Tag Archives: American Jewish World Services

Martina Knee: Champion of Freedom


The Lively Foundation is profoundly saddened by the loss of Martina Knee. We only learned recently that Ms Knee passed away, Sept. 26, 2016. She was a remarkable woman, especially as a tireless champion of refugees and a relentless fighter against genocide. She is survived by her husband and her Sudanese god son. Born in Austria, she came to the US with her family at age two. Both parents were MDs. She worked her way to her B.A. at UC, Berkeley, and to her JD from UC, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. She left a successful corporate law career to become VP and General Counsel for UUNET, an Internet Service Provider that grew to be the world’s largest ISP. She retired from corporate life in 2005. She discovered her family’s Jewish background as an adult and became dedicated to fighting all genocide. She was Executive Director of the Bay Area Darfur Coalition;  a co-founder of Act for Sudan, an alliance of American activists and Sudanese refugees in the US. The list of organizations to which she devoted her time, energy and great intelligence is very long. She became a Carl Wilkens Fellow, focused on developing the political direction among community leaders to stop and prevent genocide. She was a member of the Advisory Board of the UC Berkeley Law School Human Rights Center; an officer and Director Of Living Ubuntu which focused on the health of refugees and public awareness of their needs; a member of the American Jewish World Services; co-chair of the International Human Rights portfolio of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ task Force on Israel World Jewry, and International Human Rights. This is only a brief sample of her devotion to human rights locally and around the world. Martina was honored as a “Darfur Hero” by the Save Darfur Coalition in October 2007 and received the Honorable Tom Lantos Memorial Humanitarian of the Year award, 2008. In 2006, Martina and her husband, Michael, assisted a family of South Sudanese who emigrated from Uganda to San Francisco. Martina and Mike mentored and tutored two of the younger members of the family who graduated from Stuart Hall High School. Emmanuel, who earned a college degree with their love and support, is like a son to them.
The Lively Foundation Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman, met Ms Knee in the court yard of Temple Emanu El, San Francisco. The Temple had for many months a huge banner asking everyone to support efforts to help Sudanese refugees and to stop the atrocities in Darfur. Ms Knee was behind a table like any volunteer with a petition, literature, and requests for donations. In conversation about what could be done, Ms Friedman mentioned that she was involved in a performance at the Cowell Theater very soon (probably in a few days). The Lively Foundation needed volunteers to sell refreshments, mostly water, during the intermission. Would Ms Knee and/or any volunteers for the Darfur efforts like to come to the performance, sell refreshments and keep every cent that came in from the sales? Yes. In this way, without knowing any more about Martina Knee than that she was working very hard for this desperate cause, we had the great honor to meet a great human being. May her memory be a blessing.