Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In 1933, Rebbetzin Recha Freier plunged into multi-faceted rescue activities, traveling to England to obtain entry permits, to Zionist organizations to plead for sorely needed funds, and to European capitals in order to set up transit camps. She also made contacts to secure the release of young Jews from Gestapo prisons.

Recha Freier with her daughter

Even after her arrival in Eretz Yisrael in 1941, Recha Freier continued her unceasing efforts on behalf of children organizing, among others, agricultural training programs on moshavim for children from poor city neighborhoods. Until her death in 1984, Recha Freier flourished in Israel also as an essayist/poet, composer of music and patron of Jewish culture. Her book, Let the Children Come, tells the story of Youth Aliyah. Her poetic and musical compositions tell the story of a brilliant soul.

Advertisement

***

Ada Maimon Fishman, sister of religious Zionist leader Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon, exercised an impact on every aspect of nation building. Leaving her family home in Bessarabia in 1893 at the age of nineteen, Ada went to Eretz Yisrael to work as an agricultural laborer. She was only twenty-one when she founded the Girls’ School in Tzefat (Safed), and later the Ayanot Agricultural High School for Girls near Nes Tziona.

Besides being one of the founders of the Zionist Actions Committee and of the Histadrut, Ada served as secretary of the Women’s Workers Council, was a member of Vaad Leumi, the General Council of the Yishuv, and of the Central Committee of Hapoel Hatzair. Ada was also a delegate to World Zionist Congresses and to the second International Women’s Congress in Paris in 1929. At the International Labor Office of the League of Nations she was the Yishuv’s female representative. As founder of Moetzet HaPoalot and member of the First and Second Knesset, she championed women’s rights, being responsible for the Age of Marriage Law (1950).

Aida Maimon Fishman

Maimon was also a prolific writer. Her books include The Working Women’s Movement in Eretz Yisrael (1929); The Pioneer Woman in Eretz Israel (1930); Ayanot, From A Girls’ Training Farm To An Agricultural High School (1946); Women Build A Land and Fifty Years of the Working Women’s Movement, 1904-1954 (1955).

***

In 1979, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin went to Washington for the signing ceremony of the Israel-Egypt Peace Accord, he chose Rivka Gruber to accompany him and share the honor of the momentous occasion. Three years previously, Rivka Gruber received the prestigious Israel Prize for her efforts on behalf of Am Yisrael.

Newlywed Rivka Bumgin from Novo Witebsk, Russia, and her husband, Mordechai Gruber, had settled in Eretz Yisrael in 1925. Although she was over forty, and a mother of two sons, when news of Nazi atrocities in Europe reached her, Rivka joined the Jewish units of the British army and valiantly fought the Germans.

But this was not to be Rivka’s greatest sacrifice. In 1948, when the newborn Jewish State was threatened by the onslaught of Arab armies, her two sons, Ephraim and Tzvi, joined the ranks of Jewish fighters, and fell fighting valiantly in the War of Liberation.

Rivka Gruber healed the wound of loss by giving more. Together with her husband Mordechai, they founded a string of settlements in the Beer Tuvia, and later in the Lachish region. In these settlements, Rivka instituted educational and social projects, and served as school principal, teacher, librarian, social worker and counselor.

In 1961 a grateful nation named Rivka Gruber Mother of the Year. The following year she received the Hayim Greenberg Award for her literary masterpiece, The Signal Fires of Lachish. Other books followed: Lachish, A Historical Analogy; Only a Path, a collection of portraits; and To Transmit the Legacy, her autobiography. The village Kfar Achim (The Village of Brothers) commemorates Rivka’s two sons. At her funeral in 1981, President Yitzhak Navon declared: “Not only was Rivka Gruber a pioneer, but the living example of Israel’s destiny of suffering and heroism.”

Advertisement