Gaby Glueckselig came to the Leo Baeck Institute in the late 1980s as a volunteer archivist. For years she helped to preserve German-Jewish culture by cataloging the Institute’s extensive photograph collection. On April 27, 2014, Glueckselig returned to LBI to celebrate her 100th birthday with friends and family.
Many of those friends know Glueckselig as the hostess of New York’s longest running German-language Stammtisch. Founded in 1943 by Vienna-born artist George Harry Asher and Bavarian author Oskar Maria Graf, the weekly gathering became a cultural home for Jewish and non-Jewish émigrés who had fled the Nazi takeover of their beloved Heimat but did not want to leave their culture behind. The group met for years in cafes on the Upper East Side until Glueckselig began hosting the group in her Yorkville apartment.
In recent years, the Stammtisch has also attracted younger Germans and Austrians who work or study in New York, including many LBI interns and volunteers. In particular, the volunteers of the Gedenkdienst, a program in which young Austrians spend a year at LBI conducting oral history interviews, have become a fixture at the Stammtisch. Longtime members say that the intergenerational friendships that have arisen injected new energy into the Stammtisch.
Ruben Braunschmid, a Gedenkdiener at LBI, attends the meetings every Wednesday. As a young Austrian in a foreign country, he says he is grateful for the Stammtisch as a “social home, a place where I feel welcome.” Much of that gratitude goes to the hostess Glueckselig. “Gaby’s greatest strength is her sense of humor,” says Braunschmid. “Sometimes you think she’s not catching all the conversation, but then she will interject something so sharp and funny that the whole group laughs.”
Gabrielle (“Gaby”) Glueckselig (nee Netter), was born in Wiesbaden in 1914. She studied to become a goldsmith in Pforzheim and emigrated to New York in September of 1938. In New York she met and married the poet Fritz Glueckselig, a fellow refugee from Vienna. Following her career as a jewelry maker, Gaby worked as a volunteer in the LBI Archives as well as at the Jewish Museum in Wiesbaden.