Ruth Bernard Fromenson
1880 – 1953
Ruth Bernard Fromenson, a Zionist and Jewish communal worker, initiated the system by which vital supplies were sent to Palestine under the auspices of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.
Born in 1880 in Rochester, New York, she moved to New York City with her parents and five brothers and sisters at an early age. In 1904, she married Abraham H. Fromenson, editor of the English section of the Yidishes Tageblat, who was later the public relations director of the Zionist Organization of America. Also in 1904, Fromenson joined the Daughters of Zion, a Zionist women’s study group that served as the nucleus for Hadassah, which was founded in 1912. Under the tutelage of Henrietta Szold, Hadassah’s first national president, Fromenson organized sewing groups during World War I to make clothing and dolls for the war orphans of Palestine, who knew her as their “American mother.”
Beginning in 1917, these activities were formalized with the establishment of Hadassah’s Palestine Supplies Bureau and were expanded to include shipments of medical supplies and hospital equipment. As chair of the bureau, Fromenson demonstrated concern not only for the material welfare of the Jewish settlers in Palestine but for their psychological needs as well. She instructed volunteers to sew clothing with a variety of designs, so that the recipients would not feel like they were wearing “charity clothes.” In 1920, she began including toys in the shipments to Palestine, hoping they would ease the stress of children living under difficult circumstances. During Fromenson’s twenty-five-year tenure, over four million items were shipped to Palestine. When she retired from her post, she had served on Hadassah’s national board longer than any other member.
Ruth Bernard Fromenson died in New York on January 26, 1953.
AJYB 55:455; Fromenson, Ruth Bernard. “Comments on Miss Seligsberg’s Data.” Typescript, and Papers, Hadassah Archives, NYC. New Palestine (March 5, 1920); Obituary. NYTimes, January 27, 1953, 25:5.