’”

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