A social reformer and political activist, Alice Siegal is a tireless advocate for families and disadvantaged youth and a fierce opponent of discrimination wherever she encounters it. Born and raised in Seattle, Alice grew up within the Orthodox, Ashkenazic community. Alice’s maternal grandmother and mother were both involved in the Workmen’s Circle and this had a profound impact on her life in terms of social action. In 1942, Alice married her husband, Art Siegal. After her two children were born, Alice attended the University of Washington and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology, a teaching certificate, and a Master’s Degree in Counseling. Upon graduation, Alice worked for the Washington State Employment Service War on Poverty Office, the Youth Opportunity Center in the 1960s, and the Seattle Public Schools Disadvantaged Youth Program in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1970s Alice began counseling students for the Bellevue Public Schools. More recently, Alice has worked as a counselor for Jewish Family Service. Volunteer work plays an important role in Alice’s life as well. She is a dedicated member of the Adult Education and Social Action Committees at her synagogue, Temple De Hirsch Sinai.
“I’d say one of the first incidents of discrimination that really struck me and made me so angry was when I graduated from Garfield High School in June of 1941 and they had a senior party. I didn’t know how it was organized, but it was at a country club at the north end of the lake. When I got there, I looked around and there were no people of color there, and we had a large number of African American and Asian students. That just made me very angry and I wondered, ‘How did this happen, why did this happen?’ Of course I already knew that Jews were excluded from certain institutions and that there was discrimination. I was certainly aware of prejudice. But this to me was just too much. So that made me very angry.”
“When World War II broke out, and hearing the proclamation that all the Japanese Americans had to go to camps, I was really outraged. There was a Japanese family that had a grocery store close to where we lived. Of course they had to close. And I knew they were about my age, and there were others. The Asian areas were just cleaned out. There was no evidence that they were involved in any kind of activities that were dangerous to the country. So that was another experience that just felt so wrong, and really hurt.”
“I always felt like I was different from everybody. I guess because of the fact that I felt things so strongly about the injustices that I saw around me. My grandparents and my parents were very good about giving and sharing what they had. And so that was one of the elements of Judaism. I suppose this idea of social justice tied in with my Jewish background, and my Judaism. That’s been very important to me.”
© 2004 Jewish Women’s Archive. Photographs by Joan Roth.