Mizrachi Women meet independently for first time
The Mizrachi Women's Organization opened its first independent meeting on June 19, 1939, in Atlantic City. Although it was the group's fourteenth annual meeting, it was the first conducted separately from a men's organization. Now the largest religious Zionist organization in the United States (under the name AMIT), the organization owes its creation to Freda Resnikoff.
Born in Russia in 1880, Resnikoff settled in New York City with her husband and four children in 1907. Just three years later, she helped found Bnos Mizrachi, an educational charity that was incorporated as Mizrachi Women in 1925. In contrast to secular Zionist women's organizations, Mizrachi Women was especially devoted to the needs of religiously observant Jewish girls in Palestine. The first and second major waves of European immigration to Israel consisted almost entirely of secular Jews; by the early twentieth-century, however, more and more religious Jews from both Europe and Arab countries were settling there. This demographic change created new needs and new opportunities for charitable organizations like Resnikoff's.
Originally founded to create vocational schools for religious girls in Palestine, Mizrachi Women soon became a major force in the field of education in Israel. The organization opened its first vocational high school for girls in Jerusalem in 1933, and a second school in Tel Aviv in 1938. In 1943, the organization's role expanded when it took charge of a group of children who had arrived in Israel through Youth Aliyah, as refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe. Because few of the existing resettlement agencies could accommodate the needs of religiously observant youth, Mizrachi Women founded a series of child-care centers and youth villages to meet their needs. In 1984 and 1991, the organization was central to the absorption of Ethiopian Jewish youth.
In 1981, the Israeli government recognized the Mizrachi Women schools, bringing them into the public religious education network. In 1983, the organization began working with troubled youth, establishing a system of family-like settings for them. In 1996, this work was recognized by the Ministry of Education's Religious Education Prize.
In 1983, the Mizrachi Women's Organization changed its name to AMIT. In doing so, it marked its long-standing autonomy from the religious Zionist organizations of Mizrachi men. Although the organization had been autonomous since 1934, the change of name was a symbol of its independent status. Today, AMIT claims 80,000 members in 475 chapters. Freda Resnikoff died on April 29, 1965, but her daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughter have remained involved with AMIT, with several serving successively as national president and national vice president of the organization.
Sources:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 48-49, 1145; New York Times, June 20, 1939.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Mizrachi Women meet independently for first time." (Viewed on December 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jun/19/1939/mwo>.