Writer Ruth Gruber Born
September 30, 1911
Writer and activist Ruth Gruber was born on September 30, 1911. Gruber earned bachelor's and master's degrees by age 19 and a Ph.D. by 20. At the age of 21, Gruber began her career as a journalist, reporting on global politics.
In 1944, Gruber was asked by the US Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes to conduct a secret mission to escort almost 1,000 Italian war refugees to the United States. This brief break in the nation's otherwise restrictive immigration policy during World War II allowed the refugees to be "guests" of President Roosevelt throughout the conflict.
Throughout her mission, Gruber was aggressively hunted as a foreign spy by Nazi seaplanes and U-boats. In her role as a spokesperson for the refugees, Gruber presented the refugees’ journey as a human interest story for the press. She told the New York Times that the refugees represented "a cross-section of every refugee now pouring into Italy," including Jews, Catholics and Protestants for whom religious services were held onboard the ship. In a touching moment in Haven, her book recounting the voyage, Gruber recalls a rabbi conducting a service as the boat passed the Statue of Liberty, and her pride in telling the Jewish refugees of the Holocaust that the poem on the base was written by Emma Lazarus, an American Jew.
After World War II, Gruber returned to journalism and continued to draw attention to the plight of European Jews as she reported on the Jewish migration to Palestine. Her reports helped advance the dissolution of Displaced Person camps in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Throughout the 1940s, Gruber worked to ensure the success and growth of Israel through her work as an activist and by sparking global attention through her news reports. Gruber continues to advocate for Jews worldwide and, for many, is herself a symbol of Jews' rescue from oppression.
Gruber has written 13 books, seven of which focus on the subject of Israel and the Middle East from the end of World War II to the present. Her book, Destination Palestine: The Story of the Haganah Ship Exodus 1947, was used as source material for the movie and book Exodus. Gruber's memoir, Ahead of My Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent, was published in 1999, and her life was the subject of Haven, a 2001 CBS miniseries. She went on to publish Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel in 2002 and Virginia Woolf: The Will To Create As A Woman in 2005. The documentary film Ahead of Time covering her life from 1911 to 1947 premiered in New York City in 2010.
To learn more about Ruth Gruber, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.